Ball Mount Basics: How to Measure for Trailer Hitch Drop

What are Rise and Drop?

For safe and comfortable towing, your trailer should always be as level as possible. A level trailer handles well, promotes even tire wear, and minimizes strain on both the trailer and tow vehicle. However, with the many different tow vehicles and trailers out there, it's rare that any vehicle and trailer line up perfectly for towing. This is why ball mounts are made in a variety of sizes and come with what's known as rise and drop—to compensate for the height difference between your trailer and vehicle and allow for safe, level towing.

Ball Mount Rise
Rise is the distance from the top of the shank to the top of the ball platform when the ball mount is oriented for greater coupler height.

Ball mount Drop
Drop is the distance from the top of the shank to the top of the ball platform when the ball mount is oriented for lower coupler height.

How Do I Measure for Rise and Drop?

To choose a ball mount with the correct rise and drop, you'll first need to take two measurements: your hitch height (Measurement A) and coupler height (Measurement B). The difference between them will be your rise or drop.

Step 1: Find your hitch height

Measuring Hitch Height
With the tow vehicle parked on level ground, measure from the ground to the top of your hitch receiver opening.
Step 2: Find your coupler height

Measuring Coupler Height
With the trailer level, measure from the ground to the bottom of the coupler.
Step 3: Find the difference

Infographic-Rise and Drop
Determine which has a greater height—your hitch or coupler—and find the difference between the two measurements.

If your hitch height is greater, use a ball mount with a drop.

Hitch Height (A) - Coupler Height (B) = Drop (C)

If your coupler height is greater, use a ball mount with a rise.

Coupler Height (B) - Hitch Height (A) = Rise (D)

Select a ball mount with a drop (C) or rise (D) measurement that is closest to the difference between your hitch and coupler heights. For instance, if your hitch height is 15 inches and your coupler height is 10 inches, you'll need a ball mount with a 5-inch drop.

Measurement A (15") - Measurement B (10") = C (5" Drop).

If your hitch height is 12 inches and your coupler height is 13 inches, you'll need a ball mount with a 1-inch rise.

Measurement B (13") - Measurement A (12") = D (1" Rise).

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What If I Tow Multiple Trailers?

Adjustable Ball Mount

If you need to tow multiple trailers, you should consider an adjustable ball mount. While fixed ball mounts have a set rise and drop, the rise and drop on adjustable ball mounts can be altered to accommodate different coupler heights. Adjustable models can save you the trouble and expense of using a separate ball mount for each trailer. Simply slide the ball mount platform up or down the shank and secure it in place with the locking pin to achieve the necessary rise or drop.

How Do I Choose an Adjustable Ball Mount?

To choose the best adjustable ball mount for your towing needs, first you'll need to determine the tongue weight of the heaviest trailer you want to tow. Make sure your adjustable ball mount has the weight capacity to support the loaded weight of the trailer. Also make sure the ball mount you choose has the correct size shank to fit your hitch's receiver (for instance, use a 2-inch ball mount with a 2-inch hitch receiver). Next, determine the tallest rise and deepest drop you'll need using the guidelines above—this will be the range you'll need in your ball mount. Finally, determine which hitch ball diameter you will need. Adjustable ball mounts usually come with at least one ball, and most come with two or three balls of different sizes for towing different trailers.

Watch a Video Review of an Adjustable Ball Mount ►

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Written by: Amber S.

Updated on: 12/20/2017

Questions and Comments about this Article


The Expert Jacob states to measure from ground to top of coupler for Hitch Height. The link provided states to measure to the bottom of the Coupler. Which is correct?

Reply from Chris R.

When measuring for the right ball mount, you will want to measure from the ground to the BOTTOM of the trailer coupler. You'll measure to the inside top of the trailer hitch receiver on your vehicle. I'm sorry for the confusion! 59271

Mike J.

Can you suggest a good ball mount that holds up to salt water?

Reply from Jacob H.

Your safest option is going to be an aluminum ball mount with a stainless steel ball. I will provide a link below! 54447

Nick H.

How do I know what height hitch I need for my trailer? Thanks!

Reply from Jacob H.

We have some helpful links available I will link them below. You will want to make sure that your trailer is as level as possible and you will measure from the ground to the top of your coupler where your ball would hook to and that will be the amount of rise or drop ball mount that you will want to haul your trailer level. 54440

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