<p>Your trailer hitch is not the most interesting or impressive part of your RV or camper. But it is the most important for towing any kind of trailer. No matter what you're towing, the trailer hitch needs to hold fast and provide good performance when you're out on the road hauling a few hundred thousand pounds behind you.</p>
But trailer hitches also don’t last forever, especially if you’ve got a vehicle that does. Old trailer hitches will sometimes need to be changed out for something newer and stronger. It’s vital to know that your trailer hitch is in good shape and ready to do the job. So today, we’re here to share the top six signs that your old RV hitch is ready to be retired.
1. Grimier Than Dirt: Rust & Corrosion
Take a look at your trailer hitch. Does it look like it’s covered in mud or some kind of fluffy/chalky growth? That could be road dirt or it could be your hitch rusting through and losing integrity. Take a rough floor brush or scrubbing sponge to your trailer hitch to find out. If the grime washes away to show chrome or paint underneath, you’re good.
But if what you find is the metal decaying into rust and corrosion, your hitch has already seen its final ride. Both rust and corrosion are chemical reactions that happen when metal is exposed to the wrong elements for too long. Both leech strength out of the metal hitch and form fluffy or flaky growths on the outside that can look like grime. If your hitch is rusting or corroding, you’ll need a new one before hitching your next trailer.
2. Took a Beating: Bent or Cracked
Trailer hitches live hard lives. They bear the brunt of trailer weight and road shaking that is incredible. So it’s not hard to understand how a trailer hitch can sometimes get bent or even seriously damaged. A few dents and bumps don’t mean anything, but your hitch does need to be in good shape to properly support the weight of a trailer and guide it evenly along behind you.
A bent trailer hitch can hold a trailer’s weight at an angle. it can wreck your gas mileage, your tire wear, and increase the chance of a crash because your trailer is not following cleanly behind. A cracked trailer hitch is even more dangerous because it has the potential to break on a bump in the road and bend or crack further.
If your trailer hitch has taken a serious beating, then it may be time to trade it in for a new one. In many ways, the old trailer hitch did its job well and can retire with honors.
3. Towing Analog: No Light Connections
Some old tow hitches are just the hitch without the wires that connect your blinkers and break likes to the trailer. While this is functional for short one-time trips, any long trip should include the added safety of well-seen signals on the open road. If your tow hitch does not have these wires, then you’ve been towing analog and, trust us, your fellow drivers don’t always appreciate it.
Remember that your signaled turns can’t be seen clearly when there’s a trailer along behind you obscuring the back of your car. By upgrading your trailer hitch to a modern one with the wires fully intact, you can make sure that your signals are easy to see and respond to on the road, keeping everyone safer in each traffic interaction.
4. Rattling a Jig: Loose Holding Pin or Hinges
Any movable or removable part of your trailer hitch is important to keep maintained and tightly fastened. And if it can’t be tightly fastened, then it may be time for a new trailer hitch. The holding pin of your hitch, for example, needs to fit snugly and lock into place when you are towing. However, holding pins can get loose or bent out of shape over time. If your holding pin rattles or is loose in the socket, it may be time for a new trailer hitch.
If your trailer hitch has spring-loaded hinges to help balance the load, these also matter in assessing the quality and lifespan of the hitch. If your hinges get damaged, loose, or unbalanced they can cause real problems with your towing and can even result in a failure to tow entirely. Keep any hinges in good repair and replace your trailer hitch when the hinges fully wear out.
5. Outdated Specs: Wrong Hitch for the Job
Another serious concern is whether your hitch is rated for the work you need it to do. Hitches have a weight limit that they can handle, as well as a style of hitch that will need to match the connecting point on your trailer. If you’re planning on investing in a new trailer that doesn’t match your hitch, then likely you’ll need a new trailer hitch to get the job done right.
Especially watch out for trailer hitches that came with the vehicle. These are more likely to be outdated and certainly not purchased with your towing plans in mind. Always check the specs on your hitch before connecting to a new trailer. Know your trailer weight and know the way your trailer expects to be hitched. If your old trailer hitch can’t do the job, install a new one that can.
Moving on Up: Buying a New Trailer
Finally, there are the consequences of buying a new trailer without your trailer hitch in mind. Obviously, your choice of trailer should be swayed by your plans, needs, and budget more than the hitch you already have installed. But this can mean that a new trailer can be a poor fit for your old hitch.
The trailer may be too heavy for your old trailer hitch or of the wrong style. You may also decide that you’d like your trailer hitch to be the same age so that you don’t have to worry about old steel dropping your new trailer. It’s very common have a new trailer hitch installed when they get a new important trailer, trailer, or third wheel so that the specs match up and just to be on the safe side.
Your RV or camper trailer hitch is a critical part of the rig that allows you to tow third-wheels of all types in the course of your adventures. Your trailer hitch will determine how much weight you can haul and how easy it is to haul it. For more insights into RV adventure and rig care in all its incarnations, contact us today.