September 21, 2017

Hitches aren’t just for towing! They can carry rear-mounted bike racks, cargo boxes, scooter or motorcycle carriers, and more. When a roof rack won’t cut it or gets inconvenient (for example, reaching up high to grab bikes off the roof of SUVs can get a little old), hitches come in handy. In this Hitch 101 guide, we’ll cover the basics to help you confidently decide if a hitch is right for your vehicle.

The Basics

HITCH 101 1

Vendors like Rack N Road provide aftermarket hitches. Generally speaking, aftermarket hitches are custom made for each individual vehicle. You need to know the year, make, and model of your car to get it set up with a hitch. These after-market custom hitches reduce dealership warranty conflict and match the carrying capacity of each vehicle. The type of vehicle determines what you should carry on the back of the car just as much as the hitch’s carrying capacity.

Every hitch has an informational sticker. This will display the gross trailer weight capacity (the amount of weight it can tow), and the tongue weight capacity (the amount of weight that can sit directly on the receiver). Never go over the towing or tongue weight capacity, and above all, never exceed the capacity of your vehicle. Those limits are there for a reason!

If towing is in your future, you’ll need a wiring connection installed. Typical wiring will connect running lights, brake lights, and turn signals to your trailer. If you’re not towing, you don’t need wiring unless you’re carrying a rack that requires an electrical connection or blocks the vehicle’s rear lights. The type of wiring and installation difficulty depends on the vehicle. Certain trailers require a brake control system, a more complicated installation that activates the trailer’s brakes as you brake in your own vehicle.

Rack N Road Outfitters have 25+ years of experience installing over 10,000 hitches.

Hitch installations may require fascia trimming, light drilling, or bumper removal; sometimes wiring needs to be run from the engine to the rear of the vehicle. For this reason, we recommend having a professional outfitter install hitches and wiring. At Rack N Road, we’ve never had a dealership warranty voided on our hands.

Not all hitches or hitch providers are created equal. Look for hitches that have two layers of coatings, inside and out, to prevent rusting and corrosion. Find a vendor that offers (limited) lifetime warranties, guarantee quality work, and are certified installers from hitch providers.

What do you want to carry?

Possibly the most important question at Rack N Road: What do you want to carry? Not every vehicle can handle every accessory, so it’s important to understand your carrying capacity. Use the chart below as a quick reference on what’s compatible with your vehicle.

HITCH 101 2

A little explanation is warranted for how hitch tongue weight capacity affects carrying certain accessories. Imagine you’re holding a bowling ball in your hands close to your chest. Not so hard, right? Now imagine holding that bowling ball at arm’s length. The weight of the bowling ball didn’t change, but it’s a lot harder to hold. The same works for the tongue weight capacity of a hitch receiver. Class 1 and Class 2 hitches usually can’t handle the leveraged weight of platform bike racks, 4+ bike racks, cargo boxes, or motorcycle racks. Aside from the tongue weight capacity, some car frames are too weak and will bend under the weight of those accessories (which is why you can’t just add a higher capacity hitch to a Prius, for example). Sometimes the cars are simply too low to the ground, and the racks will drag and grind on the slightest of road bumps.

With all this in mind, Rack N Road employees have the experience to help you carry your gear safely and efficiently. If the hitch isn’t the best solution, we’ll set you up with a roof rack, or both! We install hitches every day, at every location, and have (probably) worked on every car under the sun.

Getting the hitch, getting on the road

Now that you know the basics and what you want, it’s time to put that knowledge to use!

  1. Call your local RNR. Tell us the year, make, and model of your vehicle, and what you want to carry. We’ll set you up with a quote, and order your products if they aren’t in stock. Ordering typically takes 3-5 business days.
  2. Schedule an installation. Most installation ranges from 1-2 hours, but certain vehicles take 3-4. We promise to get you out in one day. Fair warning, some stores are extremely busy in the summer – try to give yourself a week or two of scheduling time.
  3. Get educated! Our employees will show you what they’ve installed, how it works, and answer any questions you have. Feel free to check out our snazzy product showroom.