Receiver Hitch Types – Choose The Right One With This Guide

Receiver Hitch: Types Of Trailer Hitch Receivers

This article has two main parts: For the first part, I describe the four variations of trailer receiver hitch models. I will go through the different types of receiver hitches, that are classified according to the size of their receiver opening. With this segment of the article, you are enabled to decide which hitch receiver suits best with the corresponding trailer hitch class.

The second part of the article is where I explain how to connect a travel trailer with the receiver hitch in a few steps. It is a useful guide as a checklist to have handy when you have to attach to the different trailer hitch receivers in the market.

  • Description of the four variations of trailer hitch receivers. 
  • Step by step explanation of how to connect the travel trailer hitch for each different receiver. 

The Four Variations Of Trailer Hitch Receivers 

Trailer hitch receivers are classified in four variations: 1¼ “, 2”, 2½ “ and 3”. These ratings relate to the width of the opening of the receiver hitch. I will analyze now the typical standardized sizes in hitch receivers and the capability they have. I will refer to the trailer hitch classes, so it is important that you have read that article before. 

For a correct determination of the size of the receiver hitch, there must be a measurement of the width and the height of its opening. From all the receivers, I consider that the most common sizes found are without a doubt the 1¼“ and 2”. 

Receiver Hitch 1¼” In Classes I and II 

Receivers of type 1¼“ (so those who have a receiver opening of 1¼“ x 1¼“) are generally found in Class I and Class II. Therefore, we can find these receivers in street automobiles and small sport utility vehicles. It could be the case that you find a receiver hitch of 2” (so those who have a receiver hitch opening of 2“x 2“) but it is not something that will occur frequently. 

Receiver Hitch 2” In Classes III and IV 

 A receiver hitch of 2” correspond to the classes III and IV of trailer hitches. This receiver hitch with a receiver opening of 2” x 2” is what we will normally encounter on larger sedans, trucks and sport utility vehicles. In fact, manufacturers of these vehicles will include them from the factory. 

2” Heavy Duty Receiver Hitches In Class V 

It happens that some hitch receiver models of 2” are classified as Class V because the manufacturer wanted to provide them with a larger weight capacity. They can withstand more weight than typical 2” hitches, what makes them more aligned with the requirements of heavy-duty activities.  

Many vehicles come already in their standard manufactured versions with 2” hitches, being this size quite a standard already. They have some variations in the models they present. Thick tubes are found in the Toyota Tundra, and these are different from the competitors Chevrolet Silverado 1500 

Receiver Hitch 2½” Models In Class V 

More heavy-duty oriented than the special heavy-duty cases of 2” models are the 2½” receivers. They can handle a much larger weight capacity and work adequately with trailer hitches of the class V. They have these high capacity ratings and must be used with weight distribution systems in order to take full use of their strong abilities. 


Receiver Hitch 3” Models In Class V 

Not yet becoming a new standard for heavy-duty activities, I see them more often coming from the factory and pushing the industry standards higher. If they do not come from the factory, they can be nevertheless purchased aftermarket. 

Hitches of this kind are embedded through welding to the structural channel framing of the vehicle. 

There are adapters available so you can allocate the 3” receiver opening to a more traditional 2” or 2½“ receiver opening. 

Rectangular Hitch Receiver Models 

They are seen less, and some companies are not manufacturing them anymore hitch receiver models of this type.

Step By Step Connecting The Travel Trailer To The Receiver Hitch   

I will explain to you step by step the process to connect a trailer to the available class IV receiver hitch. This is a standard hitch that you will use the tow a boat or a travel trailer up to about 10,000 pounds.  

Connecting the receiver hitch is very simple once you know how that this process consists basically in just five simple steps and is similar for all kinds of trucks. There are a few variations, but we will study them later. 

Chock The Travel Trailer Wheels

As a preliminary activity, you must ensure that your travel trailer wheels are chocked adequately. You do not want the vehicle to be moving around during the process.  

trailer hitch receiver

Check Towing Capacity 

Now, we ensure, as another important preliminary step,  that the towing capacity calculation allows the towing. You have, for example, a travel trailer that fully loaded weighs about 6,000 pounds. Suppose that the rating for your truck is ten thousand four hundred fifty pounds (10,450). This means that the loaded travel trailer can be towed by this truck without a problem. 

After these preliminary activities, let´s go to the steps. 

Step One: Insert the drawbar and lock it in place. Just slide in the pin and secure it with the cotter pin. Then all you must do is back up the truck to the trailer and line up the hitch ball with the coupler. 

receiver hitch
trailer hitch receiver

Step Two: Crank the trailer jack down to lower the coupler onto the ball. Do this until you hear a little snap as it makes a solid connection continue cranking the jack. When completed, then you can release the trailer jack and lock it into place. 

Step Three: Now connect your safety cables. This step is mandatory to perform. Ensure you crisscross the cables underneath the harness and that you only connect them to the safety hooks. 

Step Four: Plug in the wires for your lights and breaks. Ford and Ram pickup trucks come with a four-pin and a seven-pin connector in the rear bumper. Therefore, it is easy to plug right in once everything is connected. Likewise, check the brakes, the radio and the dashboard of the EVIC (Electronic Vehicle Information Center). You want to be sure that the wiring made a good connection. 

Step Five: Remove the blocking in the tires that you made as preliminary activity, and you are ready to take the road. 

Connecting To a Fifth Wheel Receiver Hitch 

Now, I want to provide you the steps to connect a fifth-wheel to a truck. The connection is done to a special 5th wheel trailer hitch. The fifth wheel hitch is utilized to tow heavy load trailers, much more than what you would usually tow with a conventional receiver hitch. 

Preliminary activities: Block the wheels and check the towing capacity 

As I request you to do always, check the towing capacity of the tow vehicle before starting. So, I say: the fifth wheel weighs 15,000 pounds. The tow vehicle is a Ram 3500 that is rated to tow up to 30,000 pounds. Hence, you can evaluate that towing will not be an issue.  

Use chalk blocks to block the wheels always as a good way to avoid movement and as a safety measure. However, I do not expect a lot of movement in the connection to the fifth wheel RV, but you always have to block the wheels, at least a set of wheels on each side.

Step by Step connection

Let´s go step by step, but as you will see, the connection is pretty much straightforward. 

Step 1:  Greasing the plate where the lock is performed, will help minimize friction when the kingpin and the locking plate connect. Obviously, at this point, you must open the tailgate of the truck. 

Step 2: After this, the latching device has to be unlocked. The trailer requires to be standing at a sufficient altitude for the receiver hitch plate to slide underneath and embed accordingly the kingpin. You may be required to elevate or lower the trailer jacks in order to connect the receiver hitch with the kingpin. As far as I know, only RAM has a cargo view camera to check the connection. With other brands, you would have to be guessing more. 

Step 3: Go back until the pin fully engages with the coupler. Once it is locked the device will engage automatically. 

receiver hitch

Step 4: Connect the safety chains, the trailer wiring, and the breakaway switch. 

Step 5: Raise the trailer leg, stabilizer jacks, as we have finished the coupling by this fourth step. So, now your truck will be supporting the trailer weight. After this, you can close the tailgate of the truck, that was opened in the first step. 

Step 6: Once we completed step four and everything is connected, you should check the brakes and the EVIC dashboard, ensuring that the braking system of the travel trailer is properly selected.  The RV of this example is a fifth-wheel. It is heavy and has electric brakes, so they should be checked in the dashboard.  Finally, double-check that all your lightning networks and braking system are working properly. 

Connecting To A Gooseneck Hitch 

In this example, the connection will be to a gooseneck hitch. This gooseneck hitch is just like a standard ball hitch, except that it is located in the bed of the truck, over the axle, so more at the center of the truck rather than in the rear. It is utilized to tow very heavy loads: a very heavy trailer with heavy equipment or a fifth wheel RV.

So, the question here would be why do you use a gooseneck instead of a fifth wheel hitch? What is the difference? Good question, because in our previous paragraph, we connected to a fifth-wheel hitch. 

The answer is that the gooseneck hitch has a higher tow rating. Whereas a fifth wheel hitch is rated for 25,000 pounds, the gooseneck ball is rated for 30,000 pounds, for the sake of this example, the gooseneck hitch has more rating. 

Furthermore, the gooseneck ball is more articulated. It can clear ground roads and uneven terrain. 

But finally, for me, the greatest advantage in my Ram, is that whenever I want, I can recover the full capacity of the bed of the truck, you simply fold the flap trapdoor down, the trapdoor that covers the hitch, and you can load anything in the bed of the truck. 

trailer hitch receivers

Preliminary steps: Check the towing capacity and chock the wheels 

 As with the previous exercise, we always have two mandatory preliminary steps to fulfill. Check the towing capacity as I describe you in the paragraphs above, and set up the wheel chocks. 

Wheel chocks have to be under the wheels pressed tightly against them whenever possible. Why wouldn’t we just put a rock under there? In most cases, it can happen that a rock will crush under the weight of the trailer. 

After the preliminary steps, we can study all the steps in detail.

Step One: The first step is to get the hitch ball directly under the coupler. Just take it slow and make sure everything lines up. Get the hitch ball beneath the coupler. Lower the trailer onto the ball.

Step Two: After the engagement, then connect your safety chains. Likewise, connect your safety breakaway cable. If your trailer comes loose, then this cable will pull out and your trailer brakes will engage.  

Step Three: Now you simply have to latch the coupler.   

Step Four: Connect your wiring harness and have someone help you check the lights and brakes to be sure the wiring made a good connection 

 So that is how you connect a gooseneck hitch. Now just remove the blocks from the wheels that were set up as our initial preliminary step, and you are ready to take the road. 


 In the first part of the article, we went through the different types of receiver hitches, that are classified according to the size of their receiver opening. With this segment of the article, you are enabled to decide which hitch receiver suits best with the corresponding trailer hitch class.

In the second part of the article, you will find a very straightforward step by step explanation about how to attach the trailer to the receiver hitch. Have this short guide beside you for the first time you do this attachment.


Anthony Foxx

I am Tony, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I worked as a freelance transportation consultant for Lyft. As an RV development consultant, I create customization trees for RV manufacturers who want to offer a solution to prospective customers to design their custom RV with variant configuration. Apart from this, I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems where I provide advice to customers who want to know which is their towing capacity, which hitch ball should they utilize and how to deploy a weight distribution system. I do my best to explain all these processes and their installation, here in RV Favorites.