chux trux towing & trailer hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux Kansas City’s Leading Truck Accessory Dealer

Upload: tom-barrett

Post on 25-Mar-2016




1 download


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Towing Want to learn more about towing a trailer? We've got the answers! Our experts have written a complete guide to everything you could want to know about towing safely.


Page 1: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches

by Chux Trux

Kansas City’s Leading Truck Accessory Dealer

Page 2: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 1

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ---------------------------------------------------- 2

Introduction ---------------------------------------------------------------- 3

Towing and Safety Requirements ---------------------------------- 5

Selecting the Correct Trailer Hitch --------------------------------- 9

Determining Towing Capacity Needed ----------------------- 16

Trailer Wiring -------------------------------------------------------------- 24

Installing a Trailer Hitch ----------------------------------------------- 30

Hooking up the Trailer ------------------------------------------------ 33

Safety ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 37

Trailer Brakes ------------------------------------------------------------- 40

Copyright © 2013 by Chux Trux


This information is accurate to the best of our knowledge but not guaranteed. Always

consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the trailer and hauling recommendations of

your vehicle’s manufacturer.

Page 3: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 2


Manufacturing, LLC

Stands for


in products and people


This book, like most books would not

be possible without the support of

many. We would be remiss in not

acknowledging the role CURT

Manufacturing played in developing

much of the content and supplying

many of the images in this book.

A special thanks and “hats off” to Marcia

Adelman of CURT manufacturing. Maria

was the original project manager and

editor for Towing 101. Without Marcia’s

support and assistance this book would

not be possible.

CURT manufacturing is the leader in

towing products at Chux Trux. From trailer

hitches, to trailer balls, to specialized

towing equipment CURT has it all.

We strongly encourage you to turn to

CURT for all your towing products


Page 4: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 3



Fifth Wheels


ATV’s Horse Trailers


Sooner or later every car or truck

enthusiast will be faced with towing a

trailer. Whether it’s a fifth wheel

camper, towing a boat, towing a

horse trailer, a trailer full of

motorcycles or ATV’s, or a towing

race car, you’re going to want to get

where you need to go safely and

without stress.

And really, there shouldn’t be any stress

about towing. You get enough of that at

work, (some of you may get that at home

too, if you know what we mean!) you sure

don’t need it when you’re on your way to

the lake, the mountains, or the race


There really isn’t anything difficult or

especially tricky about towing, you just

need to understand the basics, make

sure you have the proper equipment for

the task at hand, and go about using it

with safety foremost in your mind. So let’s

look at what you need to know before

you hook up that trailer hitch for the first


Be Prepared

Right up front you have to be prepared

Page 5: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 4

for the changes in the way you must

drive. Your vehicle is going to handle

completely differently with any sort of

trailer tagging along behind you. You are

now driving a vehicle that is much longer

and heavier than what you’ve been

used to. It may be slower too and it will

not stop as quickly as it does without that

trailer. Changing lanes on the interstate

takes more care now to make sure you

have enough space behind you and

there’s just a lot more you have to think


Fortunately, if your tow vehicle is properly

equipped and the trailer and tow vehicle

are well matched, towing is not only less

stressful than you might think, but it will

actually be fun and just as easy as

normal driving.

Determine the Type of Hitch

Before you can begin to select the right

trailer hitch and other towing gear for

your vehicle you have to know what sort

of trailer you’ll be pulling. A huge 5th

wheel or gooseneck travel trailer has

different requirements than a small,

relatively lightweight boat trailer. The type

of trailer you need will determine the type

of hitch you need. A receiver hitch will

suffice for many types of tag along trailers,

but if you are pulling a large camper or

racecar hauler you may need a

gooseneck hitch or 5th wheel hitch.

Another consideration is where you plan to

go with your trailer. Pulling a load of ATV’s

out to that special place in the desert or

the mountains is very different from cruising

down the interstate with a camper.

Your Tow Vehicle

Your tow vehicle and how it is equipped

also plays a major role in the safety and

stress level of your towing. You can pull a

trailer with almost anything on the road,

but even more important is stopping the

tow vehicle and trailer combination. Are

the brakes on your tow vehicle up to the

task of bringing the combined weight of

your rig to a safe stop from freeway

speeds, or especially in an emergency

situation? As you get into larger trailers

most will come with some sort of braking

system of their own that can be controlled

from the tow vehicle.

Many new pickup trucks can be ordered

with a towing package. This will include

things like a heavy duty cooling system,

heavy duty transmission, some additional

electrical circuits for the trailer lights, an

appropriate hitch, of course, and a brake

controller for the trailer’s brakes. All of these

things can also be retro fitted to your

current vehicle if necessary.

Touching the Surface

We’ve only just touched the surface. There

is a lot more to towing safely and legally.

Read on because Chux Trux is the best

place to find answers to all your towing


– Chux Trux

Page 6: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 5

basics of towing and define some terms

and give you the knowledge you need to

make towing a pleasant experience.

There is a whole range of components

and parts involved in setting up a towing

package and you need to know the

proper names and uses of these various

components before you hit the road.

The Vehicle

We’ll begin with the tow vehicle itself. This

can be a car, truck, or SUV, but whatever

it is, it’s important that you know and

understand what its specific towing

capabilities and limits are. You can find

Towing a trailer or towing a boat isn’t

exactly rocket science. You don’t

need a PHD in physics or a Masters in

geometry or even a high school

education. (Although a GED would

be nice!) But you do need to know

what you’re doing and what

components you need to have in

order to get the job done safely and


Towing 101

So that’s what we’re all about this time; a

little Towing 101 for you to cover the

Towing Requirements




Towing 101

Page 7: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 6

to say.

Below is a table of common vehicles

and their towing capacities.

out how to fire up the stereo, then tossed it

in the glove box never to see the light of

day again. There’s some useful information

in there so go dig it out and see what it has

much of this information in the owner’s

manual that came with the vehicle. That’s

that little book that you thumbed through

when you bought the car or truck, figured

Vehicle Model Maximum Towing Capacity

Small Car Cobalt, Taurus, Avenger

Under 1,000 pounds

Full-size Car Impala, Crown Victoria

1,000–2,000 pounds

Mid-size CUV Edge, Taurus, Equinox

2,000–4,000 pounds

Mid-size Truck or SUV Ranger, Trailblazer, Dakota

3,000–7,200 pounds

Full-size ½ ton Truck or SUV Expedition, F150, Tahoe, Durango hybrid

5,000–11,200 pounds

¾ or 1 ton Truck or SUV F250, Silverado HD, Ram 2500, F350, Ram


10,000–16,000 pounds

Commercial Truck F450

16,000–24,600 pounds with a 5th wheel

Class C or A RV Marathon, Jamboree

Up to 10,000 pounds

cle Towing Capacity

Note – Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to be certain of your vehicle’s weight limits.

Page 8: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 7

The Trailer

The next component to

consider is the trailer itself. A

trailer is defined as any

wheeled object that is

designed to be pulled by

another vehicle. Pretty simple

and straightforward isn’t it?

Trailers range from those little box

trailers you can rent up to huge

cross country rigs. But what we’re

concerned with mostly are travel

trailers, boat trailers, race car

haulers, flat bed trailers, 5th

wheel or gooseneck trailers,

utility trailers, livestock trailers,

etc. If it can be pulled down the

road by another vehicle, it’s a



Next on the list is lighting. All

trailers are required by law to

have the same lights as the tow

vehicle, working at the same

time as the tow vehicles lights.

Taillights, brake and turn signals

are a minimum. Large enclosed

car haulers, livestock trailers,

and RV should also have marker

lights at the top rear and front

and along both sides.

Wiring Harness

You can’t have working lights

without wires. The wiring harness

you need to connect the front

of the trailer to the back of the

tow vehicle is available in

several standard formats and if

your vehicle came from the

Page 9: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 8

Safety Chains

Nobody wants to think about the

possibility of the trailer breaking free from

the tow vehicle but it can happen.

That’s what safety chains are for. These

are your backup plan. They should be

attached between the trailer and the

tow vehicle so they cross under the

hitch. That prevents the hitch from

digging into the roadway at speed.

breakaway cables, if your trailer is so

equipped. The pin itself is usually shaped a

little like a hockey stick and the clip is a

hairpin design like the hood pins on a race


Tow Ball

So naturally the next component is the ball

itself. This is half of the flexible joint between

the tow vehicle and the trailer that enables

it to operate over bumps and dips in the

road and navigate around corners. Tow

balls come in different sizes, usually 1-7/8”,

2”, and 2-5/16” diameters depending on

the weight of the trailer you plan to pull.

The other half of that all important flexible

joint is the coupler. The coupler fits over the

ball and rotates around it as the tow

vehicle moves around curves and over

dips and bumps. The size of the coupler

must match the size of the ball for safe

operation. NEVER tow with mismatched

coupler and ball sizes.

factory ready to tow, there’s already a

connection at the back for the trailer



You can’t tow anything if you don’t have

a hitch. Basically the hitch is the point

where the trailer is attached to the tow

vehicle. There are as many types of

hitches as there are tow vehicles and

trailers so the subject of selecting the

proper hitch will take up an entire section

of its own.

There are a few components on the hitch

such as the ball mount. This is also

sometimes called a draw bar or stinger.

It’s the component that slides into the

hitch receiver and has a mounting pad

for the tow ball.

The hitch pin and clip hold the ball mount

in the receiver hitch and also is a

convenient place to attach any

Page 10: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 9

If you watched a lot of movie or TV westerns you may have

heard the term; “. . . hitch up the wagon.” Well these days,

before we can hitch up our wagons, or trailers, we have to

have the right hitch on our “horse” or tow vehicle. What do

you mean the right kind of hitch? Isn’t a hitch a hitch? Uh, no,

as a matter of fact there are as many different types of trailer

hitches as there are trailers and ways to use them so let’s go

over a few of them.

Selecting the Correct Trailer


Page 11: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 10

Types of Trailer Hitches

NOTE: Always keep in mind that just because the hitch is rated to haul a certain amount of weight, doesn’t mean your tow vehicle can handle the weight.

Hitches do NOT increase your capacity to tow extra weight. Consult your owner’s manual for your vehicles capacity and never exceed that amount. It’s

a “weakest link” scenario.

Page 12: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 11

This diagram on the previous page gives you a brief

overview of a few hitch types and what they are used for.

The "WC" in the chart stands for "Weight Carrying," when

used with a basic ball mount and coupler. The "WD" ratings

are higher and those are the limits if you use a Weight

Distributing ball mount. "TW" stands for Tongue Weight,

which is the most weight you can place on the coupler

based on a fully loaded trailer. These are the most

commonly used trailer hitches, you can also find both

heavier and lighter duty options.

Bumper Mounts

Most trucks and SUVs today have some sort of hole in the

center of the bumper that will accept a tow ball. This is the

most basic, and lightest duty, form of trailer hitch. As long as

you don’t exceed 100 pounds of tongue weight and 1,000

pounds of trailer weight, this is fine. A ball and a little wiring is

all you need. You just have to be absolutely sure you don’t

exceed the vehicle manufacturer’s capacity


Bumper Mounts

Page 13: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 12

Bumper Hitch

If sooner or later you need to tow different trailers with different size couplers, a light duty

solution is the bumper hitch like this one made by CURT. This hitch bolts to your vehicle's

bumper and provides a standard 2” ball mount receiver and attachment points for the

safety chains. Don’t confuse this, however, for a regular receiver style hitch. You are still

limited to the weight bearing capacity of your tow vehicle’s bumper. And not every

vehicle can use this type of hitch.

Class 1– 2 Receiver Hitch Class 3 Receiver Hitch Class 4 – 5 Receiver Hitch

Class 1 and 2 receiver trailer hitches are light

duty receiver type trailer hitches that are

generally only used on passenger cars and light

weight, crossover SUVs.

This type of hitch uses a smaller 1-¼” receiver

tube for the ball mount. Class 1 hitches are rated

to tow trailers up to a maximum of 2,000 pounds

with 200 pounds of tongue weight, and Class 2

can handle 3,500 pound trailers with 350 pounds

of tongue weight. These hitches do not increase

the total weight that a given vehicle may be

able to tow.

Class 4 and 5 receiver trailer hitches are

the heaviest-duty trailer hitches that can

be installed at the rear of a tow vehicle.

A Class 4 weight carrying trailer hitch can

carry 10,000 pounds and 1,000 pounds of

tongue weight, or up to 12,000 and 1,200

pounds if you use a weight distributing

trailer hitch. Class 5 receivers can handle

up to 14,000 pounds and 1,400 pounds

tongue weight. This most likely exceeds the

towing capacities of your vehicle.

Class 3 receiver trailer hitch is the most

common trailer hitch found on full size pick-

ups and SUVs. Factory equipped vehicles

usually have a Class 3 trailer hitch.

Class 3 receivers can handle up to 8,000

pound trailers and 800 pounds of tongue

weight with a weight carrying ball mount, or

up to 12,000 pounds and 1,200 pounds of

tongue weight with a weight distributing

hitch. This most likely exceeds the towing

capacities of your vehicle.

Page 14: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 13

Like a 5th wheel hitch, a gooseneck hitch mounts in the

bed of your pick-up over the rear axle. This type of hitch is

most commonly used for livestock trailers, car and

toy haulers, and industrial or commercial trailers.

A gooseneck hitch can handle up to about 30,000 pound

trailers with 6,000 pounds of tongue weight. Some

gooseneck hitches can be folded down out of the way

when not in use to enable normal loading of the truck


These hitches are mounted in the bed of pick-up

trucks and they are very similar in design to the

hitches used by commercial 18-wheelers.

Fifth wheel trailer hitches can handle trailers that

range from 16,000 to 30,000 pounds and up to 5,000

pounds of pin weight (tongue weight), depending

on the design of the hitch, and the rating by the


Fifth Wheel Hitch

Gooseneck Hitch

Page 15: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 14

Weight Distributing Hitches

A weight distributing hitch increases the towing capacity and

stability over a weight carrying trailer hitch. Sometimes called a

“load equalizing hitch” a weight distributing trailer hitch spreads the

tongue weight of the trailer over all four wheels of the tow vehicle.

Any vehicle with a Class 3-5 receiver can use a weight

distributing hitch. The key difference between weight

distributing hitch and a weight carrying hitch is the long rods

called "spring bars" that exert leverage on your tow vehicle's

frame, transferring some of the tongue weight to the vehicle's

forward wheels. This prevents heavy trailers with high tongue

weights from lifting the front wheels and overloading the rear


Weight distributing hitches can also accept the addition of

sway control bars.

Page 16: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 15

Front Mount Hitches

Finally we come to the front mount trailer hitch. This hitch mounts,

obviously, to the front of the vehicle. Front mount trailer hitches are

extremely handy for launching a boat at the local boat ramp.

These are available in most weight classes and can be mounted on

almost any pick-up, van, or SUV.

The leading manufacturer of trailer hitches discussed here is CURT

Manufacturing and that is the primary brand sold and installed by

Chux Trux. This is because CURT hitches are built right here in the

USA, install correctly, and are designed to be tough and safe.

If you live in the Kansas City area, Installation is usually within 48

hour. For a slight extra charge, CURT makes hitches powder-coated

in custom colors. (CURT is the only manufacturer that provides this.)

Chux Trux stocks more hitches than any of our competition and we

have a hitch for almost any vehicle on the road. So give Chux a call

today and get the best trailer hitches along with expert installation

and service.

Page 17: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 16

You wouldn’t try to tow a 24’ fully

loaded camper trailer with a Smart

car. (Well, one or two of you might.)

But on the other hand you don’t need

a 7.3L diesel F-250 dually to tow your

12’ aluminum boat down to the lake

either. So how do you know just how

much towing capacity you need?

Well, that’s what we’re here for pal, to

help you figure these things out. So

just relax and read on.

No matter what you drive, you have to

be sure that you completely understand

what its towing capacity is. Exceeding

the recommended capacity not only

puts unnecessary strain on your engine,

transmission, suspension, brakes, and

cooling system but it can create some

very dangerous situations for you out on

the road.

The best place to find out about a

vehicle’s towing capacity is the owner’s

manual. In it you will not only find out

what the vehicle can tow, but also

detailed instructions and limitations and,

very often, some good safe towing tips.

For example, the manual for a 2000 Ford

Crown Victoria contains the following:

“Your vehicle is classified as a light duty

towing vehicle. . . Towing a trailer places

an additional load on your vehicle's

engine, transmission, brakes, tires and

suspension. Inspect these components

carefully after towing. Your loaded trailer

should weigh no more than 907 kg (2,000


Determining Towing Capacity Needed

“Vivamus et metus.”

Page 18: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 17

Minimum Vehicle Requirements for Trailer Towing

Source: 2005 Jeep Liberty manual

Page 19: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 18

Certification Plate Acronyms

After you’ve checked the owner’s manual you should also look at the compliance certification plate. This is usually a sticker on

the door jamb. It will contain several acronyms like "GVR," "GAW," and "GCWR”. Here’s what they mean;

GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)

This is your vehicle’s standard curb weight, plus an estimate of the typical load of passengers, fuel and stuff.

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)

This is the maximum safe weight for your vehicle. Exceeding this weight will place stress on your engine, transmission, and

brakes beyond what they are designed for.

GCW (Gross Combination Weight)

This is the combined weight of your vehicle and the trailer (Not the tongue weight, but the total weight.) This number

cannot exceed the GCWR.

GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating)

This is the maximum safe weight of your vehicle and trailer when both are fully loaded with people, fuel, and all your stuff.

And like the GVWR above; exceeding this weight will place stress on your engine, transmission, and brakes beyond what

they are designed for.

GAW (Gross Axle Weight)

Gross Axle Weight. This is the amount of weight that carried by each of the vehicle’s axles. They will be different based on

engine weight and trailer tongue weight capacity.

GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating)

This is the maximum safe weight you can place on the front and rear axles. And just like the other two weight ratings

above, exceeding these numbers will damage your vehicle and create dangerous driving conditions.

Page 20: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 19

Determining Trailer Weight and Capacity

Once you have determined your vehicle’s weight and

towing capacities you should turn next to your trailer’s

weight. A new trailer will have a VIN plate that has not only

the trailer’s serial number and also lists the trailer’s weights

and capacities. It should look like the image on the right.

On the next page we will provide you with typical trailer

weights for commonly used utility trailers.

Safety chains properly crossed under the hitch

Page 21: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 20

Typical Trailer Weights for Common Utility Trailers

Page 22: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 21

Typical Trailer Weights

Page 23: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 22

Missing Trailer VIN Plate

If you have a homebuilt trailer or you can’t find the VIN plate

on your trailer the best thing to do is have your trailer weighed.

You can do this at some RV dealers, state highway weigh

stations, refuse transfer stations, and commercial truck stops. Be

sure to call ahead first and check.

Finally you need to know the tongue weight of your trailer. You can

buy special tongue weight scales for about $150, but unless you tow

many different trailers with varied loads very often, this probably isn’t


If you think you have less than 300 pounds of tongue weight you can

use a common bathroom scale. But for more than 300 pounds you

will have to set up a rig like this:

Using a Bathroom Scale

With this set-up, you take the reading off the bathroom scale

and triple it to get your tongue weight.

If this isn’t practical for you, you can usually take your trailer to

your local trailer dealer where he can determine the tongue

weight for you.

You can change your tongue weight by changing the way your

trailer is loaded. More weight in front of the axles will increase tongue

weight, while moving the load to the rear will reduce it. You do not

want so much of your load to the rear that you have negative

tongue weight.

(Caution: you do not want a negative tongue weight)

Page 24: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 23

Tongue weight has a large affect on how your combined rig

handles going down the road. Too much tongue weight will cause

your vehicle to sag at the coupler putting more strain on the

vehicle. Too much sag could even reduce the weight on the front

wheels to the point that the ability to safely steer is reduced. Not

enough tongue weight will cause the trailer to sway and wander

and that also creates a dangerous driving condition. You want to

shoot for a tongue weight that is about 10% of your total trailer

weight. This is what most hitches are designed for to ensure safety.

Tongue weight has a

large affect on how

your rig handles on the road.

Page 25: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 24

Let there be light. And there was

wiring and connectors and bulbs and

it was good. Yes kiddies, this time

we’re going to talk all about trailer

wiring and electrical stuff. I know

some of you will go running screaming

from the room at the mere mention of

the word electrical, but trust us it really

isn’t all that hard.

If for no other reason than not getting

stopped by the cops, you must have

working lights on your trailer just like you

do on your tow vehicle. And for your

safety, and the safety of the other

vehicles on the road, all of those lights

should work properly or you shouldn’t

tow, even for a short trip across town.

Of course all new trailers come with lights

and wiring already installed from the

factory. But if you built your own trailer or

you bought a used one that has lights

missing or broken, any good trailer or RV

dealer will have all of the parts and kits you

need to get that trailer on the road safe

and legal.

The following pages will provide you with a

great understanding of the conventions

used in wiring your trailer.

Trailer Wiring

“Vivamus et metus.”






Page 26: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 25

4-Way 5-Way 6-Way 7-Way

Green Yellow Brown White Red Blue Purple

Right Turn &

Brake Left Turn & Brake Tail Lights Ground Backup Lights Electric Brakes Auxiliary Power

Standard Wiring Color Codes for Various Trailer Connectors

Standard Wiring Conventions

The wiring connector for most trailers has between 4 and 7 posts

or blades, depending on how it’s equipped, to control basic

lighting and brake functions. Smaller trailers use a four wire flat

plug that controls taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. Larger

trailers will have a connector with 5, 6, and 7 wires to control

backup lights, electric trailer brake control, and auxiliary power.

Below is a simple chart showing the standard color codes of the

various trailer connectors.

If you stick to this format your trailer will be compatible with

most trailers and tow vehicles out there. If you’re building a

trailer you can buy a complete wiring kit for it and that will be

the easiest and quickest way to get your trailer wired.

Tow Vehicle Connection

Once your trailer’s wiring is good to go the next thing to think

about is the connection to the tow vehicle. Almost all trucks,

vans, and SUVs built since the 1990’s have factory installed

wiring and plugs for lighting and, in some cases, even a connector

in the cab for a trailer brake controller. This makes hooking up your

trailer simple as dirt.

But if you need to add some wiring and connectors it’s not that

hard to splice into your vehicle’s existing wiring, IF, and that’s a

HUGE “IF” you take your time, read directions and understand

basic electrical flow. But if you aren’t absolutely confident in your

wiring skills you can always take it to a professional and have the

work done for you.

Page 27: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 26

Standard Trailer Connectors

Page 28: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 27

Most Common Wiring Plug Locations

If you don’t have a factory installed towing connector, here is a chart showing the most common locations for wiring plugs

that will help you tap into the vehicle’s wiring.

Page 29: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 28

Common Trailer Connectors

7-way vehicle connector 7-way RV blade trailer connector 4-way flat wiring with both connectors

wiring you need is right there in

the taillights. The exception will

be the connection for electric

trailer brakes. However, if you

have a vehicle that is not

factory equipped for towing

you will need to change more

than just lighting before towing

a trailer that is large enough to

have electric brakes.

You will most likely have to

remove one taillight to gain

access to the wiring and the

color codes on the vehicle will

probably be different than the

trailer plug. The best thing to do

is to get the wiring schematic for

your vehicle. (These are

sometimes available on line.) If

you have a voltmeter that is also

If your trailer is equipped with

electric brakes you should use the

7-way RV blade connector even if

you don’t have back-up lights or

auxiliary power. If you don’t have

electric trailer brakes you should

be okay with just the flat four-way


If you’re equipping an older

vehicle for towing most of the

Page 30: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 29

Bad ground connections are the most

common cause of trailer wiring problems.

A bad ground can show up as an overall

lighting failure even when the voltmeter says you've got current.

Worse, a bad ground can create an intermittent failure, causing

your lights to flicker as you drive down the road. Pick an existing

factory ground connection (where other ground wires are connected)

or make sure your connection is solidly into the vehicle's chassis.

a good way to determine which wire is which.

Tag and Label

Remember to carefully tag and label each wire so you can keep

track of what you’re doing and use a good quality tap connector

like these to make those splices.

Tap Connectors

Page 31: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 30

a trailer hitch you can still do the

installation yourself. A typical heavy-

duty ½-inch chuck handheld drill

should handle the job.

You may have to move the tailpipe

temporarily, or drop the spare tire, and

possibly make cuts in the rear fascia,

or fish bolts through the vehicle frame

with a thin wire, depending on your

application, but none of that is terribly

difficult. You just need to take your

time, read the instructions that came

with the trailer hitch carefully, and

work safely.

If you’re the do-it-yourself type and

your truck or RV doesn’t have a trailer

hitch it really isn’t that big a deal to

install one yourself. Most of the trailer

hitches and receiver hitches on the

market today are of the “no drill”


In other words the trailer hitches are

designed to fit into holes that are there in

your tow vehicle’s frame from the factory

so all you really need are a few basic

hand tools that you probably already

have and a couple of hours on a

Saturday. Even if your tow vehicle

doesn’t have the holes required to install

Installing a Trailer Hitch

“Vivamus et metus.”

Do It Your Self


Hire the Experts

Page 32: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 31

A typical trailer hitch installation begins

with getting the tow vehicle high

enough to comfortably work under it.

Always use good quality jack stands

with the appropriate weight rating any

time you work under a vehicle.

Next locate all of the holes you need to

mount the hitch. If you will be drilling

new holes, check the hitch instructions

for their locations and use the drilling

template if the instructions include one.

If the application requires dropping

bolts vertically down through the frame,

go ahead and put those in place first.

It’s a lot easier now than when trying to

hold the hitch in place while you feel

around for the hole in the frame.

Now you can move the trailer hitch into

place. Some hitches can be very heavy,

50 pounds or more, so be sure to use a

buddy or a jack of some sort, or both, to

help you lift it into place and hold it

there while you start the bolts and nuts.

Get at least one bolt on each side snug

first before doing anything else. Once all

of the bolts are in place tighten them all

to the recommended specs with a

torque wrench.

Go online & look at the installation

instruction sheet for the hitch you

are selecting & then decide if this is

something you should tackle or leave to

the experts.

Page 33: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 32

Thread locking treatments such

as Loc-Tite are a great idea. Even

if your hardware kit includes lock

washers or locking nuts, it never hurts

to have a little extra security.

Installing the Ball Mount

Once your new receiver hitch is installed you can turn your attention to the ball

mount. The trailer and tow vehicle should both be level when connected and you

can get an adjustable ball mount to compensate for any difference.

Installing this type of ball mount is no different than installing the hitch receiver. You

want to use the hardware that came with the mount and you also want to make sure

the ball mount extends out far enough from the tow vehicle for safety, but no so far

that the increased leverage raises the tongue weight.

Installing the ball mount

is no different than

installing the hitch


Page 34: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 33

she needs to know exactly where you

want the trailer to go and the signals

need to be worked out beforehand so

that both of you are one the same


Ask for Help

But before you can back a trailer you

need to hook up to the coupler so you

can hook up the trailer and that can

sometimes be just as much of a

challenge as backing the trailer itself. If

you have a spotter, he or she should

stand even with the trailer’s coupler,

on the driver’s side and should be

clearly visible in the driver’s rear view

Want to see something hilarious?

Watch someone who’s never towed

a trailer try to direct somebody else

trying to back up a trailer! Grab a

chair and some popcorn and enjoy

the show. Unless the driver and the

spotter know exactly what each other

needs to see and do, it can be a

recipe for disaster or at the very least

a pretty good argument.

But in reality backing up with a trailer

really isn’t all that hard. It just requires a

little practice and patience. It can even

be done without having a spotter back

there but if you do have a spotter, he or

Hooking Up the Trailer

“Vivamus et metus.”

Trailer Hook Up

Check List

Page 35: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 34

mirror. Its best if the spotter

uses signals to tell you

which way to move the

tow ball, left or right, and

not which way to turn the

steering wheel. Once you

are lined up and getting

close, the spotter should

switch to showing you how

far you still have to go.

Leave a little margin for

error in this to avoid the

unintentional “spearing” of

the tow vehicle’s license

plate. Just take it very

slowly and creep gently

back the last inch or three.

Establish a Visual


If you have to hook up

alone you can still get

there, it’s just a little more

challenging. One trick is

that once you are close,

open the door and look at

the ground as you move the

tow vehicle. It’s a lot easier

to judge how far you have

moved that way. Some

people use a brightly

colored tall stick attached

to the coupler with a

magnet to give them a

good visual reference to

where it is. (Chux sells these!)

Hookup the Ball

Now that you are over the

ball it’s time to hook up.

After you lower the trailer

jack and the coupler is

securely on the ball, make

sure the clamp release is

completely closed. Inserting

a pin or a padlock through

the clamp is good

insurance. Now you can

raise or remove the trailer

jack and stow it away.

Page 36: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 35

Now check the pin that holds the ball

mount in the receiver and make sure

the clip is inserted properly and is in

good condition.

Safety Chains

Next attach the safety chains. Make

sure they cross under the trailer’s

coupler. This insures the coupler will

fall onto the chains in case of a

breakaway and not dig into the

ground. Also connect the breakaway

switch cable if your trailer is so


Now you can hook up the electrical

connector and perform a test to

make sure all the trailer lights are

working correctly.

If you have a weight distributing hitch

there are a couple more steps

involved, like using a jack to take

some of the trailer weight off the

hitch and adjusting the chains for

proper tension. The instructions for this

should have been included with

your hitch and your hitch installer

should also have gone over the

procedure with you. Just remember

that the goal is for the trailer and

the tow vehicle to be level

throughout when fully loaded.

If you have a gooseneck hitch or a

fifth wheel hitch you also have some

additional steps that are covered in

your trailer’s owner’s manual and

should have been explained to you

by your dealer.

Backing Up

Now comes the really fun part;

backing up. No matter what type of

towing you do or where you go,

sooner or later you’re going to have

to back that rig up. Sometimes it

can be pretty funny, until something

goes wrong, then it’s hilarious! Okay,

we’re kidding, but seriously folks,

backing a trailer really isn’t difficult.

Page 37: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 36

Do this while you are watching what the

trailer does. It only takes a little practice

before this becomes second nature and

you will amaze your friends and family with

the places you can back your trailer into.

If you have a spotter make sure your spotter

knows where you want to go beforehand.

And its best if the spotter uses hand signals

to tell you where the back of the trailer

should go, NOT which way you should turn

the wheel. The spotter should also make sure

he or she is always visible in your mirror.

Avoid frustration…

…asking for help and having a

spotter can make all the


Page 38: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 37

and quality trailers and hitches make

towing these days an easy task and it

doesn’t take much to get lulled into a

false sense that towing a trailer is a no-

brainer. But you should never drive the

same way with a trailer that you would

drive without a trailer hitched to your

truck. So what follows here are a few

tips on driving safely when towing a

trailer and a few guidelines to keep

you out of the ditches and right side


Check Everything

Before you even pull out on the road,

make sure the trailer hitch is in good

Towing anything with a trailer hitch

makes your rig is longer, heavier, less

maneuverable, and takes longer to

stop than most of the other vehicles

around you.

The running joke is that common sense

isn’t very common any more, but when it

comes to towing a trailer a little common

sense is all you really need to make it a

safe experience. And safety should be

the number one thing on your mind when

you’re towing anything.

In fact, overconfidence just might be the

most dangerous thing you can have

when towing trailer. Modern tow vehicles


“Vivamus et metus.”




Page 39: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 38

shape, your wiring isn’t corroded or

frayed, and your trailer is loaded

correctly. You need about 60% of the

load in front of the trailer axles. Not so far

in front as to

overload the

tongue weight,

but properly

balanced front to

rear and side to

side. It should go

without saying to

make sure all of

your cargo inside

the trailer should

be securely tied

down. Plus,


sure you visually

confirm that all

trailer brake lights

work, trailer turn signals, trailer

hazard/flasher lights and any clearance

or marker lights.

Make sure you have the trailer hitch

hooked up correctly and all of the

and the car in front of you. It’s just basic

physics that the increased weight of your

rig means your brakes will take more time

to bring everything to a halt. Because of

this, many states

have lowered

their speed limits

for trailers. This is

for your safety so

be sure to never

exceed the

posted limit.

Check Again

After the first 50 to

100 miles, stop

and check to

make sure all of

the hitch

connections are

still good and the

load is still properly tied down and hasn’t


Be extra careful when changing lanes.

Make sure you allow plenty of room for

the extra length of your rig. Check your

electrical connections made. The safety

chains should be attached so they cross

under the coupler like the illustration


Watch Your Speed

Once out on the road don’t follow too

closely and be sure to leave PLENTY of

extra stopping distance between you

Page 40: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 39

mirrors often and signal well in advance

of the change.

Passing a slower vehicle should be a rare

event when you’re towing but if you must

pass, remember again about the extra

length of your combination and don’t cut

back into your lane too soon. When other

cars are passing you be courteous and

help them get the pass done quickly and

safely by slowing just a bit until they are

safely by. Most importantly be

predictable and don’t make any sudden

moves while being passed.

Always use care on long downgrades.

Use lower gears and gentle, intermittent

use of your brakes to keep them cool and

that trailer under control.

Take in the big picture when you’re out

on the road. Anticipation of the

unexpected should become automatic.

Look way ahead and notice what all the

other vehicles are doing. Do the same

thing behind you, check your mirrors

often and always know what’s going on

around you. Watch for drivers who could

Bad Weather

Bad weather requires even more

common sense and good driving habits.

We shouldn’t have to tell you that wet

roads mean even slower speeds and

longer stopping distance. High winds can

cause your trailer to sway. But just like the

flat tire example above, the best action is

little action. Don’t make any abrupt

movements but a slow and gentle

reduction in speed and careful

application of the trailer brake controller

should bring that trailer right back in line

where it belongs.

Finally, whenever you stop, whether for a

rest, gas, or at your destination, make

sure you have room to get out again.

Don’t get stuck in a place where you

have to make a lot of complicated

backing moves just to get out. It would

better to park across the street or on the

side of the road as long as it doesn’t

cause a safety issue.

be a problem long before they get near

you. Notice the guy who’s cutting in and

out of lanes, talking on his cell phone, or

going much faster than the rest of traffic

and give those guys plenty of room.

No matter how good your tires are, the

possibility of getting a flat on the road is

always there. A flat front tire on the tow

vehicle will make steering sluggish and

heavy but you can still pull off the road

and brake to a safe stop. A flat trailer tire

will make your trailer sway and pull the

tow vehicle around some, but you can

still apply the trailer brakes and slowly get

the rig off the road. A flat tire on the rear

of the tow vehicle is probably the worst

but if you just apply the brakes gently

(never slam on the brakes) use the trailer

brake controller and slowly pull the rig off

to the side of the road you’ll be fine. In

the case of any flat tire the basic rule is to

not to panic or make any sudden or

abrupt moves. Just be smooth and gently

apply brake and steering input.

Page 41: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 40

however was that he was talking

about us when we tow our trailers. You

see, if you are towing a trailer with no

brakes or one without a proper brake

controller, and you try to stop at a

traffic light or, worse, in an

emergency, that trailer wants to keep

moving. And you and your tow vehicle

are in its way. And that’s bad news for

you and anybody around you too.

Fortunately there are very few trailers

with no brakes of any kind, (mostly just

the light utility trailers, single axle

trailers, etc.). Even those cheap rental

trailers will usually have surge brakes.

Surge brakes use the slowing of the

We know you probably weren’t

paying attention in high school

physics when they covered Sir Isaac

Newton’s Laws of Motion. Newton

wasn’t the guy who invented those fig

cookies, although he was a pretty

smart cookie himself. No, Newton was

the first guy to figure out that; “Every

object in a state of uniform motion

tends to remain in that state of motion

unless an external force is applied to

it.” And that, dear kiddies, is officially

known as “Newton’s First Law of


What Newton didn’t realize at the time

Trailer Brakes

“Vivamus et metus.”

Trailer Brake


Correcting Sway

Page 42: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 41

tow vehicle to activate a hydraulic

cylinder in the tongue to apply the trailer

brakes. The disadvantage to surge brakes

is that you, the driver, have no

independent control over them.

Air Brakes

The largest gooseneck and fifth wheel

campers and car hauler trailers may

have air brakes. But they are beyond the

scope of this article so we won’t go into

them here.

Just about all campers, travel trailers, car

haulers, boat trailers, etc. sold on the

market today, specifically most that have

dual or triple axles, have electric brakes

that are activated whenever the brakes

in the tow vehicle are applied. In

addition, just about all trucks, vans, SUVs,

and RVs built since the early 1990’s also

have the wiring for an electric brake

controller installed from the factory for

when you are towing a trailer. There is

often a quick connect plug up under the

dash somewhere that will connect to a

standard electric brake controller. Even

from acting on Newton’s law and

pushing your tow vehicle which could

result in a jackknifing.

The gain or output adjustment modulates

the electricty sent to the brakes which

determines how hard the trailer brakes

are applied. A heavily loaded trailer will

require more braking than a light one.

Too much braking will cause the trailer

brakes to lock up before the tow vehicle

brakes are fully applied.

Correcting Trailer Sway

If your trailer starts to sway due to high

winds or the sudden passing of an 18-

wheeler, you can bring it back under

control with the gentle application of the

trailer brake controller without using the

tow vehicle brakes. Just a light touch of

the slider or control button should bring

the trailer right back in line.

As we mentioned above, if your tow

vehicle was built after 1990, installing a

trailer brake controller should only be a

matter of locating the pig tail under the

better is that many pick-ups built in the

last five years with a towing package that

includes the option of having an electric

brake controller built right into the dash!

Trailer Brake Controllers

Trailer brake controllers, like this one from

CURT Manufacturing, are easy to install

and easy to use.

They are adjustable for sensitivity and

gain and usually have a button to

activate the trailer brakes without using

the tow vehicle brakes.

The sensitivity adjustment enables the

brake controller to apply the trailer

brakes anytime it senses the tow vehicle

slowing down. This prevents your trailer

Page 43: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Towing & Trailer Hitches by Chux Trux 42

dash and plugging it into the controller. (If

your truck didn’t come with the pigtail

wiring harness for a trailer brake

controller, Chux can get most of them).

Then you just mount the controller within

easy reach of the driver and you’re

done. Depending upon the make and

model of your vehicle, the brake

controller plug should look like one of


Older Vehicles

If your tow vehicle is older than 1990

installing a trailer brake controller will be a

little more involved but not that difficult.

You will need to connect a wire to your

brake light switch, a 12 volt power source,

and a ground. Then one more wire needs

to go to the trailer wiring connector at

the back of the vehicle.

If you have confidence in your wiring skills

you can tackle a job like this yourself. But

if you’re unsure or just don’t want to take

it on, give us a call at Chux Trux. We’re

Kansas City’s trusted experts when it

comes to all things towing. We have the

training and expertise to do the job right.

We can also help you choose the right

trailer brake controller for your specific

towing needs and get you set-up with all

of the best parts and pieces. If you are

anywhere in the Kansas City area just

stop in at one of our three stores and let

us show you what we can do to provide

you with that “external force” that old

Newton was talking about to bring your

trailer to a smooth, safe stop. Class


Installing trailer brakes

for vehicles older than

1990 is a little more


Page 44: Chux Trux Towing & Trailer Hitches

Chux Trux Kansas City Locations


5005 NE Antioch

Kansas City, Mo 64119

(816) 777-2589

Independence Store

13208-A East 40 Highway

Independence, Mo 64055

(816) 373-8789

Olathe Store

1515 E. Santa Fe

(in the old Olathe Boot building)

Olathe, KS 66061

(913) 829-8789

Chux Tint Shop

13208-A East 40 Highway

Independence, Mo 64055

(816) 373-0593

Chux Trux was voted not just Kansas City's best truck accessory store, but the

best truck accessory store in the USA (LTAA Retailer of the Year Award) by our

peers & competitors!

Since 1991 we’re Kansas City’s most trusted source for custom car, truck, SUV

and Jeep accessories. Our stores in Independence, Missouri, Olathe, Kansas,

and Kansas City are fully stocked and ready to install your next custom part.

Chux Trux has retail, wholesale, and commercial sales divisions.

Chux has what you’re after and special order items too!