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Key Takeaways

  • The ground clearance for your hitch should be 17 inches.
  • Only use tow vehicles that are rated for the weight of your load.
  • Have several ball mounts and balls available and use the right size.
  • Properly balance the load on the trailer.
  • Use a weight-distributing hitch for heavier loads.

Making sure that a trailer is correctly hitched is an important safety issue. There are several reasons a trailer hitch is riding low. Let’s look at them now.

Here are the most common reasons your trailer hitch is too low:

  • Your trailer is hitched to a vehicle that doesn’t meet its towing standards.
  • You used the wrong size ball or ball mount.
  • The trailer wasn’t properly leveled when hitched.
  • The shank of the hitch is too long or too short.

We spoke to people working in trailer sales as well as everyday trailer users to bring you the most accurate information. Let’s take a look at the reasons your hitch is too low, and what you can do about it.



What Should My Hitch Height Be

Before we get to the reasons your hitch is too low, let’s see what is the right hitch height to tow a trailer. For safety reasons, it is essential that your hitch is at the correct height.

Your hitch should be about 17 inches off the ground. You want to have enough ground clearance that there isn’t any scraping, even when you are going over speed bumps or potholes.

If you want to be more precise, you can follow this mathematical formula for checking if your trailer hitch is at the right height:

  1. Measure from the ground to the top edge of the hitch receiver.
  2. Measure from the ground to the bottom edge of the trailer’s coupler.
  3. Subtract the height of the receiver from the height of the coupler.
  4. If the answer is a negative number, drop the height of the hitch. If the answer is a positive number, raise the height of the hitch.
  5. If there isn’t much of a difference in these numbers, then your hitch is fine.

What Happens if My Hitch Is too Low

For safety, your hitch should be level with the coupling. You don’t want too much of a height difference between your vehicle and your trailer.

If the trailer is too low, it can cause problems with steering and balancing. If it is too high, it can cause issues with stability in high winds.

A low hitch will put too much stress on the rear axle of the tow vehicle. It also affects the steering and the stopping distance. Not to mention, if your trailer hitch is bottoming out on potholes or speed bumps, it can cause a wreck or cause damage to your truck or trailer.

Why Is My Trailer Hitch too Low

Now that we have seen why your hitch shouldn’t be too low and how to tell if it is too low, let’s look at the reasons this could be.

Your Tow Vehicle Is Not Correct for Your Trailer

If you are trying to use a tow vehicle that can’t handle the weight of your trailer and your load, then your vehicle hitch will sit too low. The weight of your load is too much for your vehicle to safely tow.

There is no way to safely tow more than your vehicle is rated for. It can strain your engine, and transmission, and even warp your chassis.

The only fix for this is to only use your car for items that are below the towing capacity listed. If your car isn’t rated to haul the weight you need it to, then you need a new tow vehicle.

Trailer Is Not Properly Balanced

When you are hooking up your trailer, you want it to be a little high, so that as you add the load to it, it will drop down to the needed height. If the weight distribution on the trailer is wrong, it will cause it to drop down in the front.

To balance the weight correctly, put 60% of your load in front of the axle, and 40% behind the axle. Improperly balancing your trailer can cause wear and tear to the trailer axle and tires. If you are still having trouble, you can use a weight-distributing hitch for your towing setup.

Tongue Weight Is too Heavy

If the tongue weight on the ball of the tow vehicle is too heavy, it can cause your hitch to be too low. An imbalance in weight can affect sway control, cause wear on your tires, and have other concerns.

Your tongue weight should be 10-15% of your trailer weight. To get this number, find your Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) by adding the weight of your trailer to the weight of your load. Multiply that by 0.1 and that is the low range, and multiply GTW by 0.5 to find the high range.

This can be adjusted by making sure the trailer is properly balanced. If you are having trouble with it you can use a weight-distributing hitch instead of a weight-carrying hitch.

Your trailer installation manual and vehicle manual will give you more information about which is best for your needs.

Wrong Size Ball or Ball Mount Used

Another common mistake that people make is using the wrong size ball or ball mount for their trailer tongue. A quick way to know what ball to have on your truck is that the smaller ones are for light-duty towing, and the bigger ones are for heavy-duty towing.

  • 1 ⅞” = up to 7,500 pounds
  • 2” = up to 8,000 pounds
  • 2 ⁵⁄16” = up to 21,000 pounds depending on shaft size

If you are towing all sizes of loads depending on the day, it is best to get an interchangeable ball hitch for your tow vehicle.

Shaft on Receiver Hitch too Long or too Short

We touched on this in the previous paragraph, but if the shaft of your hitch receiver on your truck is too long or short, this will affect the trailer level. This is also known as the shank.

  • 2” = 12,500 pounds
  • 2.5” = 18,500 pounds
  • 3” = 21,000 pounds

If your shaft is the wrong size, it can cause your trailer to ride too high or too low.

How to Correctly Hook Up Your Trailer

To keep from having to troubleshoot a height adjustment later, the best thing to do is to connect your trailer to your tow vehicle the right way the first time. Here are the steps to get your trailer perfectly level.

  1. Find out the towing capacity for your tow vehicle and follow it.
  2. Get the right setup by making sure your ball mount, ball, and shaft are the right sizes and lengths.
  3. Properly balance the trailer load around the axle.
  4. Raise the trailer coupler up with the tongue jack so you can put the ball underneath it.
  5. Once the ball is under the trailer coupler, lower the coupler onto the ball.
  6. Latch the coupler using a safety pin or coupler lock.
  7. Attach the chains in a criss-cross pattern.
  8. Retract the trailer jack.
  9. Look at the trailer angle and see if it is too high or too low. It should ride level with the vehicle.
  10. Plug in your trailer’s wiring.