In the U.S. vehicle hitches are rated for a maximum tongue weight and maximum gross trailer weight under the SAE J684 Standard. Maximum tongue weight is the maximum weight the hitch can safely carry when the load weight is placed directly on the center of the hitch ball. A hitch rack cycle load is different from a trailer tongue load because the load is cantilevered outward from the hitch ball center and places more dynamic load and stress on the hitch.

A rule of thumb we use with our own private vehicles is limit the maximum gross hitch rack load (rack weight + cycle weight) to 2/3 of the hitch maximum tongue weight rating and use a rack-to-vehicle stabilizer strap when more stability is needed or when required by the hitch manufacturer. A stabilizer strap greatly improves stability, reduces load bounce, and lessens the stress and strain placed on the hitch.

Always check your vehicle owner's manual and all documentation provided by the hitch manufacturer/installer for information about the hitch and towing for your particular vehicle. Maximum weight ratings of hitches are normally stamped or decaled on the hitch itself. When checking the weight ratings of your hitch, check carefully and do not confuse the weight ratings stamped on other towing accessories such as hitch balls or ball mounts with the actual weight rating of your hitch.

Hitch Class Max Tongue Weight Max Gross Trailer Weight
Class I 200 lbs. 2,000 lbs.
Class II 300 lbs. 3,500 lbs.
Class III 500 lbs. 5,000 lbs.

If you have not yet purchased a hitch, a 1 1/4" or 2" rated Class II or stronger is recommended if available for your particular vehicle (Class II is not available for all vehicles). This rating is sturdy and offers many hitch accessory options. If you will be using a Tow-N-Carry type rack, we recommend a 2" Class III rating or stronger and the hitch's maximum tongue weight rating available for towing will be reduced by an amount equal to the weight of the rack plus the weight of the load placed on the rack.

Overloading your trailer hitch is dangerous and can lead to a serious accident as well as damage to your vehicle and hitch. Users of Hitch Rider™ racks shall be solely responsible for determining the capabilities of their particular trailer hitch before using the racks. This includes determining and deciding the maximum weight carrying capacity for non-trailer loads and any requirement for stabilizer straps to help support the load. Always use a strong cable and secure the load to your vehicle's hitch. If something happens, the strong cable will keep the load and vehicle connected until you can pull over and stop. Always place safety first and if you are unsure about the strength of your trailer hitch, consult with the hitch manufacturer or a trained professional trailer hitch installer.

Transporting hitch mounted loads on a trailer, 5th wheel, or vehicle/RV with the hitch extended more than 72" outward from the rear axle deserves special attention because it has more risk than transporting on cars and SUVs. These vehicles tend to sway and have rough ride characteristics, and hitch mounted carrier loads wag around with more force than usual every time the vehicle turns, encounters bumps or potholes, swerves, or sways from side to side. This results in greater load bounce and stress on the hitch and rack system. Because of safety concerns, Hitch Rider racks are not recommended or warranted for use on a trailer, 5th wheel, or vehicle/RV with the hitch extended far outward from the rear axle.

Trailer Hitch Safety Information is provided for general information purposes only. Hitch Rider Racks is not a trained professional trailer hitch expert and specifically disclaims any liability arising from decisions readers may make based upon Trailer Hitch Safety Information contents.

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