How to Hook Up a Trailer to a Hitch

By Dawn Allcot

moving-trailer-hitch A backup camera makes hitching a trailer easier, but with patience and a little bit of luck, you can hook up a trailer even without a back-up cam. By following the simple steps we’ve outlined below, you can do this on your own or with help from a friend.

Know the Parts of Your Trailer and Hitch

Most towing trailers are identical or closely similar to the diagram below. Be sure to measure the ball on your towing vehicle to make sure it’s the same diameter as the cup on the hitch – that can be a big problem before you’ve even gotten started! Most auto parts stores sell different size balls, so if yours doesn’t match, it’s an easy problem to fix. moving-towing-hitch-trailer Image from

Hitching Your Trailer to Your Tow Vehicle with a Friend

If you have a friend help you, he or she can stand to the driver’s side of the trailer and direct you until the trailer ball sits below the coupler. Watch your friend through your side mirror, making sure they don’t disappear into your blind spot. Even with help, you may find yourself moving the tow vehicle forward and back several times until the pieces are lined up.

Hitching Your Trailer to Your Tow Vehicle by Yourself

If there’s no one around to help you, it may take more time and several steps just to get the ball lined up with the coupler. Start by backing your truck up to the coupler three or four feet at a time, getting out of the truck to see if the coupler and ball are lined up. Get back in the vehicle and make the necessary adjustments. As you get closer, inch the vehicle backwards, making course corrections each time. It helps to keep the driver’s side door open and look at the ground to judge short distances. moving-hitch-uhaul-trailer Image by gisele13/Flickr

Helpful Tip

With your truck and trailer connected, mark a spot on the trailer that aligns with a spot on your truck’s tailgate. When those two spots line up, you’ll know you’re in the right position.

Avoid Frustrations

Don’t expect to line up the ball and coupler on your first try, and you won’t get as easily frustrated when you have to try and try again. If you need to walk away from the situation for a few minutes, do so. Often, you’ll line the pieces up perfectly on the first try after a short break to clear your head.

The 5 Final Steps to Hitching Your Trailer

Once the ball and coupler are lined up, the rest is easy.

  1. Make sure the coupler is in the “open” position.
  2. Lower the coupler onto the ball. If it’s lined up properly, the clamp release should close easily. If it’s not, get back in the truck and make adjustments until the ball is directly below the coupler.
  3. Feel the bottom of the tow ball to ensure the clamp is secure. Don’t judge by sight, as breakaway accidents can occur if the ball isn’t clamped in properly.
  4. Cross the safety chains under the tongue and connect them. The tow chains serve as extra protection in case the trailer does break away. The chains will help keep the trailer from careening off the road or into oncoming traffic.
  5. Plug the lighting harness wires into the connection in the back of your truck. Check to be sure the trailer lights work.

Time to Tow

If you go step by step, take your time, and don’t get frustrated, you’ll get your trip off to a great start.

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