Hitches must flex (or articulate) because the trailer will follow a different path, and the axle rides so much further behind the tow vehicle. Many hitch types only have so much flex ability however for pitch and roll, but one trend is increasing the articulation to the max.
In the world of off-roading and overlanding, articulating hitches are becoming more popular. With multiple axes of movement, this enhanced towing technology can provide smoother rides, easier maneuverability, and enhanced safety. But are these claims just hype, or could articulating hitches truly revolutionize the towing industry?
Below, we take a deep dive into the intricacies of these hitches, exploring how they work, their pros and cons, and whether the upgrade is worth the investment. Keep scrolling to learn more.
What is an Articulating Hitch?
An articulating hitch, or an articulating coupler, is a towing mechanism that provides a more flexible and dynamic connection between a towing vehicle and its trailer. Unlike traditional fixed hitches that limit movement and flexibility, an articulating hitch allows for greater articulation between the towing vehicle and the trailer.
Many of these hitches utilize two joints of movement, including a 360-degree rotation near the vehicle’s bumper or trailer. This allows your trailer and vehicle to flex in opposite directions as you maneuver turns and pivots. It also maintains a safe connection that will not bind.
How Does an Articulating Hitch Work?
There are many different styles of articulating hitches, but they all incorporate at least two articulating points. These hitches consist of a multi-axis joint that enables movement along multiple planes. There’s a 360-degree rotating component and a hinge that moves left to right. Some even have an up-down component of movement. This joint can pivot and rotate, allowing the trailer to move independently to a certain degree without exerting excessive force on the towing vehicle. This design permits more natural turning, swaying, and shifting, reducing the strain on the towing vehicle and the trailer.
Who Typically Uses an Articulating Hitch?
Articulating hitches are finding their place in various towing scenarios. From casual RV owners to adventurous overlanders, anyone who tows trailers in varying terrain can benefit from this innovation. Nevertheless, these hitches are perhaps most popular in the off-roading community. Rvers with small, rugged travel trailers who love venturing off-grid tend to make up most of the articulating hitch market. With the advantages of easily maneuvering sharp turns and gliding over rough terrain, many overlanders swear by their hitch.
Pro Tip: Even with articulating hitches, remember to measure your hitch drop or rise.
What are the Benefits of an Articulating Hitch?
Should you invest in an articulating hitch? To better answer this question, let’s dive into their various benefits.
Less Stress on the Trailer
Conventional hitches can subject trailers to significant stress during turns and maneuvers. The articulating hitch’s ability to pivot and rotate means the trailer doesn’t have to fight against the towing vehicle’s movements, reducing wear and tear on the trailer’s chassis and components.
A Smoother Ride
The enhanced flexibility of these hitches also contributes to a smoother towing experience. They absorb bumps and potholes in the road better, reducing the jarring sensations that can make towing uncomfortable for drivers and passengers. Neither you, your vehicle, nor your trailer will likely jostle around as much.
Turns are Easier and Safer
Articulating hitches allow for sharper and safer turns, particularly in tight spaces. The increased range of motion allows the towing vehicle and the trailer to withstand tighter angles, making it possible to better maneuver in and out of constricted areas. This also reduces the risk of collisions by providing more control and margin of error for the driver.
Backing Up is Easier
One of the most challenging aspects of towing is backing up, especially for those new to the practice. Articulating hitches can make this task less daunting, as the trailer’s movement is more intuitive and responsive to the towing vehicle’s steering inputs. Nevertheless, seasoned pros who are used to towing with regular hitches might experience a learning curve when backing up using an articulating hitch. However, it becomes clear how much easier it can be after some practice.
Provides a More Secure Connection
Despite its enhanced flexibility, an articulating hitch maintains a more secure connection between the towing vehicle and the trailer than standard ball hitches. Because of the rigidity of a ball hitch, the trailer can potentially disconnect while traversing challenging terrain, during sway, or when fishtailing. The smooth flexibility of this hitch style allows the trailer to better adapt to the bumps and turns of the vehicle. This reassures drivers that they won’t experience dangerous sway or sudden disconnections, creating a safer towing experience.
Pro Tip: We compared adjustable drop hitches vs. fixed hitches to help you uncover Which Is Right for Your Towing Needs.
What are the Drawbacks of an Articulating Hitch?
No product is perfect, and there are a few drawbacks that come with the switch to an articulating hitch. Let’s look at the potential negatives.
Hitching Can Be More Difficult
While articulating hitches offer numerous advantages, they can be more complex to attach than traditional hitches. Many designs require a pin to be inserted that would require a higher degree of alignment. Some of these hitches utilize different tactics to minimize the straw back, however, and try to make it easier than their competitors. This could also mean detaching the trailer could be more difficult if there is pressure or wait on the connection point.
Incompatible With Other Hitches
Many times in articulating hitch requires that you replace both the coupler and receiver on your trailer and vehicle. Because this is a unique connection it cannot be used with other types of hitches. The most common types of trailer hitches are a ball style of standard sizes. Utilizing one of these hitches would require that you completely remove the coupler and replace it with a standard ball to tow other trailers.
Because they’re an upgrade, articulating hitches are typically more expensive than standard fixed hitches. This cost can be a significant factor for individuals or businesses on a tight budget, potentially deterring them from adopting this technology. Even if it isn’t a hit to your budget, you might decide that the benefits aren’t worth the cost or trouble.
Complexity and Maintenance
The intricate design of articulating hitches means more moving parts require maintenance. Regular upkeep and potential repairs could be more involved compared to simpler hitches. This includes correctly cleaning and greasing it to prevent corrosion from compromising the pivot points.
Articulating hitches usually have stricter weight limitations than standard ball hitches, restricting their use for heavy-duty towing. For example, the Lock N Roll hitch is rated at 11,000 lbs, while a MAX Coupler is rated at 6,000 lbs. This disqualifies these hitches from use with heavier travel trailers like the Jayco Eagle 334DROK. It’s crucial to choose one that aligns with the weight requirements of your towing needs.
Pro Tip: Want to use an articulating hitch for overlanding? Learn which overland travel trailers are the best on the market.
While articulating hitches can enhance safety in many respects, improper installation or usage could potentially lead to accidents or trailer detachment. More moving parts mean more maintenance and an increased chance of failure. It’s important to thoroughly understand the hitch’s mechanics and follow maintenance recommendations and any other guidelines for safe towing.
Certain jurisdictions might have regulations or restrictions on the use of these hitches. Most of these hitches are not legal to be used in Europe at all. Others may not be DOT-approved for road use. Because of this, it’s crucial to research and comply with local laws before setting out on a road trip.
Hybrid Articulating Hitches
there are a few manufacturers that make articulated hitch couplers for trailers that work with standard trailer balls. One example is the ark hitch. This illuminates one drawback by allowing you to utilize your standard ball coupler on your vehicle with an articulating hitch. Like other articulating hitches however the tongue portion of the trailer needs to be replaced with this hitch.
How Much Does an Articulating Hitch Cost?
The cost of this hitch can vary depending on the brand, features, and towing capacity. Popular models range from around $300 to $500. For example, the “vehicle side” of the Lock N Roll hitch costs around $310, while the “trailer side” costs around $180.
If you’re new to the world of articulating hitches you’ll need both, equalling a total cost of around $490. The MAX Coupler is a slightly cheaper option at about $350 for the entire hitch. However, it has a smaller weight rating than the Lock N Roll model.
Pro Tip: A weight distribution hitch is beneficial for any type of towing.
Is Upgrading to an Articulating Hitch Worth it?
Articulating hitches present a compelling case for revolutionizing the towing industry. Their advanced design and improved functionality offer numerous benefits that can transform your towing experience. While there are drawbacks, the potential for safer, more efficient towing could make articulating hitches a game-changer for weekend warriors and full-time RVers.
Ultimately, deciding whether to upgrade to an articulating hitch depends on your towing needs and priorities. If you frequently tow a trailer and value smoother rides, easier maneuvers, and enhanced safety, the benefits of this hitch could justify the cost and learning curve. Furthermore, if you regularly venture off-road, an articulating hitch might be an essential upgrade to help you navigate the rough terrain.
Would you upgrade to an articulating hitch? Let us know in the comments below!
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