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Don’t Let Towing Be a Drag: How to Measure Hitch Drop (or Rise) Like a Pro

Whether you tow a trailer, RV, or any other heavy load, correctly setting up your hitch is crucial. This includes getting your trailer level. Knowing how to measure the hitch drop size isn’t hard, but it can maximize safety and efficiency for towing.

It might seem complicated, especially if you’re new to towing. However, it’s not. With the proper knowledge and tools, you’ll be a pro in no time.

Today, we’re walking you through how to measure hitch drop like a pro. Let’s get started!

Tom Talks About Trucks & Towing - Our Experience and Tips on Towing Heavy

What is Hitch Drop?

Hitch drop (or rise) is the vertical distance between the hitch receiver and the trailer coupler. This measurement ensures levelness for a trailer. Unlevel trailers improperly distribute weight on the tires and suspension.

When your hitch is at the proper height, it helps improve stability, handling, and a safer towing experience. If you plan to tow regularly, this is a skill that you’ll want to perfect. You want to hit the road with confidence and know that your equipment is ready to go. Who wouldn’t enjoy a more stable and controlled towing experience?

Pro Tip: Make sure you know the different Trailer Hitch Ball Size Options when perfecting your towing set up.

What Size Drop Hitch Do I Need?

The size drop hitch you’ll need significantly depends on several factors and you will need to measure to be sure you get the right one. First, the height of your vehicle matters. You may like how a lift kit makes your vehicle look, but it can make towing challenging. The more you raise the height of your truck, the more significant a drop hitch you’ll need to use.

Additionally, you’ll need to know the trailer’s coupler height. If you want the best towing experience, you want the trailer to be as level as possible.

Drop hitches come in many different sizes. You can get them with a fixed drip or adjustable. Adjustable units are great, but getting one that’s too big for your vehicle will cause it to bottom out or drag.

Very tall drop hitch on vehicle
An adjustable drop hitch is great but one that’s too big will drag on the ground.

How to Measure Needed Hitch Drop

To measure hitch drops like a pro, there are some things you need to do. Let’s walk through the measuring process. If you follow these steps, you should have no trouble determining your hitch drop.

Gather Your Tools

The first thing you need to calculate the correct size drop hitch is to gather your tools. There are a few critical items, most of which you probably own. Gathering these from the start helps ensure you have everything readily available. You can work efficiently and check this task off your to-do list.

You will need a tape measure, a level, a flat surface, a pen, and paper to begin the process of measuring your hitch drop. While a tape measure and a level make sense, you can’t overlook a flat surface. This helps you to get the trailer as level as possible while towing. Find a nearby parking lot if your driveway or parking spot isn’t level.

Measure the Vehicle’s Receiver Height

With your vehicle parked on level ground, the next step in measuring your hitch drop size is to measure from the ground to the top inside edge of the hitcher receiver. A tape measure is the most effective and convenient way to do this. Position it as close as possible to get the most accurate measurement.

Once you’ve measured the vertical distance, write it down so you don’t forget. While you may not be cutting wood, this is a “measure twice” task. Making a mistake now will throw off the entire task.

how to measure your vehicles receiver

Measure the Trailer’s Coupler Height

Next, it’s time to measure the trailer’s coupler height. Ensure the trailer is on level ground. Raise or lower the tongue jack so the trailer is level. You can use a bubble level to check.

To get the best results, measure from the ground to the highest point of the trailer coupler. The tape measure should align with the trailer coupler as much as possible. Jot down the height with your pen and paper. Please remember checking your measurement two or three times doesn’t hurt.

measuring a trailers coupler height for a drop or rise hitch
Measure to the bottom of the lip of the trailer coupler

Calculate the Difference

Once you’ve measured both heights, you must do some basic math to calculate the hitch drop. Subtract the trailer’s coupler height from the vehicle’s hitch receiver height. This tells you the height difference and how much you need to raise or lower the coupler.

Be accurate in measuring and calculating. This helps ensure you set your rig up correctly and safely. Take your time if you want to be stable and comfortable while traveling.

graphic showing how to measure hitch drop

Purchase Appropriate Drop Hitch and Test Results

You can purchase the appropriate drop hitch size now that you have the correct information. They are typically available on Amazon, at Walmart, and at almost any automotive supply store. You want to select one that closely matches the hitch drop you calculated. You also want to ensure it fits your hitch receiver, typically a 2-inch or 2.5-inch receiver.

measuring a vehicles hitch receiver size
Its important to get the right size shank for your vehicle’s receiver. This is a 2.5-inch hitch size. The most common size is 2 inches.

When selecting the drop hitch you measured for, check the maximum weight capacity. It should hold the maximum trailer tongue weight and be rated to tow the trailer. If not, you could run into some safety issues or failures.

Other things to consider are if you want an adjustable hitch or one with additional features like shock absorption. Some hitches require special receivers if they use weight distribution bars. These usually have adjustable heights.

Once you’ve purchased and installed the drop hitch, check the results. Hitch up your trailer and use the level to confirm the levelness. If all goes as planned, the trailer should sit almost perfectly level. You may need a weight distribution system to help achieve your desired setup.

Pro Tip: Looking to update your towing setup? We uncovered Are Articulating Hitches Going to Revolutionize Towing?

shock absorbing hitch
This is an air ride shock absorbing hitch from shocker.
Shocker HD 20K Air Hitch with Combo Ball Mount,...
  • Smoother Safer Towing with Air Ride Towing Technology: Heavy-Duty...
  • 8 Adjustment Holes: Adjustable height for combo-ball mount is 1/2...
  • 20,000 lbs Heavy Duty Capacity: 20,000 lbs towing capacity and a...

Benefits of Proper Hitch Height

You want your hitch at the proper height for several reasons. Let’s dive in and look at some of the benefits.

Balanced Weight Distribution

Anytime you tow, you want to evenly distribute the weight between the tow vehicle and the trailer. It doesn’t matter what type of trailer you’re pulling; weight distribution is critical. The proper hitch height ensures the trailer and tow vehicle do their part.

A driver can have increased handling and comfort while towing by evenly distributing weight. If you’re unhappy with how towing feels, your weight distribution is probably off. Check your hitch height and see if it’s level.

Close up of trailer hitch system
Make sure to park on a flat service when measuring to ensure you get an accurate hitch height. This is an example of a slight hitch rise.

Enhanced Towing Stability

A driver may experience instability when towing if the hitch isn’t at the correct height. Consider yourself lucky if you’ve never dealt with trailer sway. It can be a nightmare. This phenomenon can push you and your trailer all over the highway and create a dangerous situation.

While hitch height is part of a proper towing setup, weight distribution and managing weight ratings is the most important. If you load too much weight in the back of your trailer, it will sway. We recently watched a trailer flip a van because it had motorcycles loaded too far to the back. Be careful and read our articles about RV weight.

Pro Tip: Prevent trailer sway by discovering how to use a sway bar to pull a camper.

Discovering what size drop hitch do I need
This is a weight distribution hitch that requires a special receiver. These use additional bars to provide weight distribution to the vehicle and additional safety.

Proper Ground Clearance

Maintaining proper ground clearance is critical. If not, it could lead to scraping or dragging over speed bumps, uneven terrain, or steep inclines. You don’t want to damage your trailer or your hitch components. Setting your hitch height correctly and measuring your hitch drop provides plenty of ground clearance in almost all situations.

One standard issue drivers face is their tongue jack being too low. In many cases, the landing gear may only be six to eight inches off the ground. If you’re not careful, it could catch on the ground and require replacing the entire jack. This isn’t how you want to start or end a camping adventure.

Reduced Strain on Multi-Axle Trailers

If you are towing a multi-axle trailer, it’s critical to tow it level, or you could strain your trailer’s suspension. Having too steep an angle to the vehicle can cause an overload on tires or extra stress on springs, equalizers, and axles. In the worst case, this could lead to failures that can be unsafe or leave you stranded.

Pro Tip: We compared adjustable drop hitches vs. fixed hitches to help you uncover Which Is Right for Your Towing Needs.

How To Determine The Right Drop Hitch

Accurately Measure Your Hitch Height

The process of measuring your hitch drop is not nearly as challenging as you’d expect. If you can use a tape measure and do some simple math, you can improve your towing experience. However, ensure you take your time and always check the results. Failing to do so could result in a mistake, which defeats the purpose.

If you’re struggling with towing, checking your hitch height is a significant first step toward a smoother towing experience. So what are you waiting for? Grab the supplies and ensure your hitch is at the proper height.

Do you know your hitch drop measurements? Tell us in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Don Maccarone

Sunday 18th of June 2023

Good article, however I was taught to measure to top of the trailer hitch ball coupler. Also, these calculations need to take into consideration how much settle or squat there is on the tow vehicle when TV and trailer are loaded for actual trip. My F150 settles almost 2". Just my $.02. Thanks