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Trailer Hitch Ball Sizes Explained: Get the Right Size for the Job

Trailer Hitch Ball Sizes Explained: Get the Right Size for the Job

Trailer balls come in a variety of sizes, and selecting the right size is critical for ensuring a secure and effective towing experience. In this article, we’ll explore the different trailer ball sizes available and provide guidance on how to select the right one for your towing needs.

Today, we’ll explain hitch ball sizes and help you get the right size for the job. Let’s get started!

What Is a Trailer Hitch Ball?

A trailer hitch ball is a round metal component on a vehicle providing a connection point for a trailer coupler. While there are a few different types of trailer connection types, the ball coupler is by far the most common. You typically see these on the bumper of a tow vehicle. The ball sits on top of a threaded shank, which screws into the ball.

While they may all look similar, the size of the ball is crucial. The hitch ball must match a trailer’s coupler. The manufacturer stamps the size and weight capacity of the hitch ball on top of the ball. However, the driver must ensure all components are correctly sized and compatible with the tow load.

Trailer ball hitch on showroom floor
A trailer ball hitch is a necessary connection point to connect your trailer to your tow vehicle.

What Is the Standard Size Trailer Hitch Ball?

While not all trailers use balls, the most common size you see in light trailer applications is the 2″. You’d need this size to haul medium-sized trailers, small boats, and travel trailers. In addition, this is the standard for hauling moving trailers like the ones U-Haul and other popular moving companies use.

pintel hitch diagram
Not all hitches are ball type, the pintel uses a ring, others use a pin

What Are the Most Common Trailer Hitch Ball Sizes?

If you plan to tow regularly, you must know the most common trailer hitch ball sizes. This can help ensure that you and whatever trailer you’re towing arrive at the final destination safely. Let’s take a look!

hitch ball sizes diagram

1⅞ Inch Diameter

The 1⅞ inch hitch ball has a limited weight rating of 2,000 to 3,500 pounds with a shank diameter of 0.75 to 1 inch. This is for towing lightweight trailers like personal watercraft, small utility, and smaller boat trailers.

2 Inch Diameter

Stepping up to the 2-inch hitch ball drastically improves the weight rating from 3,500 to 12,000 pounds. This is the most common diameter for most medium-weight trailer hitch balls. You can expect to tow beefier loads, like medium-sized trailers. This includes campers, enclosed cargo trailers, and small to medium-sized boats.

2" trailer ball hitch
We have a 2″ ball welded on the bucket of our backhoe for moving trailers easily around the farm

2 5/16 Inch Diameter

If you plan to tow heavy-duty loads, you’ll want to consider the 2 5/16-inch hitch ball. This can handle weight capacities from 6,000 to 30,000 pounds. However, actual weight capacities vary by manufacturer and model. Always check the weight capacities when purchasing your hitch ball or hitching up your trailer.

With the beefier size, you can haul heavier loads like large boats, RVs, horse trailers, livestock trailers, and equipment trailers. They’re more than capable of doing the job.

The 2 5/16 inch ball is the most common size for gooseneck trailers and is used in fifth-wheel gooseneck adapters.

fifth wheel trailer hitch ball
Most gooseneck trailer balls that mount in the bed of a truck are 2 5/16″

3 Inch Diameter

The 3-inch hitch ball is for drivers who plan to haul weighty loads, usually with commercial vehicles. The weight rating for these balls is between 30,000 and 50,000 pounds. Heavy flatbed trailers, industrial equipment trailers, construction equipment trailers, and other commercial loads.

Pro Tip: Make sure you know the Differences in Fifth Wheel vs Gooseneck Hitches when determining your towing set up.

Trailer ball hitch number size
The size of the hitch ball will typically be stamped on the top of it.

Hitch Ball Shank Sizes 

A hitch ball shank is a metal bar extending from the hitch ball’s bottom. It connects the ball mount or weight distribution system to the tow vehicle. These sizes range from ¾ inch to 1-¼. The 1-inch is the most common. You must match the shank with a diameter that fits the ball mount.

It would be best to consider the rise and length of hitch ball shank sizes. The length of the shank determines how far the ball protrudes from the hitch. This is essential to consider so it provides enough clearance between the ball and the vehicle.

Additionally, you cannot overlook the rise of the ball. This is the amount of weight you’ll add above the ball mount. You’ll need to configure this based on the height of your tow vehicle and trailer. When connecting the trailer to the tow vehicle, it should ride level. If it is too high or too low, it will disrupt the weight distribution and cause an unstable towing experience.

Graphic diagram of a trailer ball hitch
The shank is the size of the threads on a ball without a receiver.

How Do I Know What Size Hitch Ball I Need?

Being a responsible driver while towing means knowing what size hitch ball you need. Let’s discuss how you can know you’re correctly sizing your towing equipment.

Matching Hitch Ball Size to Trailer Coupler Size

You must match the hitch ball size appropriately with the trailer’s coupler size. Trailer couplers typically list the size on the side or top of the coupler. You’ll generally see a stamp with “1-7/8″, “2”, or “2-5/16” on the trailer. If you cannot find the markings or they’ve worn off, you can use a tape measure to confirm the size.

All you need to do is measure the distance between the inside edges of the coupler. As always, we recommend measuring twice to avoid any issues. Once you know the width, you can grab the appropriate hitch ball.

Hitch Ball Size and Trailer Weight Capacity

The coupler size isn’t the only thing to consider. Drivers must also know the trailer’s weight and ensure it’s compatible with the hitch ball. The 2-inch hitch ball has a maximum tow capacity of 12,000 pounds. This should be sufficient for most personal towing needs.

However, you must be mindful of the trailer’s weight capacity. Exceeding the trailer’s weight capacity can be extremely dangerous and cause unsafe towing conditions. 

Hitch Ball Size and Trailer Tongue Weight

Tongue weight is the amount of weight pressing down on the hitch ball from the trailer. Usually, you will find the tongue ratings not on the ball but the hitch assembly or the rating of the vehicle. Ball tongue weight limits can be as light as 500 lbs or as heavy as 5000. Usually, the ball size dictates the tongue limit, withe the larger balls having much higher limits.

Pro Tip: Before you hit the road, make sure you know these 10 Ways to Make Towing a Big Rig Less Dangerous.

Gen Y Pinbox
Gooseneck couplers can easily put 4000lbs on the ball

Do You Need Multiple Trailer Hitch Balls?

Whether or not you need to have multiple trailer hitch balls readily available depends on your situation. If there’s a possibility that you’ll tow multiple trailers with different coupler sizes, you’ll need numerous hitch balls. You should never attempt to tow a trailer without correctly sizing your equipment.

However, if you own a single trailer and have no intentions of hauling other loads, you may only need one hitch ball that matches your trailer’s coupler size and weight capacity. Ultimately, the number of hitch balls you’ll need depends on your towing needs.

Reese 7031400 Tri-Ball Mount with Hook
  • Hitch ball sizes of 1-7/8 inches 2 inches and 2-5/16 inches
  • Length of 8 inches
  • Up to 200 pounds tongue weight and gross towing weight of 2000...

Choose the Right Trailer Hitch Ball Size for Safe Towing

Towing a trailer is a tremendous responsibility. You must do all you can to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road. Driving with inappropriately-sized towing equipment is irresponsible, dangerous, and unnecessary. Do yourself a favor and always choose the right trailer hitch ball size to maximize safety.

Do you know the correct hitch ball size for your trailer? Tell us in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
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