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Trailer Talk - Glossary of Trailer Terms

Glossary of Trailer TermsThe trailer industry has a lot of unique words and acronyms that you do not see in normal day to day life. We have put together a glossary of some of the more common terms that you may encounter when you are shopping for your next trailer.

 Glossary of Trailer Terms

Axle: The pin, bar, shaft, or the like, on which a wheel or pair of wheels rotates.

Ball mount (also called a Drawbar): A removable hitch ball platform that slides into the receiver of a hitch and fastens with a pin and clip. Different ball mounts can be used to raise or lower the height of the ball to allow for level trailer towing.

Beavertail: A Beavertail is a slight incline at the rear of a trailer. His is more common on equipment trailers and car haulers. A Beavertail can make loading vehicles or equipment easier.

Brake Controller:

Bull-Nose: The neck of the trailer at a rounded or obtuse angle.

Converter: Converts 3-wire tow vehicle electrical systems to 2-wire systems by integrating the stop and turn signal circuits as is common in trailer wiring.

Cargo Trailer: An un-powered vehicle pulled by a powered vehicle; commonly used for transport of goods and materials.

Coupler: This is the leading-positioned part of a trailer tongue that secures to the tow vehicle hitch ball.

Cross Members: These are the structural, load carrying components supporting the floor of the truck body or trailer. We use only materials that are high in strength, but light in weight to maximize the weight and volume of the cargo being hauled.

Drawbar: See Ball Mount.

G.V.W. or Gross Vehicle Weight: The total weight of a vehicle including all of its contents and passengers.

G.V.W.R. or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: The total weight of the trailer by a manufacturer as the recommended maximum weight of a vehicle plus the weight of the load placed on the trailer (although the gross vehicle weight rating of a truck is the combined weight of the truck, trailer, and the load on the trailer).

Hitch: A device that attaches directly to a separate vehicle and connects the tow vehicle and the trailer. Below are the most common types. Our Service Specialists can tell you what kind of hitch works best for your trailer.

  • Bolt-On Trailer Hitch (Permanent Undercar Trailer Hitch)
    A device which attaches directly to the tow vehicle providing the connection between the tow vehicle and the trailer. A fixed tongue hitch includes the ball platform.
  • Custom Trailer Hitch
    A hitch that is designed for a particular year, make, and model of vehicle. Because these hitches are made for a specific vehicle. The best possible appearance can be achieved because these hitches are made for specific vehicles.
  • Fifth Wheel Hitch
    A Class 5 trailer hitch that mounts in the bed of pickup truck which uses a plate in the bed of the truck (similar to a semi-tractor) and a pin on the trailer.
  • Fixed Tongue Hitch
    A trailer hitch with an integral ball platform (tongue) that cannot be removed.
  • Gooseneck
    Rated for 25,000 to 30,000 lbs, a gooseneck hitch is mounted in the bed of the truck and uses a ball mounted level with the bed. Gooseneck trailers are primarily for agricultural or industrial use.
  • Pintle Hitch
    A common heavy-duty coupling type which utilizes a pintle hook attached to a tow vehicle to pull a trailer having a lunette eye. Pintle hitches are commonly used on military, construction, industrial and agricultural equipment.
  • Receiver Style Hitch
    Any hitch with a receptacle which accommodates inserts such as drawbars, ball mounts, or bike racks.
  • Round Tube Hitch
    Newer style of custom hitches which can create a neater appearance. The use of round tubing lowers the weight of the hitch while maintaining its strength. These hitches complement the look of the vehicles for which they are made.
  • Weight Carrying Hitch
    Any hitch used without a weight-distributing system. Some hitches are designed and clearly marked "weight carrying only".

Hitch Ball: The attachment on a vehicle where a trailer coupler is attached. It is named after its shape. 

Hitch Bar: See ball mount or drawbar.

Hitch System Rating: This is the maximum weight you can tow with your configuration. To find out how much you can tow, consider the maximum tow weight of your vehicle. Check your vehicle's manual or contact the manufacturer for this information, then select the proper equipment. Keep in mind gross trailer weight and tongue weight as the two main factors in selecting towing equipment.

Insert: It can be any part that slides into a receiver style hitch, such as a ball mount, winch, bike rack, etc. 

LED or Light Emitting Diode: A diode is an electrical component with two terminals which conduct the electricity only in one direction. With an electrical current, the diode emits a bright light around the small bulb.

Locking Pin: A key-locking hitch pin whose function is to avoid removal of an insert. 

OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer.

Pintle Hook: The part of a pintle hitch which attaches to the tow vehicle.

Pintle Mount: An insert for a receiver hitch which has a shank unto which a pintle hook is bolted to.

Plug: It is the part used to connect trailer wiring to a tow vehicle. 

Receiver: It is the part of a trailer hitch which holds inserts such as ball mounts or drawbars.

Rock Shield: Often called a “Rock Guard”, it’s a smart and inexpensive way to protect your cargo from rocks or other debris shot at it at the speed of movement.

Safety Chains: They are attached to the trailer tongue with hooks on their free ends and keep the trailer connected to the tow vehicle in the event the coupler or hitch ball detach from the tow vehicle. Safety chains must be secured every time a trailer is towed. 

Single Axle Trailer: It is a towing unit featuring a single axle, to which two wheels are connected to allow the trailer to roll forward. The single axle trailer is often rated to haul only a certain amount of weight. The size of the trailer being hauled is dictated by the hitch receiver's hauling capacity as well as the size of the vehicle. Chains are connected between the trailer and the hitch as a back-up security system.

Spring Bar: It is the part of a weight-distributing hitch system which works to distribute trailer tongue loads to the tow vehicle forward axle. 

Sway Control Device: A device similar to a shock absorber which resists swaying movement of a trailer tongue sometimes caused by passing vehicles and wind.

Surge Brake System: This system is entirely self-contained on the trailer and activates when the tow vehicle decreases speed.

Tandem Axle Trailer: Also referred to as a “Double Axle Trailer” or “Dual Axle Trailer”, it is a trailer with two axles, one behind the other (has a total of 4 wheels).

Tongue: The part of the trailer which includes the coupler; it extends forward from the trailer box. 

Tongue Weight: It’s defined as the downward force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler.

Tow vehicle: It is the vehicle that pulls a trailer.

Utility Trailer: It’s an unpowered vehicle that is pulled or towed by a powered vehicle such as a car or truck via a hitch. It can be built as a flat-bed open-air trailer or as an enclosed trailer with shelving units or specialty equipment built in. It’s meant to haul some sort of equipment, either for professional or recreational use.

V-Nose: The part of the trailer that attaches to the vehicle hitch, takes its name after its shape, of a letter “V” with the vertex pointing forward.

Weight Distribution System: A hitch system that enhances handling and braking and increases trailer towing capacity. This system is built around a receiver hitch, which includes supplemental equipment that distributes trailer tongue loads to the trailer axle(s) and the tow vehicle front axle. 

 

EXPERTS YOU CAN TRUST

The experts at USA Trailer Sales carry a huge selection of hitches, trailers and accessories. We are always here to help you negotiate the many options and possible customizations available when buying your trailer. Please contact us with any questions you may have or stop by one of our six Michigan locations to speak with a local trailer expert today.