Hitch extenders might look like a godsend, but are they actually safe? To be honest, hitch extenders are fine, but you should only rely on them for short-term use.
No one can deny the amazing perks hitch extenders bring to the table. They offer better leverage, handling, and ground clearance, which are all fantastic for towing.
However, hitch extenders can also reduce the tongue weight (TW) and cause more movement in hitch accessories. They’re not the most practical for long-term use, so I wouldn’t recommend making them a permanent fixture. In a nutshell, hitch extenders are safe but should be treated as temporary solutions.
Keep reading to get the full scoop…
Hitch Extenders: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Hitch extenders can be a mixed bag. They have some great benefits, but they might also leave you scratching your head. Let’s break down the pros and cons.
Smooth Sailing but Losing TW
Using a hitch extender with a travel trailer or large U-Haul can improve safety on the road by:
- Enhancing ground clearance
- Providing better leverage
- Improving handling and control
The hitch extender helps you tow big trailers without dealing with pesky friction, thanks to the ground clearance. It also prevents an uneven load-carrying sensation by applying negative pressure.
In other words, the hitch extender gives you the leverage you need for a smooth ride on highways and roads.
The downside? The extender creates a rear axle fulcrum point, causing you to lose 50% of your TW capacity.
For example, if your trailer can tow 1,000 lbs, adding a hitch extender decreases the towing weight by up to 500 lbs. This can destabilize the truck if you add extra stress.
Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Vibrations Affect Hitch Accessories
Since the extender attaches directly to the hitch receiver, it can cause the hitch pin, cover, and receiver to move.
This happens when you’re constantly driving on bumpy roads, causing the rear hitch extender to vibrate excessively.
This movement puts stress on hitch accessories, which are connected to the extender. Moreover, the extender reduces the hitch’s capacity to tow big trailers, putting tension on the rearrest point of the hitch and causing drastic changes in the truck’s front weight balance, even with a weight distributor (WD).
The Pressure’s On: Increased Tire Wear and Puncture Risks
Using an excessively long hitch extender is an accident waiting to happen. The extender pushes the trailer further away, shifting the center of gravity and putting more pressure on the rear wheels.
This added pressure can lead to rear tire wear or even punctures, depending on the trailer load.
One of the most significant trailer hitch extension problems is sway issues caused by sidewall flex and stress on the rear tires.
Tips for Safe Driving with a Hitch Extender and Heavy Load
- Secure Hitch Extender and Load: Double-check that your hitch extender and load are properly secured to your vehicle. Inspect the hitch and other attachment points to make sure everything is tightened and in good shape.
- Ease into It: When hauling a large load, start driving slowly and gradually pick up speed. Flooring it from the get-go can cause difficulties while driving.
- Mirror, Mirror: Adjust your side mirrors to get a clear view of your trailer and the road behind you. Never carry a load that blocks your view.
- Check Your Tires: Inspect your vehicle’s and trailer’s tires before hitting the road. Heavy loads can decrease tire pressure, so make sure all tires are properly inflated. Driving with a flat tire can lead to serious accidents.
- Don’t Overload the Trailer: Never overload your trailer, even with a hitch extender. Aim to keep the load 20-30% lighter than the recommended weight for your trailer.
- Take Corners with Caution: When driving with a trailer, approach corners slowly and allow extra time for braking.
The Final Word
Hitch extenders can be a fantastic tool if you need to improve leverage and balance when towing a larger trailer for a short time.
However, don’t expect them to work wonders for long-term use. As long as the trailer carries 20-30% less weight than the recommended limit, you should be good to go. Just remember, hitch extenders are best used as temporary solutions, not permanent fixtures.