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What Does a Drop Hitch Do & When Should I Use One?

What Does a Drop Hitch Do & When Should I Use One?

If you connect your trailer to your towing vehicle and the trailer isn’t level to the ground, then you need a drop hitch.

Here’s why:

When towing a trailer, you want it to be as close to level as possible to ensure it tows properly. But if your towing vehicle is too tall, or the hitch receiver is mounted too high up, that may not be possible with a standard hitch setup.

Can you ignore the situation and tow on? Absolutely not. In today’s post, we’ll tell you why, and show you how to remedy the situation so that you can tow safely.

Why Do My Tow Vehicle and Trailer Need to Be Level?

When towing, your trailer and tow vehicle need to be level in order to tow safely. If they aren’t, you have a far greater potential for trailer sway and for the tail of the trailer to hit the ground when going up steep hills or over sudden grade changes.

Trailers need to be level when towing for stability, proper braking, and ground clearance, and to avoid trailer sway and uneven tire wear.

Remember – trailer sway is more than an annoyance. It’s more than white-knuckle driving. Trailer sway can quickly get out of control and create a dangerous situation for you and for those around you.

For more information about that, check out our post on trailer sway control.

What Is a Drop Hitch?

Drop hitches lower the height of the hitch ball on your towing vehicle, helping to keep your towed trailer level. (See our post about ball hitch sizes for more information on hitch balls.)

A drop hitch receiver simply changes the height of the trailer hitch ball so you can connect to the trailer without unbalancing the towing setup. It ensure the trailer is level when connected to the towing vehicle, which again is important to prevent you from losing control of the trailer while towing.

Drop hitches come in different designs and sizes and are designed to fit into a standard hitch receiver. They’re capable of adding anywhere from 2 inches to 10 inches of vertical shift to enable you to evenly connect the trailer and towing vehicle.

There are two different parameters that need to be correct for your towing vehicle:

Shank Size

Shank size refers to the dimensions of the rectangular shaft that’s inserted and secured into your towing vehicle’s hitch receiver. They need to match.

Drop Height

Drop height is how far down below the receiver height the drop hitch lowers the ball connection point.

Some have fixed drops and others are adjustable. Adjustable drops can be handy if the height of your towing vehicle’s hitch changes based on the load in the bed or if you tow different trailers that need different hitch heights such as a travel trailer, a utility trailer, and a boat trailer.

Several popular high-quality adjustable drop hitches shown

Adjustable drop hitches like these from Curt, B&W, Weigh Safe, and Gen Y can be very handy, especially if the height of your vehicle changes due to load, or if you tow different trailers.

How to Determine the Size of the Drop Hitch You Need

In order to determine the proper size drop hitch for your towing setup, you’ll need to take a couple of measurements.

But first, you’ll need to know the size of your hitch receiver and you’ll need to be on level ground.

Take the following steps to determine the size of the drop hitch you need:

Determine the Size of Your Hitch Receiver

Measure the square opening of your tow vehicle’s hitch receiver.

Measure from inside wall to inside wall to get the correct measurement. The most common receiver size is 2″ square, but yours may be different, so measure carefully.

Determine the Drop Hitch Height

To determine your drop hitch height, park your towing vehicle and your trailer on a level surface.

Make sure your trailer is level by raising or lowering the tongue as necessary, and leveling using a simple bubble level, or better yet, a LevelMatePRO+.

Take Two Measurements

On the trailer: Measure from the ground to the bottom of the trailer coupler.

On the towing vehicle: Measure from the ground to the top of the inside of the receiver opening.

The difference between the two measurements is the size of the drop hitch you need.

So, if the difference between measurement 1 and measurement 2 is three inches, you’ll need a 3-inch drop hitch. If the difference between the two measurements is 5″, you’ll need a 5-inch drop hitch… and so on.

For a visual demonstration showing how to accurately determine the size of the drop receiver hitch you need, check out this video:

What Are the Best Drop Hitches to Buy?

Let’s take a look at a variety of drop hitches that are available, keeping in mind that you first need to determine the proper drop height for your setup.

PRO TIP: If your towing vehicle is equipped with a 2.5″ square receiver, you can step down to a more standard 2″ receiver using an adapter like this one (that’s the exact situation we recently encountered towing a Black Series off-road camper, and the adapter worked like a charm):

DEF 2-1/2" to 2" Hitch Adapter Replacement for Standard 2-1/2" Square Receiver Hitch Billet Aluminum (2-1/2" to 2")
  • Fitment:Insert sleeve mount adapter reduces standard 2-1/2" square receiver hitch to accept 2" to insert.
  • Material:CNC Billet Aluminum,surface grinding,powder coated black,resistance to rust and corrosion.

You’ll also want to be sure that ANY hitch-related gear you buy is appropriate for the weight you’re towing.

Let’s take a look at a couple of simple standard drop hitches followed by some adjustable drop hitches.

CURT 45064 Lifted Truck Trailer Hitch

This drop hitch is great for lifted trucks, Jeeps, and larger trucks in general. It has a 6-inch drop along with a 2″ x 2″ shank.

This particular drop hitch is rated to tow 7,500 pounds gross trailer weight and 750 pounds tongue weight, but Curt offers drop hitches in weight capacities from 2,000 lbs to 21,000 lbs, with shank sizes 1-1/4″, 2″, 2-1/2″ and 3″.

These hitches are made of welded steel and have a hollow shank.

To install, simply insert the shank into your towing vehicle’s hitch receiver and secure it in place.

CURT 45064 Lifted Truck Trailer Hitch Mount with 2-Inch Ball & Pin, Fits 2-in Receiver, 7,500 lbs, 6-Inch Drop, Black
  • DEPENDABLE STRENGTH. Rated to tow 7,500 pounds gross trailer weight and 750 pounds tongue weight, this ball hitch offers dependability for your towing...
  • VERSATILE USE. This ball mount has a 2-inch x 2-inch shank and a 6-inch drop, making it great for larger, lifted trucks and Jeeps. It also features a...

Reese Trailer Hitch Ball Mount Starter Kit

Here’s a hitch ball mount starter kit from Reese.

Made of powder-coated steel, it has a 4″ hitch drop and a 7,500 lb. weight capacity.

This kit will fit a standard 2″ receiver tube and includes the ball mount, hitch ball, pin & clip.

Reese Towpower Trailer Hitch Ball Mount Starter Kit, 7,500 lbs. Capacity, Fits 2 in. Receiver, 4 in. Drop, Black
  • Fits 2 in. Receiver Tube Openings
  • Includes Ball Mount, Hitch Ball, Pin and Clip

Weigh Safe Aero Hitch – Adjustable Trailer Hitch Ball Mount

This adjustable drop hitch from Weigh Safe offers a 4” drop hitch and a 5″ rise hitch. It adjusts in 1-inch increments.

This adjustable drop hitch is made of heavy-duty powder-coated steel and stainless steel. It weighs 14 pounds and has been tested/rated at 12,500 pounds.

Included with the Weigh Safe Aero Hitch is a 2″ tow ball (also rated at 12,500 pounds) and a 2 15/16″ tow ball adapter.

So, if your trailer coupler accommodates a 2 15/16″ hitch ball, you’ll simply use the included tow ball adapter to convert the 2″ tow ball to a 2 15/16″ tow ball.

The Weigh Safe Aero Hitch has a built-in weigh scale (handy for knowing your trailer’s tongue weight) and is also available with 6″, 8″, and 10″ drops.

Weigh Safe Aero Hitch - Adjustable Trailer Hitch Ball Mount - 4" Drop Hitch for 2" Receiver - Premium Heavy Duty Steel Trailer Tow Hitch w/Built in Weight Scale for Anti Sway, 12,500 lbs GTW
  • HELPS PREVENT TRAILER SWAY: Only 4" trailer hitch ball mount that accurately measures tongue weight. Through Patented Technology, Weigh Safe Hitches...
  • 4" ADJUSTABLE BALL MOUNT: 4” drop hitch & 5" rise hitch, adjusts in 1" increments so you get the perfect fit for any trailer height - Secured using...

CURT 45900 Adjustable Trailer Hitch Ball Mount

This adjustable ball hitch from Curt comes with a standard shank to fit most standard 2″ x 2″ trailer hitch receivers, making it a good choice for most class 3, 4, and 5 hitches.

The adjustable ball mount is covered in a black powder-coated finish. It has a dual ball attachment that’s made with corrosion-resistant zinc plating.

If you own several trailers or tow various loads, the adjustable ball mount offers incremental height adjustments depending on what you’re towing.

Each trailer ball is capable of being raised up to a 5 1/4″ rise or lowered to a drop of up to 6″.

The adjustable shank assembly has multiple mounting holes to accommodate various ball heights.

The ball mount has a shank size of 2″ x 2″ and comes with two trailer balls to fit 2″ and 2 15/16″ coupler sizes.

Curt’s adjustable ball mount has a gross trailer weight capacity of 10,000 lbs. with the 2″ ball, and a gross trailer weight capacity of 14,000 with the 2 15/16″ ball.

The two pin holes in the shank allow for mounting at 11″ or 12″ lengths.

CURT 45900 Adjustable Trailer Hitch Ball Mount, 2-Inch Receiver, 6-Inch Drop, 2 and 2-5/16-Inch Balls, 14,000 lbs , Black
  • HIGHLY VERSATILE. Adapt your trailer hitch to any towing situation with the highly versatile and easily adjustable design of this adjustable ball...
  • SMOOTH TOWING. For a smoother, quieter ride while towing your trailer, this adjustable drop hitch comes with a built-in anti-rattle feature, deterring...

GEN-Y GH-523 MEGA-Duty Adjustable 5″ Drop Hitch with GH-051 Dual-Ball

GEN-Y’s adjustable drop hitch is used with a 2″ hitch receiver and gives you a 5″ drop or rise. The range of this super heavy-duty drop hitch is anywhere from 5″ to 17 1/2″!

It includes a Versa-Ball mount with 2″ and 2 15/16″ balls as well as a Pintle lock.

This drop hitch is made of heavy-duty steel and covered in an epoxy powder coat.

It’s rated for 2,000 lb. tongue weight and 16,000 lb. towing weight.

GEN-Y offers a lifetime guarantee on these drop hitches, which are made in the U.S.A.

GEN-Y GH-523 MEGA-Duty Adjustable 5" Drop Hitch with GH-051 Dual-Ball, GH-032 Pintle Lock for 2" Receiver - 16,000 LB Towing Capacity - 2,000 LB Tongue Weight
  • HEAVY-DUTY: Made with heavy-duty steel, sand blasted, and finished with a durable silver-vein powder coat for easy cleaning and long lasting service....
  • VERSATILITY: Stacked tube design offers options for multiple attachments and accessories at the same time such as a standard ball mount, hitch step,...

B&W Trailer Hitches Tow & Stow Adjustable Trailer Hitch Ball Mount

B&W is another high-quality hitch ball mount that fits any 2″ receiver. It offers a 5″ drop.

This drop hitch adjusts to multiple heights and comes with three balls (1 7/8″, 2″ and 2 15/16″) and has a gross trailer weight rating of 10,000 pounds.

Made of heavy-duty steel with a corrosion-resistant finish, these ball mounts stow neatly away when not in use.

The three ball sizes are easily swapped with a simple rotation, and the stainless steel adjustment pins easily raise or lower the hitch to your desired height.

B&W makes these in the U.S.A. and offers a lifetime warranty. Other similar models are also available with different drops and two balls instead of three.

B&W Trailer Hitches Tow & Stow Adjustable Trailer Hitch Ball Mount - Fits 2" Receiver, Tri-Ball (1-7/8" x 2" x 2-5/16"), 5" Drop, 10,000 GTW - TS10048B
  • ADJUSTABLE – The Tow & Stow Adjustable Ball Mount Trailer Hitch is adjustable in height for level towing. Simply pull the two stainless steel...
  • STOWABLE & SECURE: Keep your hitch handy but out of the way. When you're not towing, stow the Tow & Stow Adjustable Ball Mount right where you'll need...

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Alan Pickering

Tuesday 27th of June 2023

Hi guys,

I'm a new subscriber and who is trying to riddle through the effects of using a drop hitch on the tow bar and its mountings.

I've been told the use of a drop hitch significantly changes (increases) the rotating forces on the tow bar to the point that it becomes illegal, e.g., exceeds the ratings of the tow bar,etc.

Allegedly, Prados were susceptible to suffering structural damage through their use.

Any help, including references to other articles would be appreciated.

Regards, Alan P.


Wednesday 28th of June 2023

Hi Alan, and welcome! Great to have you here with us. While we are certainly not absolute experts on all aspects of this topic, our understanding is that the tow bar itself will be unaffected by a drop hitch, and will actually benefit, as the tow bar should be as level as possible, which, of course the purpose of a drop hitch is to achieve exactly that. The compromise can occur in the receiver due to the torquing effect that a drop hitch (or hitch extension) can cause. In other words, the tow bar can handle its full rated capacity without a problem, but if your hitch is rated for 10,000 pounds normally, a drop hitch, especially a large drop, COULD reduce that due to the torquing effect. But that information should be listed on or with the drop hitch. Hope this helps.


Sunday 26th of March 2023

Hi guys, We absolutely love the valuable information you continually post! I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the importance of proper towing for safety’s sake. Not to mention the reduction of wear and tear on tires and brakes, as well as increased fuel economy. There’s plenty of YouTube videos that show the consequences.

The easy method I've used is:

Using a jack at the trailer coupler and placing a level on the trailer frame Raise the jack until a level bubble is achieved Measure the distance from the top of the coupler to the ground Measure the top of the ball on the tow vehicle to the ground Subtract the ball height from the coupler height. A negative resulting number means you need to drop the ball "X inches". A positive number means you need to raise the ball "X inches".

Example: Coupler height = 24" Ball height = 26" Result = -2”

This means an owner should install a drop hitch that provides at least a 2” drop. The results vary by tow vehicle and trailer, so an adjustable unit is the preferred way to go. Essentially, the operator needs to adjust the ball height to the same height as the trailer coupler (which is level with the ground).

Thanks and keep up the great work!!

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