Lock a Trailer Hitch

How to Lock a Trailer Hitch? A Beginners Guide

 Lock a Trailer Hitch

Locking a trailer hitch for the first time and need help? In this beginners guide, we explain how to attach and lock a trailer hitch to a vehicle properly.

Trailers, in all their shapes and forms whether for towing a camper, boat or a cage of rubbish, are incredibly useful investments. As well as being quite valuable in themselves, trailers often bear important and costly stuff such as your boat, horses or camper, which is why it is crucial that it remains safe and securely attached to your vehicle… especially in public spaces.

Locking the trailer hitch properly protects your trailer and the stuff inside as only the vehicle owner can unlock it. Moreover, it lessens the possibility of the trailer coming off and causing a major hazard while on the road. Even if you are not concerned about the risk of theft, attaching your trailer hitch properly is essential for safe driving. This is where trailer locks come into the scene.

A trailer lock is a special kind of lock, made specifically to bolt your trailer to your van or car, and thus prevent it from getting stolen or coming off while driving. If you have never locked a trailer hitch before, it can be a little difficult to work out for the first time. We will guide you through the entire process of how to purchase and lock a trailer hitch on your own, as well as how to remove it if the lock has become jammed or rusted through.

Types of Hitch Locks

First and foremost, you must decide which trailer hitch lock is suitable for your trailer. When buying a trailer hitch lock, make sure that the diameter of the lock does not exceed that of the trailer. You should also make sure to get a safety chain, if you do not already have one. The types of hitch locks are:

Type 1: Coupler Locks

It is a U-shaped lock that can easily be connected to the tongue of the trailer. Upon use, lift the top bar, insert the key to lock the coupler, then reposition the top bar to tightly lock it up.

Type 2: Ball Mount Locks

It is best if you buy two of these so the ball mount on the receiver will remain intact in one position. Note that you have to lubricate the ball mount then clean it before using it.

Type 3: Receiver Hitch

This type of hitch locks can be hooked on to the receiver in the vehicle. They are available in various shapes and sizes. It can only be unlocked using a key or a code. 

Classes of Hitch 

There are different categories of hitch based on the weight of tow they can carry steadily. Class I is reserved for small cars, Class II has the capacity to pull passenger cars, Class III typically pulls minivans and SUVs, Class IV is for heavy-duty trucks, and Class V is usually for the heaviest automobiles. 

How to Lock a Trailer Hitch for Beginners 

As long as you have the specialized tools for this purpose, you can accomplish the task without causing any damage. Here is a beginner’s guide on how to effectually secure a trailer hitch:

Step 1: Choose a Suitable Location

  • Select a large, flat vacant area where you can park your vehicle and trailer in a straight line.

Step 2: Reposition the Coupler Directly above the Hitch Ball

  • Raise or lower the coupler according to your needs by rotating the handle on the jack.
  • The coupler should be raised a few inches higher than the hitch ball.
  • You do not need a jack if your trailer is lightweight, then you can crank it up by yourself.

Step 3: Bring the Trailer and Vehicle in a Line

  • For this step, you will need someone to help you.
  • One person will reverse the car slowly, and one will direct where it should go, with the aim of lining up the hitch ball with the coupler.
  • Ensure that the hitch ball is exactly underneath the coupler.
  • Stop the car once you are sure that the coupler and hitch ball are perfectly aligned.

Step 4: Attach the Coupler to the Hitch Ball

  • Now unlock the coupler and lever it to the hitch ball at the back of your vehicle.
  • You might have to give it a few tries before it finally fits in, so do not lose your patience.

Step 5: Secure the Coupler Lock

  • Once everything is in the right spots, lock the coupler with a pin or key depending on what kind of hitch lock you purchased.

Step 6: Use Safety Chains

  • For extra security, we highly recommend the use of safety chains.
  • Wrap the hitch ball and coupler with chains in order to prevent detachment.
  • In case of any mishaps, these chains will avert any of the parts from hitting the ground.

Step 7: Check Everything before Driving 

  • Check multiple times that the attachment is firm for a safe drive.
  • If the coupler does not drop off the hitch ball when you lift the tongue of the trailer, consider it ready.

Step 8: Turn on All Electrical Networks

  • Lastly, all the electrical cords, including the trailer’s lights and brakes, should be plugged into the socket.
  • This will either be straightforward or a complete headache, depending on the quality and age of your electrical system. It will vary depending on what you have.
  • Test the lights and make sure they work before you head off. Also ensure they are configured correctly, for example that left indicator actually shows left indicator. In some jurisdictions, it may be a legal requirement that your trailer lights work properly, so make sure to get this right.
  • If your connector seems loose, tape it together with electrical tape if appropriate.

How to Remove a Trailer Lock that is Jammed or Rusted

Knowing how to remove a trailer lock without a key is also important in some situations, such as when the lock is jammed and rusted so badly the key simply won’t work. This is not an uncommon situation, since trailers are often stored outside exposed to the elements, and may not be used for months on end allowing corrosion and dirt to settle in.

I’ve personally been up at 9pm the night before a long-awaited camping trip, madly trying to unlock a trailer off another vehicle that was so full of rust and dirt that the key would not go in the lock (let alone turn) and it was extremely stressful. So I’m going to also explain how to remove the trailer without a key, if this happens to you.

These steps are a last resort; they are highly destructive and are going to make a lot of noise, so get your ear muffs handy.

Method 1: Breaking the Lock

  1. To break a jammed or rusted lock, the very first thing that you have to do is to look for a weak spot on your lock. The lock is usually made of metal and has a small cylinder where the other half of the bolt (which the key fits into) can be fixed. Our goal is to take a good look at the first, longer half of the bolt and pinpoint where exactly the fragile spot lies.
  2. For the next step, you have to get yourself a strong hollow pipe made of steel. Steel is known for its durability, and so it makes a very good material for breaking off your lock. After finding a pipe, stand perpendicular to the lock so that you are facing the horizontal side of it.
  3. Next, stick a hollow end of the pipe to that side of the lock where the padlock is situated. When you feel like the pipe is fit snugly with your lock, pull the pipe towards yourself with as much force as you can muster.
  4. Usually, you would not need to apply too much force because you will be dealing with the weak side of the lock. However, if you see yourself breaking a sweat while trying to open the lock, then you are probably working with the wrong side of it. When and if this does happen, try switching to the other side, and you will most likely be able to see your desired results.

Method 2: Cut the Trailer Lock with a Grinder

If the above-mentioned technique does not work for you, then you could also try cutting off the whole lock with an angle grinder. This process is much easier and can be done in just under a minute. However, we suggest you only use this technique when you know you can replace the old trailer lock with a new one immediately, or else you will be risking your trailer getting stolen.

Method 3: Call for Professional Help

If this is the first time you have ever faced such an obstacle or if you are just not confident that you will be able to remove your trailer lock by any other means, then the best thing that you could do is to call for a mechanic or professional help. By doing so, you will not have to worry about not having the right tools or ruining other parts of your car or trailer while trying to remove the lock because these people usually bring their own set of equipment.

Conclusion

Hopefully, your next trip with your trailer is a smooth one, now that you have worked out how to get your trailer locked on. What good is a trailer when it is stuck at home with no where to go, right?

As you’ve probably now seen, a trailer lock is a fairly straightforward mechanism and anyone can learn how to lock a trailer just with a few tips and a little guidance. Having said that, even though it is simple in theory, it might take a bit of elbow grease and heavy lifting. So if you’re not great with heavy work, call over a strong friend to help. We hope today’s article was able to guide you and help you understand how to lock your trailer hitch, as well as how to remove it if you are in dire circumstances. Thank you for staying with us until the end, and we hope to see you again soon!

Ready to get your RV or truck extra secure? Check out our article on the best trailer locks, and prevent cargo theft for good!

This article was originally written in September 2020, and updated in September 2022.

Author

  • Todd Davis

    A jack of all trades, Todd has been a DIY enthusiast, traveler, and writer for many years. He has a deep understanding of all types of painting tools and door hardware, and has shared many articles on these topics throughout the years.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.