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Ball Mount Basics: Pintle Hitches

What is a Pintle Hitch?A pintle hitch is primarily used for heavy-duty towing, particularly on rough, off-road terrain. At the most basic level, a pintle provides a pivot point around which another object turns. Pintles have a variety of mechanical uses, such as in boat rudders and door hinges. In the case of towing, a stationary pintle hook provides the point around which a lunette ring is able to pivot, thus allowing for a greater range of motion compared to a traditional ball coupler.Pintle Hitches vs. Ball Hitches: Which is Better?Pintle hitches have a clear advantage over traditional ball hitches, also called ball mounts, when it comes to towing capacity. Traditional Class V trailer hitch receivers have tongue weight (TW) capacities up to 4,000 lbs and gross trailer weight (GTW) capacities up to 25,000 lbs. On the other hand, many pintle hitches have more than double this weight capacity. The Curt pintle hook, for instance, has a 12,000-lb TW capacity and a 60,000-lb GTW capacity. Because of their superior weight capacity, pintle hitches are commonly used for industrial, military, or agricultural applications.Pintle hitches also allow for more movement at the attachment point than ball couplers do. Whereas ball couplers fit snugly over the hitch balls they attach to and lock into place, pintle hooks leave additional room where they attach to lunette rings, thus allowing for some degree of movement. This range of motion—both vertical and horizontal—makes the pintle hitch ideal for use on uneven, off-road terrain, where you may encounter more dramatic angles than you would on a paved road or highway.With all the benefits of the pintle hitch, however, there are some tradeoffs that come with the gain in weight capacity and movement. Firstly, the greater range of motion also translates to a rougher, noisier ride, since the trailer is able to move around more than it can with a ball coupler. Also, weight distribution systems cannot be used with pintle hitches. The chart below offers a breakdown of the advantages of these two popular hitch types.
Pintle Hitches vs Ball Mounts
Pintle Hitches
pintle hitch
GTW 10,000 lbs - 60,000 lbs
Bolts to pintle mount
Requires lunette ring
Rougher, noisier ride
Ideal for off-road applications
Fits 2", 2 1/2", and 3" hitch receivers
Uses pintle hook or hook/ball combination
Ball Mounts
Ball Mount
GTW 2,000 lbs - 25,000 lbs
Mounts to trailer hitch receiver
Requires ball coupler
Smoother, quieter ride
Less equipped for off-road applications
Fits 1 1/4", 2", 2 1/2", and 3" hitch receivers
Uses hitch ball
How Does a Pintle Hitch Work?Pintle hitches work using two main components: a pintle hook and a lunette ring. The pintle hook attaches to the tow vehicle, and the lunette ring is bolted to the trailer being towed. The pintle hook jaws lock around the lunette ring and are then secured with a safety pin (included). To remove a pintle hitch, simply remove the safety pin and open the hook to release the lunette ring. Both your pintle hook and lunette ring should have a sufficient GTW rating to support the loaded weight of your trailer.
pintle and punette
A pintle hook and lunette ring
pintle plus lunette in use
A pintle hook and lunette ring in use
What Does a Pintle Hook Mount Onto?Pintle hooks can either be bolted directly to a reinforced utility truck bumper or attached to a trailer hitch using a mounting plate.You can purchase a pintle hook without a shank and buy a mounting plate separately, or you can purchase a pre-mounted pintle hook. Purchasing a separate mounting plate is a good option if you need a certain level of rise or drop to accommodate a height difference between your tow vehicle and trailer. Mounting plates provide multiple locations for attaching your pintle hook so that you can easily match your trailer height. Mounting plates can be used in either the rise or drop position. Bolts and other hardware are typically included with the hook.
pintle hook mount
The 8 holes in this mounting plate offer 3 locations for attaching your pintle hook
Whether you purchase a mounting plate separately or select a pintle hook with a shank, both will slide inside your 2" or 2½" hitch receiver just like a traditional ball mount (a 3" mounting plate is also available). Note that the weight capacity of your towing setup is always limited by the lowest rated component. Even if your pintle hook has a 30,000-lb capacity, you will be limited if your hitch can only support a 20,000-lb trailer, or if your mounting plate has a weight capacity of 25,000 lbs. When mounted to a surface such as a reinforced bumper with an equivalent or greater weight rating, pintle hooks do not require a mounting plate and can be used at their full capacity. How Do I Convert from a Pintle Hitch to a Ball Coupler?
pintle ball coupler
If you regularly tow multiple trailers with both lunette rings and standard ball couplers, you should consider a dual-purpose Pintle Hook and Ball Combination Mount. This specialty mount allows for the easy conversion between a pintle hitch and a traditional ball coupler. If you need to tow a trailer with a lunette ring, simply secure the hook around the lunette ring. If you need to tow a trailer with a traditional ball coupler, open the hook and attach your coupler to the hitch ball instead. Some combination mounts, such as the Convert-A-Ball option, come with three easily interchangeable balls to match ball couplers of differing sizes. How do I determine which ball size I need?
Your hitch ball diameter will depend on the diameter of your coupler. Like trailer hitch balls, pintle hitch balls are offered in 17/8", 2", and 25/16" diameters. However, pintle hitch balls typically have a wider shank than trailer balls do. The most common shank size for a trailer ball is 1", while the most common size for a pintle ball shank is 1¼". You can switch out your pintle ball for a different diameter ball, (for instance, a 2" ball for a 2 5/16" ball), but you should make sure your shank remains the same size. Note that you will have a lower weight capacity when towing with a pintle ball than when towing with a hook and lunette ring. Related Products:Related Articles:Written By: Amber SUpdated by: Jacob JUpdated on: 11/1/2023

Merle

2/10/2024

Convert A Ball hitch is the cats meow if you have a variety of trailers spanning pintle to different size balls.

Chris

2/9/2024

Good article. I built an offroad trailer (using many parts from etrailer :) ) and to keep the clunky pintle noise to a minimum I used the smallest pintle on the truck and a larger Lunette on the trailer side. There is plenty of freedom of movement and is totally silent on the road. Clunks when offroad but not too bad.

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

2/9/2024

@Chris The noise you describe is pretty unavoidable with pintle/lunette setup due to the loose nature of the way they fit together. We're glad to hear it's quiet when it's on pavement, though!


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