Adjustable Ball Mount – Practical Considerations

While studying adjustable ball mount styles I noticed nearly all have a stationary rack and a floating attachment.  Have you noticed that too?  It’s a pretty important detail when we look at which one to choose.

Adjustable Ball Mount Search Results Small
Click Image for a Full Size View.  You may also need to click the full size image to zoom to the real full size.

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I did a Google search on “Adjustable Ball Mount” to see what would come up.  The results are in the image.  (Click the image to see it full size.)  Yup, only one style has a floating rack.

Well . . . What’s the big deal?  Does it matter?

As part of my regular Engineering profession, I do a lot of analysis and evaluation.  This caught my eye, because there are some important, practical considerations.  It may not be obvious, but please follow me, and hopefully I’ll explain it well enough.

For this article, we are talking about the “Ball Mount” — the piece that goes on the tow vehicle to hold the hitch ball.  Please note, this is NOT the adjustable hitch welded on a trailer tongue.  While they are similar, an adjustable hitch on a trailer tongue is a different discussion.  The article asking about choosing an adjustable hitch or a ball mount.

“Stationary” and “Floating”

Let’s start with definitions.  What is the “Rack“?  And, what is the “Attachment“?  Then, what do we mean by “Stationary” and “Floating“?

An adjustable ball mount system typically has 2 main parts.  One has multiple holes, notches or positions where the other part can connect.  The part with all the holes or notches is the “Rack“.  The other piece is the “Attachment“.

Next, one part connects directly to the tow vehicle and is “Stationary“, or always in the same position with respect to the tow vehicle.  The other part is said to “Float” because it can attach in one of many positions – making it adjustable.

Static Rack

In this image, the “Rack” is stationary since it connects directly to the tow vehicle.  (The bar with all the holes.)  The ball floats because it can mount to the stationary part in one of many positions.  That is the nomenclature for “Stationary” and “Floating” in this discussion.

Adjustable Ball Mount Advantages

Obviously, the big advantage for an Adjustable Ball Mount is the ability to set the height of the ball so it is correct for the trailer.  That’s easy enough.

Adjustment up and down is also pretty easy to understand.  Simply remove the pins or bolts, then reposition the ball up or down as needed, and re-install the fasteners.  It’s a great system if you pull various trailers with different tongue heights.

The Big Hiccup For Adjustable Mounts

As mentioned in our previous article about Adjustable Hitching Concepts, we discuss some of the disadvantages.  While these products are fairly popular and they generally perform quite well, they do have one big hiccup.  Because of the length, they can drag the ground in awkward roadway transitions.

Yes, this can be an issue with some vehicles no matter what hitch you use, but the design of adjustable hitch components can exacerbate the situation.  The adjustable systems often have parts that hang lower than on a similar drop style hitch.

Ball Mount Compare

Compare these two with about the same ball height.  You can see, even without the double ball on the adjustable one, it hangs down much farther than the static ball mount.

So how does this all relate?  And, why are we talking about it?

The first sentence above, talks about stationary rack and a floating attachment.  In the image above we see the rack is stationary, and the ball part floats to the rack.  Notice that this system is always lower to the ground than a typical drop hitch.  (For some systems, the lowest position is similar for ground clearance.)  Since ground clearance is one big disadvantage for an adjustable ball mount, it stands to reason that the system should minimize this issue.  Right?

Floating Rack Adjustable Ball Mount

Floating Rack Adjustable Ball MountAs a comparison, to show what I mean, here is a ball mount that has a floating rack.  Here we see that the piece with multiple positions is the movable part.  That allows it to move up and down while the clearance below the ball also changes.  In the case shown, the ground clearance changes with the position of the ball.

As a side note, I actually really like this particular adjustable ball mount design.  The offset of the drawbar gives some opportunities as well as the cushioning in the tubes – in both directions.  I have not used one, but I like what I see. Find this one at Dales Super Store.  (No affiliation.  I don’t know if they are good guys or not.  I just found it on the web.)

I’ll just throw this out.  The adjustable ball mount is a pretty cool devise — and as you see there are so many designs.  I see the big difference with the various ball mounts in what they are good for.  Do you need Lift?  Or Drop?

Lift Or Drop?

To me, this is the big difference for the designs.  If you need to tow a trailer where the tongue is lower than the tow vehicle, you really want one that has a floating rack, like the one above.  One that does not have things hanging below the ball mounting platform.

However, you can pretty easily see that if you want to Lift the ball (for a trailer tongue that is higher than the tow vehicle), this one has a lot of ground clearance issues.  (Think about it flipped over, Rack facing down – upside-down from this image.)

So what style do I want for a ball lift?

Lift the BallI’d choose something like this one, where there is very little hanging down below the hitch level.  Where the rack is stationary and facing up.  It will do a nice job of lifting the ball, but does not have any extra poking down to cause clearance issues.

Typically, a stationary rack will provide better clearance when the ball should have a lift.

However, please note that if you use it upside down, there is a very large bar going down to create a ground scraping disaster.

Which every you choose, make sure it will handle the trailer weight (and tongue weight) you will need.

So, that is my assessment.  Different tools for different jobs.

I know we are talking about adjustable ball mounts, but I have to point out that I personally like the non-adjustable types.  They just seem more robust to me, and they don’t add any areas for extra banging, clicking, or movement.  Again, that’s just my opinion.  Oh, and to support that view, I have several drawbars of various heights.  One for each lift or drop I may need.

Adjustable Ball Mount Designs To Avoid

Now what about all the rest?  There are a lot of different designs out there.  The worst you can get, IMHO, are the ones that try to do it all.  (Try to do it all, but everything is mediocre.)  The one below for instance.

Do it all - Poorly.

This one has clearance issues no matter what way you position it.  Plus, the 2-ball end means you’ll always have one ball ready to scrape the ground — damaging the thing that needs to be smooth and nice for the hitch.  This kind of adjustable ball mount makes no sense to me.  Take that for what it’s worth — one opinion.  If the tow vehicle and trailer just happen to work with this, then go for it.  It looks like a pretty small window of circumstances to me.

Hopefully some of this article will help with seeing things in a way that will work best for your situation.  The adjustable ball mount is a great tool if it fits your situation.  Now you know more.  If you decide an adjustable hitch on the trailer side of the equations will work better for you, check out this similar article about Adjustable Hitches (attaching to the trailer tongue).  You don’t need both.

Good luck in choosing your adjustable ball mount.

** Please note:  Mechanical Elements has no connection or affiliation (good or bad) with any of the products or companies in this article.  We talk about them as we see them, nothing more. **


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