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As with anything we do, we're always looking to save money. We wanted a school bus trailer hitch. Luke's dad Tony happened to have a trailer hitch that would fit between the frame rails of our skoolie.
The receiver hitch wasn't the perfect fit for the bus, but you couldn't beat the price. Freebie.
If you get a trailer hitch for your bus, buying one will make for a cleaner design and easier install. If you're strapped for cash like we always seem to be, find a used one on craigslist that roughly matches your frame rails.
In this article, we'll discuss two methods for installing a receiver hitch on your bus.
- Buying a receiver hitch made for your application.
- Making used hitches work through fabrication.
Where to buy a trailer hitch for your skoolie?
If you are wanting to tow a motorcycle or car, you may want to buy a hitch made specifically for your bus. It will give you piece of mind and help with liability should something bad happen.
If your fabrication skills aren't up to par and your not confident in your abilities, please just purchase one. It'll be safer in the long run and won't hurt you and your family or someone else on the road. There is nothing wrong with having it professionally installed.
What to look for when buying a school bus trailer hitch.
What you are towing with your school bus will determine the class of hitch that you'll need. The different classes have a tow rating and tongue rating in lbs.
Class 3 hitch
Has a tongue weight of 800 lbs and towing weight up to 8,000 lbs.
Class 4 hitch
Has a tongue weight of 1,000 lbs and tow rating up to 10,000 lbs.
Class 5 hitch
Has a tongue weight of 2,400 lbs and tow rating up to 16,000 lbs.
There are other classes for your application but they are mostly for a car. They are for light trailers.
- The towing rating is for the weight of the trailer and the cargo.
- Just because you have a certain class, doesn't mean you can haul the maximum rating. What you can haul will depend on your vehicle, it's engine and your driving abilities.
- Read the manufacture's information to determine the towing capacity of your setup. When in doubt, contact customer support or get professional advice.
1. Curt Trailer Hitches
Curt Manufacturing is a brand that makes trailer hitches for your small school bus, truck and anything else you have. Look at their shop or call their customer line and give them your vehicle and engine specs to determine the proper towing hitch for your vehicle.
You can search their website to find out their locations. They have stores located around the country. Buying local will save on shipping as well.
Performing a search on Amazon will bring up a lot of results for your receiver hitch needs. Most of the time, you'll get free shipping if you're a Prime member.
Before searching crawl under your vehicle and measure the frame rails. Measure the inside distance, distance from outside frame rails and finally measure how to tall your frame rails are.
You'll also want to measure how far your rear bumper hangs down below the frame rail. More on this later.
You'll need these measurements to verify you're getting the right model that will fit your school bus. Don't forget to search for RV styles as these will be close for some models. Truck designs may work for a small school bus.
Fabricating your own setup with a used hitch.
If you're looking for large buses like an International, you'll more than likely have to weld on the hitch to the frame rails. Not necessarily custom, but requires a little more skill than drilling and bolting.
Our custom trailer hitch:
Our hitch was manufactured by Curt MFG. I don't know the model as it was used and free. I suspect it was for a Ford F-350 or E-350.
Measuring and prepping for install.
First thing we did was to measure our bus so that we knew what to look for in a hitch. We knew we wanted it to be stout for a cargo carrier and maybe a trailer. We would have searched on Craigslist's page but scored with Tony having a freebie.
Our hitch was perfect for fitting inside the frame rails and bolting from the top. Where it was off was on the drop.
We ended up notching out nine inches of the bumper on both sides of the hitch to allow fit up to the frame rails.
Not having an angle drill, we opted to redneck the bolt holes with a hot wrench. Yeah, I know. It's what we had at the time and needed to pull a trailer. It also came in handy for a cargo hauler that plugs into the 2 inch receiver.
After using the cargo rack, we have since decided to make a larger one. The one we had was 60" by 20" which is standard for most racks. Our new one is currently under construction. It will be 92" by 20" and roughly give us double the room.
I'll post on it once we are done. Below you can see our progress and simple design.
Whether you buy a receiver hitch or build a custom one out of a used one you find, the benefits out way the pain of finding the right setup. The extra storage space or the ability to haul a motorcycle or car makes it worth the struggle.
We would have done it a little different looking back at it. I would have just welded it on instead of trying to cut holes in the upper frame to bolt it on. It would have been cleaner, but is what it is.
It's on my to-do-list to go back and weld up gussets for the hitch to strengthen it for towing a Jeep. We plan to fab up a rear bumper as well that has more functionality for us.
We hope this article answered some of your questions. If you've done something like this or have questions, we'd love to hear form you.
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