I just purchased a 2004 Expedition. It appears to have a factory Tow package, but I can't tell if it is a class III or class IV. Is there a simple way of discerning? This is what I know - it has a 4-pin electrical plug. The hitch itself says that it has a weight distributing cap of 8950 lbs. and a weight carrying cap of 6000 lbs. It also says that the cap trailer weight is 8950 lbs.
This all leads me to a 2nd question - If I have a class IV hitch, do I simply need to get a 4-pin to a 7-pin conversion in order to tow a trailer (approx 5000 lbs), or are there other things that should be done as well?
Thanks and if you couldn't tell already, trailer towing will be a new thing for me. I appreciate your patience and advice.
First off, you have a class 4 hitch. Class 3 & 4 are similar in appearance until you look under the vehicle. Class 4 hitches have stronger frames and use more bolts to attach it to the frame. A 4 pin electrical plug allows for basic trailer lighting functions but NO power for brakes. Some wiring can be done to add brakes, but it won't be cheap if you outsource it, or it'll be time consuming if you choose to do it yourself.
Check with local laws first and where you plan on towing the trailer. Each state/province/country and certain restrictions on what you can or can't tow with or without trailer brakes. Most US states and Canadian provinces require trailer brakes in the 2000-3500lb range. This is for safety, as hilly areas will have a much lower limit as vehicles stock brakes aren't meant to support more than half of their own weight being towed.
Weight distribution hitch is a special hitch that gets mounted onto the tongue of the trailer. This hitch has bars, one along each side to help transfer the weight better from vehicle to trailer. 'Weight carrying' means that if you don't use a weight distribution hitch and just hook the trailer coupler onto the vehicle's trailer hitch that's the maximum amount of weight.
This is to not overload the vehicle. Inside the drivers door jamb there's a sticker with weights on it. GVWR - which is the maximum weight the vehicle can weigh, including passengers and cargo. GCWR is the combined weight rating, which is a higher number that once you subtract your listed GVWR, that gives you the amount of weight you can tow with the vehicle safely. You'll have to read your owners manual to get a better understanding of proper weights.
Incidentally, your Ex can tow 6000lbs on the hitch without any special weight distributing system required. This takes into account a MINIMUM of 600lbs tongue weight, which gets put on the rear axle and counts toward vehicle 'payload'. With a WD hitch installed you can tow 8950lbs, which allows an increase in tongue weight to 895lbs. However, part of that tongue weight is distributed back onto the trailers' axle(s), creating a smoother more stable ride.
There are multiple brake systems available. If you plan to tow 5Klbs as mentioned, a trailer brake will probably be necessary where you live, as you don't want to be held liable for an accident; even if you DIDN'T cause it. Tow safe!