Make a Safe decision For Towing Trailer and Buying Tow Vehicle
Trailer Towing Safety
Towing a Trailer
towing packages, tongue weight, and driving permits — there’s a lot more to
towing a trailer than just hitching up and taking off down the road. We are
trying to provide you the general information and tips that can help you make
safe decisions when buying a trailer for non-commercial,
personal use, or for purchasing and driving a tow vehicle.
Most SUVs, pickup trucks, vans, minivans, and passenger cars can be equipped
to tow a trailer. However, the selection of an appropriate tow vehicle and
the proper equipment to tow a trailer depends on the type of trailer, its
size and weight, and the amount of weight being towed.
A towing package may include a heavy duty radiator, battery, flasher system,
alternator, suspension, and brakes, as well as an engine-oil cooler, transmission-oil
cooler, wiring harness, specific axle ratio, and special wheels and tires.
Towing packages also may include the trailer hitch receiver, which is mounted to the tow vehicle, but towing packages rarely include the draw bar, or ball mount, and hitch ball. The draw bar is a separate assembly on which the hitch ball is mounted. The draw bar then slides into the hitch receiver on the tow vehicle and is secured with a locking pin. The front part of the trailer that hitches to the tow vehicle is referred to as the tongue. At the end of the tongue is a coupler into which the hitch ball is inserted and secured.
Measuring the Weight of a Trailer
Some manufacturers provide a “dry” or empty weight for trailers; however,
to select a proper tow vehicle and hitching system, you must know how much
your trailer weighs fully loaded. For example, if you are towing an open trailer
that carries a boat or motorcycle, the fully loaded weight includes the weight
of the trailer with the motorcycle and any additional items being towed, such
as fuel tanks, motors, and safety equipment. It is known as GVW (Gross
Trailer Towing Tips
The weight rating of trailer hitches, receivers, ballmounts, balls, and safety chains (or any other piece of the towing system) must not be exceeded by gross trailer weight or tongue weight.
Your ability to handle and control your tow vehicle and trailer is greatly improved when the cargo is properly loaded and distributed. Refer to your tow vehicle and trailer owner’s manual to find out how to
Balance weight from side to side
Most trailers and tow vehicles should be level (parallel to the ground) during travel. Check the instructions from your trailer manufacturer to make sure this is correct for your combination of vehicles.
a trailer handles down the road depends upon tongue weight. Usually tongue
weight is 10 to 15 percent of the trailer's gross weight. Too much tongue
weight will cause the rear of the trailer to sway and make the tow vehicle
difficult to control. When this occurs, the tow vehicle will be less responsive
to steering. A weight-distributing hitch
can remedy this problem by transferring weight to the front axle of the tow
Starting the Trailer
Sway can lead to a loss of vehicle control. When starting out with a new load
on a trailer, make sure it will not sway by gradually increasing your speed
in intervals until highway speed is reached. If the trailer does begin to
sway, try adjusting the cargo and equipment accordingly and then repeat the
test. If repositioning the load and equipment did not help reduce the sway,
a sway control may be needed.
The addition of a trailer adds weight and length to the tow
vehicle. More weight means more time to speed up and more importantly, slow
down. Overall handling is also affected. When towing, allow for extra time
when switching lanes, stopping and passing other vehicles. To assist in slowing
down, many people use an electric trailer brake
controller extra length can cause problems on turns. Because the trailer
does not follow the exact path as the vehicle on turns, remember to swing
out wider when traveling around bends and corners.
Backing a trailer into tight places is easier than it looks, but it does
take some practice. It's best to practice in a parking lot and in a vehicle
that allows you to see the trailer through the rear window. Vans, trucks and
campers that have obstructed rear views require more practice and the use
of side mirrors. In either case, be patient, and make steering adjustments
slowly and a little at a time.
It's wise to periodically check tires for wear, cuts or other damage and replace as needed. Above all, maintain the tire pressure recommended by the manufacturer, located on the tire sidewall. Improperly inflated tires will cause them to wear out quicker and reduces fuel mileage.
Keep bearings greased
Wheel bearings are the heart of trailers. They need to remain airtight and packed with fresh grease. Poorly greased bearings will overheat and deteriorate, creating serious problems if they fail. They should be inspected and repacked at least once a year, depending upon the amount of use. Lay your hand on your wheel hubs after traveling. If they feel unusually warm, you may have a problem. But why wait? Routine maintenance is good prevention.
Go wide on turns
Be careful making sharp turns or sudden moves when trailering. The trailer tends to cut corners more sharply than the tow vehicle which can be dangerous when cutting corners close to curbs, other vehicles and road-side obstructions. Striking solid objects at an angle can cause tire damage, and more importantly, cause you to lose control momentarily.
Secure the trailer
Keep the safety chains provided on most trailers fastened securely to the tow vehicle in case the hitch fails. Cross the chains under the trailer tongue and allow slack for turning. The safety chains should only be long enough to allow for tight turns. Anything longer may weaken the safety feature of the chains if the other connections fail. Also make sure the chains cannot wiggle or bounce free and do not let them drag on the ground. For additional security, padlock the trailer hitch to the tow vehicle. That will also prevent someone from stealing the trailer while you're out fishing.
Keep the lights working
The trailer's electrical components are subjected to a great deal of adverse conditions, so check them periodically. Ask someone to step behind the trailer to make sure tail lights, brake lights and turn signals are working properly. If signals are dim, perhaps there is a bad connection or you need a more powerful flasher unit on the tow vehicle. An occasional shot of WD-40 into the pig tail wiring connector will reduce corrosion.
Never exceed the limits
Just because a vehicle has the power to pull a loaded trailer down the road
doesn't mean it has the guts to haul it up steep hill, or that the brakes
are capable of holding it on a steep incline. Follow manufacturers' towing
guidelines and never exceed tow limits. Too much trailer weight can cause
an accident, or pull the tow vehicle down a steep incline.
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