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Towing a trailer isn’t difficult for most drivers however it is not something you should get complacent about.
One simple mistake in your preparation or while out on the road can lead to serious problems. With that in mind, here’s 9 important tips to remember when towing a trailer. We want to help make sure you and your cargo reach their final destination all in one piece.
One of the most important things to check first is the towing rate of your vehicle.
Each car and truck will have a different amount in weight that it can safely tow. To find out the rate of your vehicle you simply need look at the owner’s manual.
Do not rely on word of mouth on this. Just because your friend has a confident opinion doesn’t mean they are correct.
You also need to remember that whatever the rating is you need to factor in your vehicle’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR).
This is the weight that can be safely carried by the entire rig. The vehicle, passengers and cargo all need to be calculated into this.
In simple terms, if the inside of you towing vehicle is full of passengers and luggage, the total towing rating in terms of the what the trailer can hold (and your vehicle can pull) will be reduced.
Another important figure that needs to be checked is tongue weight of the trailer. This is the weight that is being applied onto the hitch.
A well balanced load will see around 10 percent of the trailer’s weight focused at the tongue. This will allow for a better, more controlled driving experience and will help stop excessive swaying of the trailer, (an issue that can occur if the tongue weight is too light).
On the other end of the spectrum, if too much weight is applied to the hitch you will have issues on the front end of the towing vehicle.
The downward pressure at the rear will take the weight off your front tires making it difficult to steer.
On the subject of tires, check the pressure before you tow. With them pumped up to optimum levels on both the trailer and your tow vehicle, you will burn through less gas at the same time as enjoying better road traction.
Use the correct sized Ball Hitch
Another issue that can be seen as preparation for towing before you even hit the road; make sure you use the right size hitch ball for the trailer being towed.
If the ball is slightly too loose you run the risk of the trailer popping off in transit; nobody wants that.
Conversely, the trailer latch should engage smoothly. If you are forcing it on, the ball could be too tight.
Whatever you set up you should always use a pin or lock to keep everything latched in place.
Always fit Safety Chains
In the unlikely yet possible event that the trailer does pop off the hitch, you will want to know that you have safety chains in place.
In short, you should not tow a trailer without them.
Furthermore, if you cross the chains under the hitch side-to-side you will have extra security should the hitch come adrift. Instead of falling to the ground, the trailer -tongue will drop onto the chains. A far less damaging outcome we are sure you will agree.
Inspection on the road
Once you have hit the road and the journey is long enough to warrant various stops, make sure that you inspect your rig during this downtime.
This involves the hitch, any wiring, the tires and cargo.
The nut on the bottom of the hitch ball could come loose so make sure that you check it. You should also take a look at the hitch and hair pin. Is the drawbar held firmly in place?
How are the tire and brake drums temperatures? Is there any sign of overheating? Are your safety chains still fixed ad secure.
These simple checks will not take you very long, but will ensure confidence as you begin the next leg of your journey.
When towing heavy loads you are going to need a trailer with electronic brakes. This also means that the tow vehicle has to have a trailer-brake controller installed.
If you haven’t got one, we recommend you purchase a proportional brake controller. This device will match the trailer brake output to the tow vehicle’s deceleration, making for a far safer and enjoyable drive.
Back It On Up
One of the more difficult manoeuvres while towing a trailer is the good old reverse.
Our advice on this is hardly groundbreaking, but wherever possible you should avoid situations where you need to reverse.
That basically means having a good plan on where you are going, and taking time to stop to survey where you are before setting yourself into a position where the reverse move is inevitable.
However, with that being said there will be times where it cannot be helped; the tow vehicle and the trailer will need to move backwards.
The most important thing you can do here is take your time. Drive very slowly and get used to the fact that the trailer will move in the opposite direction to your reversing motion.
Given enough space and time, (and maybe a little practice) the manoeuvre shouldn’t be a problem.
On the Road
A simple tip when driving with a trailer is to drive slower than you would normally, while allowing greater space between you and the vehicle in front.
This will give you more time to react to the road ahead (and for the brakes to do what they are designed to do – remember it will take you longer to slow down with all that weight on the back).
When driving around corners it is good practice to turn later and sharper. This will help you square off the curve and stop the back wheels of the trailer from hitting the curb, (or a parked vehicle).
Finally, if the trailer feels like it is taking on a life of its own, and swaying from side to side, keep calm, reduce your speed and try to bring everything back in place.
Smooth steady driving is the name of the game when towing a trailer. Following the preparation tips above as well as keeping in mind the safety issues while on the road should help towards a fun, drama free journey. What more could you want at the end of the day?