Friday, November 21, 2008

Towing Safety

Towing is a skill everyone should know, when I say this I mean from soup to nuts...hooking up to a trailer and driving safely with it attached to your vehicle.

To attach the trailer to a vehicle two people are best but it can be done by one person. Line the vehicle up with the trailer and back up to it as close as you can leaving about a foot or two of space between the tongue and the hitch ball. I usually get out at this time and make sure the tongue is raised up enough, if it is I get back in the vehicle, if not I raise it some more. Now comes the tough part if you are by yourself...back up slowly and keep checking how close you are by either getting out and checking or asking the other person to guide you. If the trailer is not super heavy you may be able to wrestle it a bit closer by hand if you have to.

Once you have the tongue over the ball get out and lower the trailer onto the ball. You will know if it is on correctly, once this is done push down with your foot on the trailer coupler to lock it onto the ball. I then raise the wheel up an out of the way and attach the electrical and safety chains. Your trailer may have come with a hitch coupler lockpin, if it did go ahead and put that in keeps the hitch coupler from unlocking accidentally.

Some Safety Information:
The MOST important thing is to know the weight of you fully laden trailer and what the towing capacity of your vehicle is. Based on the above your vehicle should be fitted with the correct hitch classification and ball size.

If you tow more than your vehicle is rated for you risk damaging your engine and if things go badly enough actually hurtiung some one.

Trailer Hitch Classification (This is typical)
Class I 2,000 pounds GTW
Class II 3,500 pounds GTW
Class III 5,000 pounds GTW
Class IV 7,500 pounds GTW
Class V 10,000 pounds GTW
GTW=Gross Trailer Weight (including car or boat together, if applicable)

Some things to be aware of everytime you tow:
-Make sure the trailer is level, if it isn't get a hitch ball mount with the rise or drop you need to make it level.

-Make sure the hitch ball mount is securley fasted to the hitch receiver, usually uses a large cotter pin.

-Make sure your hitch coupler is secured over the ball.

-Make sure you actually raised the wheel the tongue rests on when the trailer is not hooked up.

-Make sure you attach your safety chains and they are crossed, the right chain hook to the left loop and the left chain hooked to the right loop.

-Verify you securely connected the electrical hookup and make sure your brake lights and turn signals are functioning.

Backing a trailer up can be very annoying for folks who are not used to it. The trailer will go in the OPPOSITE direction you turn your wheel. You will also need to adjust the wheel frequently or you will quickly find that you have formed a 90 degree angle. This just takes some getting used to is all. I can place my trailer right where I want it in my garage now because I have done it several times. The FIRST time I did this I had to pull out and back in at least four times to get it where I wanted it.

...that is all.

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  1. Just another few note's to add to your thought's.If you can find or afford one,get an "equalizer" type hitch.It add's sway control and level's the vehicle's,using 2 additional bar's under the tongue to spread the load better.
    NEVER tow in overdrive!! I have a Dodge dually pickup with a v10 and overdrive,regularly tow a race car about 500 mile's a month. While having my tranny serviced, I do it every year, my mechanic warned me about this. Overdrive doesn't get cooled as well as drive gear,and can overheat during towing.Even a small trailer can be a bit much.If you MUST tow in overdrive, kick it in and out every 20-30 mile's to cool it down. BTW,just the overdrive gear alone is a 1400 repair!
    If your planning on towing a car or jeep or something similar,you'll need light's on it. If your not comfortable tapping into your wiring system to connect the brake light's and such,an easy alternative is a boat lighting kit. They have them at the part's store for 20 buck's or less,come with all the light's and wire's and plug's.Just snake the cable's to the back bumper,maybe make a simple bracket to mount the light's under the bumper,and plug it in! It's easy to remove if you sell or want to swap it to another vehicle.

  2. All good points, may trailer is not big enough to warrant sway bars or electronic brakes or anything beyond the minimum. When you start talking about towing bigger items these are all valid issues.


  3. True Flea..if your towing a 4x8 trailer with a quad or such,my truck would never know it! I just wanted to toss these tip's out for anyone thinking of towing an RV,or a large flatbed. I also tow a Suzuki sidekick with a cheap pep boy's towbar,no problem with it either. Another tip,if you are going to tow a vehicle with an auto transmission,remember to disconnect the driveshaft! The engine turn's the pump to lube the tranny,if it's not running,the tranny will burn up!!! If you must tow it not running without removing the driveshaft, keep the speed's under 20 or so,and only for a few mile's. If possible,keep the engine running while towing,in nuetral.

  4. I have to hook up to trailers all the time at work by myself and it can be a pain.
    There are a few helpful ways to shorten this process that I have found.
    One is a magnetic indicator that can be put on the bumper that shows you where the hitch is located so you can get real close the first time you back up,there is a matching unit that goes on the tongue of the trailer.They both stick straight up over the top of the tailgate for easier visual acuity.
    Another is a V shaped device that attaches to the ball hitch that will channel the tongue to the center over the ball if you are within a few inches of center as you back up.

    The method I tend to use the most is after I have determined that I am centered and a foot or so away is to open the drivers door and watch the road right next to me as I back up to help gauge the distance I am backing up.

    I hope this will be useful.