If you’ve ever heard someone say that towing a trailer is just like driving a car, don’t listen to them. They’re sadly mistaken! Drivers who have been towing trailers for years might make it look easy, but they probably learned from their mistakes over the years. So, if it’s been a while since you have towed a trailer or you are a beginner hauling one for the first time, take a look at these basics of towing so you and your trailer can make it safely to your destination.
Before you load up and roll out, there are a few important things you need to consider.
You will want to be sure that the load you’ll be hauling doesn’t exceed the maximum rated capacity of your trailer. Each trailer has a GVWR, aka gross vehicle weight rating, that can be found on the trailer’s manufacturer’s plate. If you go beyond this weight, it can create unsafe towing conditions or cause damage to your trailer. You will also want to be sure the trailer doesn’t outweigh your vehicles max tow rating. You can usually find this information on your vehicle’s ID sticker. Additionally, make sure the tongue weight is within spec as hitches have a maximum tongue weight that they can withstand.
When you load up your trailer, you will want to ensure that it is balanced. Keep the weight of the load slightly forward on the trailer and try to keep it even on the left and right sides. Once your items are loaded in the proper position, make sure to secure the load down properly. You don’t want to drive off and have things falling behind you, causing damage to other vehicles. Also, if you needed to make a sudden stop, the load will want to keep moving forward, so if it isn’t fastened down securely, it could end up in the tow vehicle with you.
Brakes and Tires
If you’re trailer and load are over 1,000lbs, the trailer should have its own brake system. You will want to test it before each trip to ensure that it is functioning properly. It is also important to inspect your tires before each trip to check for damage or deformities, as well as tire pressure. You will also need to use safety chains and give them enough slack for sharp turns.
On the Road Check
Remember that smooth and steady win the race here. When pulling a trailer, you will want to accelerate smoothly and slowly to avoid any sudden movements that could cause your load to shift or the trailer to sway. It is smart here to have a trailer sway device installed, such as the Blue Ox SwayPro, which prevents trailer sway from starting. If you need to pass another vehicle, remember that your acceleration power is going to be less than without a trailer in tow, so give yourself plenty of room to pass with enough time to merge back in front of the other vehicle.
As with driving any vehicle, you always want to be thinking a few steps ahead, but even more so when pulling a trailer. The distance you need to brake is going to increase, so leaving more space between you and the vehicle in front of you is crucial. You wouldn’t want to find yourself making a sudden stop that causes an accident. Speaking of braking, if you will be traveling on a downgrade, avoid riding the brakes. They can overheat and fade. Using a lower transmission gear will help you use the engine to brake.
Get The Right Gear
Prevent Trailer Sway
One of the scariest experiences a driver can have when towing a trailer is trailer sway. Trailer sway occurs when a force, such as wind, comes from the side of the trailer and forces it out of the straight line you were traveling in. Trailer sway can also be caused by uneven road conditions or bow wind from semi-trucks. Once the trailer starts this swaying motion, it can get out of control quickly and cause an accident.
Equip yourself with the right gear to keep you safe. SwayPro by Blue Ox is a weight-distribution hitch that prevents trailer sway before it starts. It uses tensioned spring bars to apply pressure on either side of the device to keep the trailer in line with your towing vehicle.