Trailers accommodate items such as boats, ATVs and motorcycles, and travel trailers provide housing on road trips. The one thing all these trailers have in common is that they need to be towed, and managing this task requires you to take certain safety precautions.
Below are some tips to help you safely tow your trailer.
1. Tow using a vehicle capable of handling the job. To safely tow a trailer, use a vehicle with a tow rating that exceeds the weight of the trailer being hauled. If the trailer is heavier than the vehicle’s tow rating, performance compromises such as severely diminished acceleration could result and increase your risk of an accident on the road.
Check online or use your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine your vehicle’s tow rating. Full-size SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban and Lincoln Navigator have tow ratings that easily accommodate trailers. And when it comes to figuring out the total weight of the trailer, make sure to consider not just the trailer itself, but also the weight of items within. For example, if you’re towing a trailer that contains a boat, combine the weight of the boat and the weight of the trailer.
2. Do a safety check prior to each trip. Every time you tow a trailer, conduct a check to make sure the trailer is safely connected to your vehicle.
Check to ensure the trailer is properly connected to the hitch. If you’re using a ball hitch, the trailer’s tongue should be securely joined to the hitch. An improperly connected hitch could come loose and cause an accident. Once the trailer tongue is on the ball, it’s a good idea to lock it in place with a bolt or padlock in the ball lock’s mechanism.
Safety chains play a big part in keeping your trailer attached to your vehicle. When attaching the trailer, keep an eye on the safety chains. These should be loose enough to facilitate easy hauling, but not so loose that they drag on the ground.
Also, your trailer will need to have lights attached so that motorists behind you will know when you’re braking and turning. These lights are attached to your trailer’s wiring harness, and they come with easy-to-follow instructions. Before setting off on your journey, do a quick check to make sure the lights illuminate when you’re using your vehicle’s brakes and turn signal.
3. Secure loose items, if necessary. If you’re towing a trailer that contains something like a boat, the boat may contain objects that could come loose while you’re driving, creating hazardous conditions on the road. One way to prevent this is to use a tarp to cover the item being towed. This tarp will keep loose objects from flying out onto the road during turns and stops. Make sure the tarp is securely attached to the item you’re towing.
4. Get some practice maneuvering the trailer, using a safe location. If this is your first time towing a trailer, or if you haven’t towed in a while and have some anxiety about it, take a few minutes to get some practice before officially beginning your trip.
Find an empty parking lot, and use this space to get a sense of what your vehicle feels like with the trailer in tow. The trailer may slow your vehicle’s reflexes and impact its acceleration. Practicing in a parking lot will give you an idea of what adjustments you need to make when driving to compensate for these changes.
Two of the most difficult maneuvers to pull off when towing a trailer are backing up and turning. When turning, your path needs to be wide enough to avoid making contact with vehicles in neighboring lanes or objects on the sidewalk. And when backing up, it can be a challenge getting the trailer to move in the desired direction. It’s wise to practice these maneuvers in a safe place.
5. Drive safely. You’re now ready to begin your trip. Exercise caution when parking, merging and changing lanes.
And take it easy when braking and accelerating. The extra weight you’re carrying can cause problems if you stop sharply or suddenly build speed.
If you’re on a long road trip, it’s a good idea to stop every few hours to check whether your trailer is still securely connected.
The Value of Preparation
Towing a trailer can be daunting, but the process can unfold smoothly and without drama if you take adequate steps to prepare for the task.
The tips listed above will help you tow your trailer safely and confidently.