Safety Tips For Towing a Trailer
Towing any type of vehicle requires that some carefully taken steps are observed to ensure a smooth towing. With trailers, it demands even much more care. Towing a trailer is not a stroll in the park and if not done right, the tow vehicle and the towed could end up as wrecks on the road.
To ensure the process of towing that trailer goes very smoothly, some steps have to be taken. We will share some of these important steps with you so you can immediately begin to implement them and ensure a safer trailer towing experience.
Note however that it is important for both the trailer and tow truck to be in good working condition. They should both be very road worthy as this is the basis upon which every tip we will share is built.
Know Your State’s Regulations
Before you begin to even think about towing a trailer, it is important that you check your state’s drivers’ handbook to know what your state’s regulations for towing trailers are. For many states, you may require staying in the right-hand lane which you know is the slow lane.
Once you know what your state demands, you can then begin the process, knowing exactly what you have to work with.
Next thing you need to look at is the towing capacity of the vehicle that will be doing the towing. You do not want to embark on that towing trip with a tow truck that does not have the towing capacity to handle the weight of the trailer you want to tow.
In addition to the above, you also need to ensure that the hitch can handle the load that will be attached to it. From the foregoing, it is clear that it is important to know the weight of the trailer and its contents; the towing capacity of the tow truck and the load capacity of the hitch. All these three must be inter compliant to avoid issues on the road.
Before towing a trailer, it is possible that it will be loaded with stuff. How you load the trailer to be towed is very crucial to the smoothness of the towing process. You are aim while loading should be to evenly distribute the load so the weight is spread across the trailer.
You do not want the load concentrated on one end as doing this will cause the trailer to always tilt towards that side. Even load distribution will make for a more balanced trailer.
Just the same way a pilot will carry out a pre-flight check so also would you need to do a pre-tow check before taking off.
- The first thing to do is check the hitch and ensure that the trailer’s tongue is well connected to the hitch and the locking mechanism locked in place. Some experts suggest that the weight of the tongue is set to between 10 and 15% of the weight of the trailers. This is said to offer more stability
- Another thing to do is to use two safety chains between the trailer and the tow truck. These chains should, however, be crossed to form an X like pattern between the two vehicles. Once you are done with these, it’s now time to check the vehicles
- Connect your trailer lights to the towing vehicle to ensure the brake and signal lights are fully functional. You do not want to tow a trailer that does not have a functional brake and signal light. The dangers of this are many; cars coming behind you will not know when you are slowing down or signaling a turn to the left or the right. Worse still, if you are towing at night, drivers coming behind you will not even see you at all and this could lead to serious accidents. Ensure the lights are connected and working
- Next, check the tires. If the tires are inflated to the pressure level recommended by the manufacturers, the trip will go smoother. And get this; you may actually save on gas which is a good thing, right
- Take a look at your rear view mirrors and see if they are functional. There is the possibility that the trailer you are towing will have blocked this view, making the mirror practically useless. A simple way to remedy this is to focus on your side mirrors. You will want side mirrors that have extended view so you can use them to compensate for your inability to use the rearview mirror
- Now you are all set and ready to go, there’s one more check you need to do and that is the trailer braking system. While towing a trailer, the tow vehicle is not supposed to supply all the braking needs. It is for this reason that it is recommended that towed vehicles have an independent brake system. This reduces the load on the tow vehicle and makes the process smoother
Now that you are underway, there are still things you need to do to ensure the overall safety of the trip.
- Drive slowly. This may sound very basic but it is important that it is reiterated. No matter how free the road is, do not give in to the urge to step on the gas. Remember you have something heavy in tow
- Do not brake suddenly. Well, this still follows from the speed issue we mentioned above. Many people who brake suddenly do so because they were going a bit too fast and had to react very quickly. Driving slowly will allow you enough time to respond to anything on the road, allowing you brake slowly and safely. This also means that you need to maintain a healthy distance between you and the vehicle in front of you so you don’t have to stomp down on the break to stop quickly
- If the tow job you are doing is over a pretty long distance with stops in-between, ensure that at every stop you do a quick check of everything. Check the connections, the hitch and chains, the tires and every other thing you can check including the load in the trailer
- Making turns can be a bit tricky while on a tow job. While this is not an attempt at teaching you how to drive, we feel it is important to mention here that the safest way to make a turn with a trailer in tow is to take your turn wide. It should almost be like you are missing your turn. This gives the trailer in tow room to turn without hitting the curb or anything at the corners.
- Stay attentive. Yeah, we know you know this. Have you ever seen a video of a truck hitting an overhead bypass simply because the driver did not know that the truck or the trailer in tow was higher than the bypass? Being attentive involves being quick to check if the vehicles you are moving have enough clearance when you get into a tunnel or want to pass a low hanging bridge
- Backing up with a trailer in tow is not something you will love to do very often. However, you may not be totally able to avoid it. Should you need to back up, be sure to do so very slowly. You want to particularly avoid a situation where the angle between the tow truck and the trailer is less than 90 degrees. That is, the tow truck and the trailer form something like a V. The worst you should allow is an L shape. After this, move forward to straighten both vehicles. Allowing both vehicles form angles less than 90 degrees will cause some damage to the hitch and the trailer
A lot of things about driving have to do with common sense. You should always be extra careful when towing a trailer. In fact, if you can help it, practice towing a trailer preferably in an open space. The better you get as you practice, the better you will be on the road.
Finally, always tow the trailer with an as little load as possible. If there is anything like water supply that you can get close to your destination, tow the trailer without those items. The lighter the trailer is, the easier it will be to tow.
Do have a safe and enjoyable towing trip.