Trailers are an item that we keep seeing more and more of on the roads as time goes on. They can help you get your work done quicker and easier or they can help you have fun when you are off from work. Now there are trailers for just about everything, but there is one common thing that everyone needs to know, towing safety. Throughout the rest of this blog I am going to go through all of the important things to consider when it comes to towing safety.
Weight Ratings – The weight ratings on the equipment that is being used is something that should always be known. The person towing the trailer should know the weight/tow ratings on the vehicle, the trailer, the hitch, the ball, and the ball mount. You always want to make sure that the towing equipment is rated for the amount of weight you are pulling, preferably more in order to be safe. In technical terms, always make sure that you do not exceed your GVWR(gross vehicle weight rating) along with the ratings on your towing equipment. For example, you would not want to be towing a trailer with a gross vehicle weight of 9,990 lbs with a hitch that is rated 5000 lbs, a ball that is rated at 6,000 lbs, and a ball mount that is rated at 20,000 lbs. Although the ball mount in this equation is rated for double the load that is being towed, the hitch and ball are severely under-rated so it would not be safe to tow. The old saying stating “you are only as strong as you weakest link” is perfect for towing. Another trickier example would be if you had a 9900 lb load on a trailer that had a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. This would not be ok because the weight of the trailer is not taken into consideration. With the weight of the trailer taken into consideration(which could be far over 1,000 lbs) you are going to be well beyond the GVWR ratings. It is always important to make sure that all of your towing equipment is rated for the exact weight of what you are towing, if not more in order to be safe.
Hooking Up – The first and most important part is hooking up the trailer. Always make sure everything that can be hooked up is hooked up. First, we always recommend lowering the trailer onto the ball and engaging the coupler to where to where the coupler wraps under/around the ball. Make sure that it is actually wrapped around the ball and not just sitting on top of the ball. Additionally, once the coupler is locked into place, put a safety pin through the latching system in order to make sure it cannot come undone. After this hook up the safety chains in a crisscross pattern. We recommend the crisscross pattern because it provides a saddle for the tongue of the trailer to rest in if it were to come off. Next, hook up your wiring along with your break away cable. The breakaway cable is very important because it will lock up the trailer brakes if it were to detach from the truck. It is also always smart to make sure that you jack is up off the ground and out of the way.
Loading Trailer – Loading a trailer actually takes quite a bit of consideration in order to make sure that the load is properly loaded. First of all, you have to make sure that the trailer can hold the amount of weight that you are putting on it and you also need to make sure that your hitch and ball mount can hold the weight. When it comes to placement, it is best to place about 60% of the weight in front of the axles/axles and 40% of the weight behind the axles. If you put too much weight on the rear you can end up fishtailing and if you put too much weight on the front might exceed the tongue weight limits on the tongue and hitch. Also, try to put the load in the center of the trailer when it comes to side-to-side placement in order to displace the weight evenly over all of the tires. You then want to make sure that your load is secured to the trailer either with straps or chains, depending on what you are hauling. If you are using a dump trailer it is smart and actually required with some types of material to use a tarp that goes over the material. We recommend always using a tarp if you have one just to take the proper precautions. Nevertheless, always make sure that anything that could possibly move while in transport is secured before driving.
Testing/Walkaround – After this, it is always important to test to make sure that everything with the trailer is working properly and is secure. It is usually best to start with all of your lights on the trailer. Make sure that your turn signals, brake lights, and running lights all work so that you know that you will be seen on the road. Additionally, it is smart to look at all of your wheels and make sure no tires are low or overloaded. While examining the wheels it is smart to look at all of the lug nuts to make sure none of them are loose or missing. Next, you should hop into your vehicle and adjust/test your trailer brakes. Trailer brakes can be your best friend if you have a heavy load and end up having to use your brakes aggressively. The last recommendation that we have is testing your load 5-10 min into your drive if you are going to be towing for a long time. Find an easy place to turn off and check all of your straps and chains. We recommend doing this because your load will generally settle within the first few miles of driving; therefore, you should make sure that all straps and chains are properly adjusted.
Towing – There is a lot to learn when it comes to towing a trailer. The first thing to consider is stopping distance. When you are hooked up to a trailer the combined weight of the trailer and your truck is going to be a lot higher than you are used to; therefore, you should allow yourself a lot more stopping space in order to be safe. Since you are all of a sudden driving a lot more weight down the road than normal, you want to drive a little slower than normal to allow yourself plenty of reaction time if something were to happen. We always recommend that you should anticipate problems. This means that you should constantly be looking ahead, examining the traffic, and planning ahead for lane changes, braking, and acceleration. It is also smart to look at your trailer and load every once in a while to make sure that nothing is loose or going wrong. Lastly, make wider turns than normal. Your trailer will make you longer than normal so you will need to make wider turns in order to make it around turns.
Trailer Maintenance – Many trailers out on the roads either rarely get serviced or never get serviced at all. Trailer service is very important and can prevent problems from occurring down theroad. Every Month or so we recommend going through your trailer and making sure that everything is in proper condition. This entails checking your tires for tread, checking tire pressures, checking lug nuts, greasing axles, checking to make sure the trailer brakes are properly adjusted, and checking the tightness of the coupler. We have combined all of these things into a trailer service package at Truck Tops USA Santa Rosa if you ever need it.
Safety Supplies – It is smart to keep some reflective signs/flares, a crossbar for lug nuts, and a wheel chock in your vehicle for any emergency. It is best if you buy one of the wheel chocks that can help raise the trailer up in the case of changing a flat tire.
Overall, this is everything that we recommend considering whenever you are towing. Towing can be dangerous so it is always smart to take all of these precautions. If you have any more questions feel free to contact any of our stores and our friendly staff will be ready to assist you!