December 9, 2010
Weight Limits of the Vehicle and Hitch
1. One of the most important factors of towing safety is the weight of the load, and if the vehicle can pull it easily. There are different classes of towing hitches available, and each has a set weight limit. The vehicle must weigh more than the combined weight of the trailer plus the load, and have the engine and braking power to maintain control at all times. Light vehicles should not be used to tow wind-resistant loads, such as camping trailers, as they could blow over in a strong wind.
2. The distance of the trailer hitch from the ground must be within a few inches of the vehicle’s receiver hitch. Any wide deviation and the trailer could be tilted towards the front or rear, making the load unbalanced and possibly unstable. Adapters are sold at auto parts stores that will position the receiver hitch at the proper height.
Electrical System, Lighting and Electric Brakes
3. Repair any electrical issues before towing. Trailers are notorious for being stored for long periods, and not receiving proper maintenance. The lights on a towed load must work for all taillight functions, including full stop lamps, parking lamps at night, and both turn signals. The wiring on the trailer should be checked for splits or ground-outs often, and the tail lamp functions should be checked before each tow. Some heavier trailers will have electric brakes installed into the wheels, and will carry an extra wire on the trailer plug adapters. There must be a relayed connection from the electric brakes to the brakes on the vehicle, and it is important to check it for proper operation. Many in-cab trailer brake controls will have a variable resistor knob to soften brake travel, and closely match the braking power on the vehicle.
4. Many manufactured trailers or tow vehicles come with safety chains, which should be attached to the rear clamps on the vehicle. In a worst-case scenario, the trailer hitch could become disconnected, and these chains will keep the load from leaving the road or causing an accident.
5. Many SUVs and vans may have exterior spare tires or racks installed onto the rear section of the vehicle, preventing the full range of motion necessary to tow a trailer. Once the trailer has been hitched to the vehicle, tow a short distance and take sharp turns to ensure the trailer can "swing."
6. Loading the trailer properly will prevent load shifting, or damaging the carried material. Weight should be loaded to the front of the trailer, and as centered as possible. Placing heavy loads into the rear of the trailer will cause swaying, and possibly a loss of control.
Turning a Trailer in Reverse
7. Reverse towing, or parking a trailer, is easy once the steering wheel is placed in proper perspective. Placing a hand on the bottom the wheel, push in the desired direction of the trailer’s rear. If the hand is moved right, or counter-clockwise, the trailer will move right and vice-versa.