How to Increase Towing Safety in 30 Minutes
It’s hard to resist the call of the open road, especially when you have a chance to escape for the weekend with your camping trailer or haul your boat to a favorite fishing spot.
But before you hitch any trailer to your truck or SUV, make sure you consider these 6 safety tips…
- STAY WITHIN YOUR LIMITS
Review the towing capacity of your specific vehicle to ensure that it’s capable of handling the weight of your trailer. Exceeding the maximum towing capacity can result in dangerous handling, insufficient braking performance, or serious damage to the vehicle’s suspension, engine and drivetrain.
In addition to ensuring your vehicle’s towing capacity is sufficient for your trailer, also make sure your trailer hitch is capable of handling your trailer’s loaded weight. Your hitch should be labelled with the maximum trailer and maximum tongue weights it can safely support. Depending on the weight of your trailer, you should also follow your owner’s manual’s recommendations regarding the use of weight carrying or weight-distributing hitches.
Don’t assume all versions of a certain model line share identical tow ratings. Towing capacities can differ by body styles, bed lengths, drivelines and other equipment installed on the vehicle.
Likewise, different hitch designs can handle different weights. Particular designs may be required for trailers over a specific weight. Always check the owner’s manual for the vehicle’s towing capacity.
If you plan on carrying extra cargo or several passengers, make sure you’re not overloading the tow vehicle. Refer to the gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating assigned to your vehicle to ensure your loaded vehicle does not exceed the manufacturer’s rating.
Additionally, confirm that your vehicle and trailer do not exceed the gross combination weight rating (GCWR) set by the manufacturer.
- PACK YOUR TRAILER PROPERLY
Even though it’s incredibly important to stay within the limits of your tow vehicle, it’s also imperative to make sure all cargo is properly positioned.
First of all, you’re going to want roughly 60% of the trailer’s load placed over the front half of the trailer. Additionally, you need the tongue weight somewhere between 10% - 15% of the total weight of the trailer.
Furthermore, weight should be evenly distributed on the left and right sides of the trailer. Once the load is properly distributed and an ideal tongue weight is achieved, all cargo needs to be secured to prevent the load from shifting.
- CHECK YOUR TIRES
This applies to both your tow vehicle and your trailer.
Tires that are not properly inflated can negatively affect handling. Tires that are underinflated create more ‘rolling resistance’ which forces the engine to work harder and consume more fuel.
Furthermore, this resistance increases tire temperatures, and may contribute to a blowout. Refer to the tire pressure label placed in the driver’s doorjamb for proper inflation pressures for the tow vehicle.
Additionally, check the speed rating on the tires for both your tow vehicle and trailer, and never exceed that speed.
Preparing for a long journey? Check the tire pressure of any spare tires to see if they’re inflated properly. Also, consider allowing more time to inspect your trailer’s hub bearings before towing, confirming they’re in good shape and properly greased.
- CHECK YOUR LIGHTS
The tail lights and marker lamps on your trailer may seem unnecessary, but they’re very important. In fact, the size of your trailer will determine how many tail lights and marker lamps are required.
Large trailers can obscure the tail lamps on your tow vehicle. If the lights on your trailer aren’t illuminated, other drivers may not see your vehicle, especially at night. Accidents can happen if the tail lights aren’t properly illuminated.
While in park, have someone stand behind the vehicle to check turn signals, tail lamps and brake lights are working properly.
- CHECK YOUR BRAKES
Smaller, lighter trailers may not need trailer brakes, but larger trailers, or those designed to carry heavier loads, will usually incorporate a trailer brake system.
Trailer brakes should be used on trailers weighing more than 3,000 lbs.
Remember to check your brakes at least once a year, or every 12,000 miles. If you’re not an experienced mechanic, we recommend you have them serviced by a professional.
- GET PROPER MIRRORS
Before you leave home, make sure the side-view mirrors on your tow vehicle are adjusted properly. Ensure that you have a clear line of vision that extends way back to the end of the trailer.
Having one of the best towing mirrors installed or mounted onto your car can give you the peace of mind you need while driving. Whether it is a fifth wheel, cargo or boat trailer, you will need to maintain an unobstructed view.
Features to look for include the ability to telescope (extend or retract the mirrors arm length), dual lenses and heated mirrors, puddle lamps, and integrated turn signals.
Telescoping Towing Mirrors
To clearly see out past the side of the trailer, tow mirrors need to extend farther from the side of the vehicle than normal side mirrors. Temporary tow mirrors can be easily removed when not needed. Telescoping allows the mirrors to be returned to a normal position when you’re not towing a trailer.
Heated Towing Mirrors
Great for driving in extreme weather, or to remove morning dew. Adds convenience and safety. On some dual mirrors, only the main mirror is heated.
Dual-Mirror Towing Mirrors
Mirrors with dual lenses allow you to see two different angles, the big mirror showing the lane next to you and the smaller mirror to check your blind spot. Of course, the size of the mirror itself can be important as well. You don’t want to change lanes hoping someone is not there, you want to know for sure.
Integrated Turn Signal
Helpful to let vehicles that may be approaching your vehicle or trailer from the side advanced notice that you intend to change lanes.
Allows you to electrically adjust the angle of the main mirror.
Here’s a bonus tip you need to consider before you hook up your trailer…
How to increase towing safety in less than 30 minutes…
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