How to Tow a Trailer – Towing Safety Tips
Many people fail to appreciate just how dangerous towing can be, even those that routinely tow heavy loads. After several trips with no incidents, some people lower their guard and fail to follow basic towing safety tips. The results can be catastrophic and even criminal in some cases, so anyone who is planning on towing should follow the following basic safety rules:
Know the limits – Some people might wonder if a few extra pounds makes a big difference, and the answer is that a few pounds could make a huge difference if the weight limit has already been reached and/or exceeded. Towing more than the specified maximum load is inherently dangerous and never a good idea. Instead, try to move weight from the load being towed into the vehicle doing the towing, or distribute the weight over multiple trips/loads. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Limits can be legal too – There are legal limits to how wide and/or long a load can be. Knowing these limits can be the difference between an entanglement with local law enforcement and peacefully going about your business undisturbed. Be sure to look up and understand all towing laws and regulations for any city, county, and/or state that you plan to drive through while towing.
Keep it covered – A tarp can be very important for anyone towing a load, as well as for other motorists. Objects that seem reasonably secure while parked might become airborne when towed. Not only can the items be lost and/or damaged, they can become serious hazards to other motorists as well as obstructions on the road. Even those items that seem firmly secured can come loose after contact with a bump in the road, so consider covering everything with a tarp that is firmly secured with multiple bungee cords and/or several layers of twine.
Get hitched – Hitches for non-commercial vehicles come in ratings ranging from Class I to Class V, with increased capacity for each type of hitch. While many hitches can be affixed to almost any vehicle, that does not mean that the vehicle is capable of towing the specified load. Getting an aftermarket hitch that a vehicle is not rated for might seem like a great idea until you see what happens to a vehicle that suffers from structural damage as a result of towing a load it was not designed to handle.
Take it easy – The work week might be hectic, and a weekend getaway to the lake might seem like a great idea, but going too fast and having a serious automobile accident can make even the most cantankerous boss with bad breath seem merciful. The simple fact is that any vehicle towing any load is under additional stress, and capable of additional momentum. Additional momentum requires greater distance to accelerate, decelerate, and maneuver. Keep sufficient distance from other vehicles on the road by driving slower and staying in the slow lane, which is a requirement on highways and interstates.
Get connected – Connecting the lights and brakes on a trailer might seem like a hassle, but it should never be thought of as optional. The signal and brake lights help other motorists predict what you plan to do with greater accuracy, and this allows them to respond accordingly. Additional weight translates into the need for additional braking power, and thus the breaks should be hooked up whenever possible.
Inspect everything and then inspect it again – Towing requires every aspect of a vehicle and trailer to be working at or very close to perfection. This means that the walk-around inspection that most motorists learn in Driver’s Ed but forget a week later need to be performed. A tire that is a little low or a bad light could prove to be far more significant than they would otherwise be if the vehicle was not towing a load. Even an empty trailer still requires an additional walk-around inspection.