Since many of our customers are first time trailer towers, we thought it would be a good idea to give you some safety tips. Towing a trailer can be an intimidating prospect if you don’t have the right tow vehicle or equipment. If you do have the right equipment, practice safety guidelines and use common sense, towing a properly loaded trailer is a breeze. There are several safety tips to check on your tow vehicle and trailer before heading out on the road.
- Match the maximum trailer weight allowed for the tow vehicle to the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the trailer. Do not exceed the GVWR as specified by the manufacturer. You can find the GVWR for your tow vehicle in the owner’s manual. If you don’t have the owner’s manual or it is not listed, contact your tow vehicle’s dealer or manufacturer.
- Make sure that your tow vehicle tires are properly inflated. Improperly inflated tires will wear faster and could possibly lead to trailer sway. When towing, tire pressure should be on the high side because a fully inflated tire can carry more weight and runs cooler than a tire that is low on air. The maximum air pressure is listed on the sidewalls.
- Tow vehicles must have the correct plug at the hitch and be connected to the correct tow vehicle circuits. Trailers commonly use three types of plugs. Trailers that are not equipped with brakes have a 4-way plug (commonly referred to as a “flat four”). All other trailers will have either a 6-way plug, which accommodates electric brakes; or a 7-way plug which does the same but has an extra auxiliary line.
- Check the coupler for fatigue, damage, cracks or missing parts before towing. Test the lock mechanism for complete and correct latching so the trailer will not come unhooked. Be sure that the hitch ball size matches the coupler size for the trailer and make sure that the GVWR of the hitch ball exceeds the GVWR of the trailer.
- Do not overload your trailer. The GVWR of your trailer is listed on the trailer’s identification plate. Scales to weigh your trailer are available at gravel pits, grain elevators and service stations that cater to over-the-road trucks; there is usually a fee. You should load 60% of your cargo’s weight in the front of the trailer. This will put approximately 10% of the loaded trailer weight on the hitch. Always secure the trailer to the tow vehicle when loading or unloading, especially from the rear of the trailer. Some tag units may require a weight-distributing hitch with sway controls. Contact The Trailer Shoppe, LLC to properly set up your tow vehicle/trailer combination.
- Make sure that when the tow vehicle is coupled to the trailer, they are both level. A tow vehicle that has too much tongue weight on the tow vehicle does not ride level, may not steer properly and could cause damage to the axles. Tongue weight is measured where the trailer couples to the hitch, and it should be 10 to 15 percent of the total weight of the trailer and its contents. The only way to know tongue weight for sure is to take it to a scale and weigh it. To measure tongue weight, unhitch a loaded trailer and weigh it at the coupling. Scales are available at gravel pits, grain elevators and service stations that cater to over-the-road trucks; there is usually a fee.
- Be sure to check your lug nuts frequently. During the first 200 miles of towing your new trailer, check them every 50 miles. After the first 200 miles, check them before every trip. Proper torque for tightening lug nuts is between 90 and 120 foot pounds.
- Be sure that your trailer tires are properly inflated. The recommended pressure is found on the tire sidewall. Always replace tires with the same designated size and type.
The examples given in this site are general guidelines for illustration purposes only and cannot cover every possible combination of vehicle, hitch and trailer or every loading situation. Have your particular rig inspected by a mechanic at The Trailer Shoppe, LLC before towing heavy loads or if any handling problems occur. There are handling problems that cannot always be solved by proper trailer loading. You are solely responsible for the safe loading and operation of your vehicle and trailer.