When the weather heats up, it’s time to head out on the open road. This often means hauling a trailer, boat, or recreational vehicle to your favorite getaway spot.
Towing involves a unique set of challenges. Check out these tips to ensure you arrive at your destination safely.
Don’t Exceed Towing Capacity
Check your owner’s manual for the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle and ensure you stay within this limit. Your trailer hitch must also be able to handle the loaded weight. Otherwise, your load will be difficult to handle, your vehicle will be hard to stop, and your hitch could even break.
Additionally, too much weight can seriously damage your tow vehicle. You could incur expensive suspension, drivetrain, or engine damage. If your hitch breaks, the safety chains may stop it from running amok, but why risk it?
Double Check Your Hookup
Before you tow, double check all connections including the wiring, coupler, and safety chains. If you’re towing a heavy trailer, it probably has an independent brake system with a breakaway cable. Ensure it is properly attached to your vehicle, otherwise it can’t trigger the brakes if your hitch disconnects.
Position Cargo Correctly
Tongue weight measures the downward force exerted on the hitch when connected to your vehicle. If you have a substantial amount of cargo, place most of it in the front half of the trailer and distribute it evenly from left to right.
Experts suggest around 10 percent of your gross trailer weight is ideal. For instance, if you tow a 5,000 lb. trailer, the tongue weight should be around 500 lbs. Any more than that and the back end of your vehicle will sag, causing poor handling and braking.
Check Tire Inflation
Ensure that trailer and vehicle tires as well as your spares are properly inflated. Underinflated tires cause poor handling and more resistance which heats up tires and can lead to dangerous blowouts. Plus, you’ll burn more gas.
Test Your Lights
Ensure that turn signals, brake lights, and tail lights work properly. Just because they’re plugged in, it doesn’t mean they work. Also check that they are visible once the trailer is fully loaded. They aren’t much use unless other drivers can see them.
Test Your Brakes
Light trailers typically don’t have trailer brakes so it is very important your vehicle’s brakes are in tip-top shape. If your trailer does have brakes, check the brake controller is properly calibrated and brakes are adjusted on an independent brake system.
Remember, you need to increase stopping distance due to the added weight. Don’t speed or tailgate. It increases risk, sudden braking is bad for your brakes, and slamming on the brakes is a surefire way to shift the load in your trailer.
Check Your Mirrors
Changing lanes while towing a trailer requires patience. It takes longer to accelerate and more room to pass a vehicle.
If your stock mirrors don’t provide you with a clear view of the end of your trailer, you’ll need to upgrade them. Manufacturer or after-market tow mirrors increase your view for a safer trip. Good mirrors are also invaluable when backing in your trailer or launching your boat.
Do You Need Insurance?
Even though insurance is usually optional for towed, self-contained vehicles, that doesn’t mean you don’t need it. Your personal auto insurance might provide some liability coverage when towing, but it probably isn’t enough.
Give us a call. You may be able to add additional coverage to your auto policy or you can buy an affordable standalone policy.