If you’ve ever piloted a trailer, you know it’s nothing like normal driving. The extra loads placed on your vehicle, the lack of visibility and the setup required to pull a trailer all contribute to the added difficulty.
When it’s time to move a heavy load, do yourself a favor and make sure your vehicle is properly configured for the job. Many common trucks and even cars come ready to pull light to moderate loads from the factory, but there’s more to towing than just lining up a trailer hitch and plugging in the brake lights.
Know Your Tow Ratings
The first thing to understand about towing is that not all vehicles are designed to carry the same amount of weight. There are towing classes for vehicles, and that means you need to find out which class your truck or car falls into and know how much the load you’ll be pulling actually weighs. Overloading your vehicle’s suspension is dangerous and ill-advised.
Ratings are based on the suspension setup of your vehicle. Typically, heavy-duty pickup trucks designed for towing use stronger springs to allow the truck to handle properly while transporting a load. If you frequently max out your truck’s towing capacity, you can get back a little suspension performance using products like SuperSprings suspension upgrades for towing.
Once you know your vehicle has the towing capacity needed for a job, make sure you properly connect your trailer. There are different sizes of towing hitches out there, so make sure your hitch and trailer mount match. Mount the hitch and rig your safety chains in an X in case the trailer comes off its hitch.
Your trailer will come with a “pigtail” or electrical connector that plugs your vehicle’s electronic system into the trailer’s. This allows you to use the turn signals and brake lights on the trailer, which are required by law. Always test these systems to make sure they work before setting out on the road.
On the Road
Always use caution when you’re driving with a trailer. Even with a very capable truck, the consequences for making mistakes can be quite costly.
In traffic, remember how much longer your vehicle is, signal early and leave lots of room between cars. Keep a close eye on gauges like your engine temperature and tire pressure. When you stop to fuel up, double-check the connection to your hitch and make sure your chains are still tight.
Reversing can be particularly difficult, and is made even more difficult if you have a very long trailer. Have a friend get out and guide you when reversing or steering in tight quarters with a trailer.
Practice Makes Perfect
Even though it might seem intimidating, people tow trailers every day and there’s no reason you can’t join them. The best advice is to start small and get comfortable with it. After spending some time at the wheel, you’ll feel comfortable moving up to towing larger loads.