Regardless of whether you have been in the towing business for years or are simply setting out on a road trip with a small travel trailer, towing should never be taken lightly. From setting up a trailer behind your tow car to maneuvering it on uncertain roads, towing comes with a whole new set of responsibilities that require more than skillful driving.
The following are a few tips to help you enjoy a safe towing experience while on the road.
- Pay Attention to the Hitch Class
How you attach a trailer to your tow vehicle directly affects your safety while towing. A small issue with the hitch could cause the trailer to detach from your truck, which is a recipe for disaster on the road.
Your trailer and tow truck’s capacities will decide the appropriate hitch system to use. Common hitch configurations include:
There are five trailer hitch ratings. Be sure to use the right hitch system or class based on your tow car’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and towing capabilities. A 1000-2000 lb car hauling a 100-200lb trailer should use a 1-1/4″ hitch (Class I), for example.
Tow trucks within the 10,000-25,000 lbs range and trailers in 1,000-4,000 lbs range should incorporate the appropriate Class V hitch (2″, 2-1/1″, or 3″).
Different types of hitch systems include:
- Receiver-This hitch type bolts onto the vehicle’s chassis, and it has a square tube that receives the appropriate hitch mount or accessory. It’s the most common trailer hitch system.
- Bumper-mounted-This an older system wherein the trailer’s tongue is secured over the tow vehicle’s bumper using a hitch ball mount.
- Fifth-wheel/goose-neck-Trucks hauling extra heavy or long trailers usually use fifth-wheel hitches or similar options. These boast a higher towing capacity because the trailer’s tongue weight is placed over the rear axle. It’s important to consider tongue weight to optimize front tire loading and stopping capacity. It also optimizes the tow vehicle’s stability against any trailer weight shifts.
- Ensure Proper Loading
After safely hooking up your trailer, pay attention to loading. Here are some general tips for securing your loads:
Improper weight distribution can cause the trailer to sway and pose danger to the driver and other road users. To optimize the tongue weight for any specific load, ensure that the overall weight is balanced ahead of or centered on the trailer axles instead of behind it. The tongue shouldn’t bear any more than 15% of the trailer’s total load.
Be sure to invest in high-quality straps for proper support should the load move around on the trailer. There are different ways to tie down your car, but one of the most secure options is strapping it at four points to the trailer corners. Some experts advise against crossing the straps in an X pattern.
Always consider the weight of the load when selecting your straps. To tie down lighter loads, you can use tension or cam-lock straps. Employ ratchet straps for heavier items.
As a rule of thumb, ensure the strap’s working load is superior to the weight of the load you’re hauling.
- Inspect Your Trailer Regularly
You should inspect the trailer at least once annually and ensure it’s in good shape for use. Check all components, including braking systems and hub bearings. You’ll also want to look into the wiring underneath. Malfunctioning trailer lights may seem like a small issue, but they’re a common reason for a traffic ticket.
Besides, you may want to keep these trailer spare parts on hand:
- Wheel bearings and hubs
- Trailer brake light kits
- Get Trailer Insurance
Generally, the state law doesn’t require you to have insurance on your trailer. Even so, trailer insurance is a smart investment for anybody involved in a towing operation. In case of a trailer accident, insurance can help in ways such as:
- Provide a cover for the loss/damage of the goods you’re hauling
- Third-party liability coverage may be available under your personal auto insurance policy, but you should check with your insurance agent first. You may need a separate trailer insurance policy for full liability protection.
These are some of the ways in which you can ensure a safe towing experience for yourself, as well as others on the road. Also, make sure to have the right insurance coverage to protect yourself in the event of an unfortunate accident. Contact our experts at CAV Insurance Agency for an auto insurance policy that suits your needs. We serve motorists from Dover and Sherborn to Wellesley, Needham and Weston, and neighboring towns.