How To Safely Tow a Trailer

Posted on by Andy's Auto Supply & Repair
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Tips for Towing a Trailer

Is this rainy, cold weather getting you down? Perhaps you’re passing the time by imagining your upcoming summer adventures here in the Pacific Northwest. Or maybe you’re getting ready to move, and you plan on hitching a trailer to your vehicle instead of renting a moving truck. In any case, it’s essential to understand how to properly tow a trailer behind your vehicle to avoid costly car repairs and damage to the trailer. We’ve put together a guide to towing a trailer along with a couple of tips for safe driving. Check it out:

Preparation Is Key When Towing a Trailer

Ensure that you’ve done all of your homework before hitching a trailer to your vehicle.

Know The Route

When driving with a trailer, you want to know exactly where you’re going and what route you’ll use to get there. Don’t rely solely on your phone’s GPS to give you directions, as you may find yourself in a precarious situation if you get stuck on a narrow road with no way to turn around. Some GPS systems and apps have a setting specifically for RVs or trailers to avoid this situation. Not only will the GPS avoid narrow roads, but it’ll also let you know what speed is safe for your vehicle.

Know Your Trailer’s Height

If you’re not used to driving a trailer and you don’t know its height, you could get accidentally damage it by driving under a bridge or awning that’s too low. Make sure you know exactly how big your trailer is, and add a foot to be sure.

Ensure Your Vehicle Is Capable

Check your vehicle’s tow rating. Do not exceed the tow rating, as you could severely damage your vehicle or your trailer.

Before You Drive

In addition to having vital information such as the route you will take and the height of your trailer, you must do the following as well.

Properly Hitch the Trailer To Your Vehicle

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Properly hitching your trailer to your vehicle is essential for both your safety and the safety of other motorists on the road.

For your safety and the safety of those on the road around you, it’s essential that you properly hitch the trailer to your vehicle.

  1. If you are hitching a travel trailer, make sure that you disconnect the utilities and turn off all of the accessories. Close and secure all the windows, vents, hatches, awnings, and antennas.
  2. Secure the contents of the trailer and close and lock the trailer door. Raise the steps and stabilizers.
  3. Make sure the wheel chocks are in place.
  4. Remove your hitch lock.
  5. Turn the receiver latch to the open position (vertical).
  6. Use a jack to raise the front end of the trailer, and lubricate the jack piston while it’s extended.
  7. Slide the hitch into position.
  8. Insert and secure the hitch locking pin.
  9. Back your vehicle up to the hitch.
  10. Lower the trailer.
  11. Close the hitch ball receiver.
  12. Hook up the brakes and lights.
  13. Connect the safety chains.

Check Visibility

Towing a trailer reduces your visibility unless you have a rearview camera for the trailer. Make sure you can see the end of the trailer in your side mirrors. If you feel that you cannot see the end of the trailer, you may want to purchase side mirror extensions to ensure your safety.

Check the Brakes and the Brake Controller

Before you start driving, make sure your brake controller is set up correctly. To test your brake controller, drive at ten miles per hour and then press on your brakes usually. The trailer should feel as though it’s tugging your car. If it feels like the trailer is pushing your vehicle, increase the brake controller setting. If the trailer stops very suddenly, turn the brake controller setting down. An improperly set brake controller could cause you to jackknife on the road.


Tips on Driving With a Hitched Trailer

Driving with a trailer attached to your vehicle isn’t necessarily difficult. Still, there are certain things to keep in mind as you’re driving to ensure both your safety and the safety of other motorists.

Turning While Towing a Trailer

Your trailer will naturally follow the path of your car. If you have an extended trailer, you’ll want to take a broader turn than you usually would. Turns sharper than 90 degrees may present some issues for you, so avoid tight turns when possible. If you have to take a tight turn, take it as wide as possible. Backing up a trailer is difficult.

Backing Up While Towing a Trailer

Backing up with a trailer attached to your truck is challenging, and it only gets harder the bigger the trailer. If you do not have experience backing a trailer up, avoid any situation in which you’d have to. Pull through spots are great for situations like this. It’s also another reason to make sure you know your route beforehand because you could get yourself stuck if you don’t properly plan.

Driving Up and Down Hills While Towing a Trailer

Driving up hills while towing a trailer isn’t tricky, but you may want to put your hazards on in case you’re well below the speed limit and in a limited visibility area. This way, you can alert other drivers to your low speed and avoid a collision. Driving down hills can present more of a challenge, but utilize your brakes and engine braking to control your speed. Avoid braking too hard while going downhill on a turn, as you may cause the trailer to jackknife.

Avoid Trailer Sway

The term “trailer sway” refers to the instance in which the trailer and the tow vehicle wiggle back and forth when something pushes on the trailer. This force then pushes on to the tow vehicle. The back and forth of this movement may grow until it causes an accident. To avoid trailer sway, make sure the contents of your trailer are correctly distributed and avoid driving in high-wind conditions. Do not attempt to correct the sway by counter steering. Instead, keep calm and drive in a straight line.


How Can Andy’s Auto Supply & Repair Help?

If you’ve accidentally damaged your vehicle by improperly towing a car, bring it into Andy’s Auto Supply & Repair, a Portland business since 1975. We provide accurate and reasonable quotes for your auto repair, and we value our customers’ trust. Call today!

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