Top Tips for Towing a Trailer

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On the open road, a straightaway ahead of you and no sharp curves ahead for miles, towing a trailer is easy. Throw in traffic, narrow streets, winding curves, and the dreaded reverse, and towing a trailer becomes something different altogether.

With our top tips for towing a trailer, you’ll soon be cruising around like a pro.

Top Tips for Towing a Trailer

The first time you tow a trailer, you may be all nerves and worry. With practice and experience, you will be towing loads both large and small like an expert.

Setting Up Your Trailer

  • Know your weights. Do you have the right vehicle for the job? Every vehicle – whether a car or truck – has a certain gross combined weight rating (GCWR). This rating is the maximum weight allowed for your vehicle and trailer, and takes into account the vehicle, occupants, trailer, and trailer load. If your load is too heavy for your vehicle, then you may want to consider renting a vehicle which will fit the job.
  • Load your tongue properly. Place enough weight (but not too much) on the tongue. You generally want the tongue weight to be 10 – 15% of the total tow weight. Too much weight will make steering difficult and overload the rear suspension. Too little weight will cause the trailer to sway back and forth.
  • Hitch up correctly, choosing the right sized hitch ball for the trailer and using a pin or lock to keep it latched.
  • Use safety chains. Cross them in an X so that in the event your trailer becomes unhitched, the tongue will fall onto the chains and you will be able to navigate to safety.
  • Connect your electrics and make sure all your lights work before you head out.

Have Patience When Backing Up

  • You’ll have better control over your trailer when moving slowly and taking your time.
  • Having a second set of eyes – like a friend or family member – is extremely helpful to guide you into a parking spot.
  • Turn your wheel left for your trailer to move left. Turn your wheel right for your trailer to move right.
  • Missed the parking spot the first time? That’s OK! Be patient and try again. You’ll get it!
  • Another option is to avoid situations where you’ll have to back up altogether.

Inspect, Inspect, Inspect

  • Check your tire pressure regularly. This doesn’t have to be every stop, but is especially important for long drives.
  • At every stop, make sure your harness connector and breakaway cables are connected, and the hitch pin is still in place.
  • Regularly check the temperature of tire and brake drum. Using an infrared thermometer gun is best, but the palm of your hand is OK too. You know you have an issue if one tire is noticeably hotter than the others.
  • On long hauls, check your load and retighten if necessary. Vibrations from the road can loosen even the best-tied equipment, and your load may become unbalanced if left unchecked.

Parking and Uncoupling

  • Place jack stands under the rear of a trailer prior to uncoupling. This will help prevent injury in the event of an unbalanced load, which can jerk the tongue suddenly upwards.
  • Place towing blocks in front of and behind tires when parking so your trailer doesn’t roll away once uncoupled.

Hills and Inclines

  • Downshift to help with braking and control when going downhill.
  • If you can, avoid parking on a grade. Place towing blocks in front of and behind tires when parking overnight.
  • Use your brakes at intervals on downgrades to prevent them from overheating.

Trailer Towing Do’s and Don’ts

Towing a trailer isn’t a race! Use common sense when towing a trailer to keep yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the road out of harm’s way.

Do…

  • Leave space between you and the car in front of you. The added weight of a trailer will make braking that much more difficult, so it’s best to have a little extra leeway just in case.
  • If your vehicle comes with a transmission calibrated ‘tow mode’, use it!
  • Use your signals, and give surrounding traffic plenty of notice when you plan to change lanes.

Don’t…

  • Don’t slam on your brakes, as this can result in your trailer ‘jack knifing’ and a potential accident.
  • Don’t jerk suddenly on the steering wheel.
  • Don’t tow a trailer that sways. Pull over and readjust the load instead.

Northside Tool Rental

Moving? Bringing home furniture? Or doing some heavy duty house projects? Northside Tool Rental offers multiple trailer rentals for you! Our friendly staff is always happy to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call at one of our five convenient Atlanta locations today!