1. Have a Tow Vehicle
This may be obvious, but in order to tow a trailer you must have the appropriate vehicle to tow it. Make sure the vehicle you use to tow your trailer is customized to fit your towing needs. It is always a good idea to make sure your the tow vehicle is large enough to have the brakes and suspension it takes to safely tow your trailer. You can get this information from trailer, truck or automobile manufacturers.
2. Vehicle and Trailer Brakes
The brakes are a very important factor when towing a trailer. You can never have too much brake. It can possibly cause a disaster if your brakes fail while going down a hill. Disk brakes are better than drum brakes. Having four electric brakes is better than having two.
Try practicing panic stops on a road without any traffic to learn. Don’t slam on the brakes, just slowly apply more pressure to shorten your stopping distance. Practice this enough until you get a comfortable feel of what it takes to make a quick stop at different distances. Don’t ride the brakes downhill because this can cause them to overheat. Exercise this until you learn how the electric brake system works and how to operate it comfortably.
3. The Hitch
Before towing your trailer, it always a good to have your hitch inspected by a qualified hitch installation company. The maximum tongue weight is usually 10 percent of the hitch’s rated capacity. The hitch is rated by its towing capacity and the tongue weight.
4. The Trailer Ball and Safety Chains
When the ball is connected to the tow vehicle so that the trailer sits level. The tow vehicle should be able to accept this weight without any problems. Having the ball lightly greased will help the hitch rotate smoothly.
The safety chains should be crossed right to left and left to right. They should also be long enough to make tight turns. Having the safety chains crossed will help create a “saddle” if the tongue fails and will help maintain control while stopping. Allowing the chains to drag on the pavement can be unsafe and cause an accident. When hooking up, always inspect the hitch and tongue for cracks or rust. Rust can cause premature failures. Also, always check the lights and brakes every time you hook the trailer up.
Make a checklist and follow the order of that checklist each time you hook your trailer up.
5. Trailer Lighting and Connections
In order to be legal and safe all your lights must work properly. The connector is the weakest link. They need constant attention because they corrode easily. Having the wiring to the connector correctly routed will keep them from coming apart during tight turns or shorting out.
To make sure all your lights and signals are working have an observer confirm this every time you hook your trailer up.
6. Tires and Wheel Bearings
Be sure to have your tires checked frequently to avoid having a flat. Having a flat can cause it to catch fire and burn up your rig. An easier way to check your tires is to “thump” each tire with a tire iron or rod to make sure they all sound the same. Also, by feeling each tire with your hand you will be able to tell if it is getting low because it will be hotter than the rest. Although these are great and quick ways to check your tires, there is no substitute for actually measuring tire pressures. Checking the tire pressure of each tire should be done before each trip you make.
Always check the wheel bearings and lug nut torque before towing. The wheels on trailers are subject to high twisting side loads during tight and slow turns. Over time, this can cause the wheel to flex and lug nuts to loosen. A torque wrench will come in handy for this.
7. Packing the Load
Always tie big and heavy items down securely when towing. Gluing down a rug can make a great floor for a cargo trailer because things tend to stay put and not slide around. Tying items properly down at several angles, rather than straight down, will keep them from falling over in abrupt changes in speed or direction.
Once you have the heavy items in place, use a scale to check the tongue weight. Make changes as needed. Smaller items should be loaded in order to balance the load out. They need to be able to stay put. It helps to place them next to items that are tied down. Your main concern is not to lose the balance of the trailer though.
These are just a few variables to consider when towing a trailer. Always do your research, follow state laws and plan ahead.