There is a fine line between pulling a trailer with your truck and hauling your trailer safely. Sometimes even a small towing problem can jam you up later in the way of an accident or parts failure. So how do you avoid getting stuck on the side of the road calling for a tow truck or in the middle of an accident with a damaged load? A few minutes of your time, and five careful checks before you start towing your trailer, can save you a load of hassles later—and a call to your local tow truck operator when you’re stranded on the side of the road.
Hauling a trailer that exceeds your maximum tow rating can be a recipe for disaster. An overloaded trailer can compromise your safety by drastically increasing your stopping distance and negatively affecting your vehicle’s handling. Consistently driving with a trailer over your tow rating can wear your tires faster, stress your overworked engine and transmission, and cause an increased amount of breakdowns. To determine what the max weight of your vehicle is, look in your owner’s manual and always know the approximate weight of the trailer you are hauling.
Always check your trailer hitch before towing. Make sure that the hitch is properly connected before you start hauling, by trying to lift the hitch off your truck. If that happens, your hitch is not properly connected. Double check your hitch, safety chains, and all wiring before you leave so you don’t end up with a rogue trailer flying down the highway on its own.
One of the most common mistakes truck owners make when towing is assuming that they don’t need properly working trailer lights. The reality is that properly working trailer lights are both a necessity and a safety prevention measure. Other vehicles need those trailer lights to know your intentions on the road and to see you at night, especially when your trailer or load blocks your truck tail lights. Carefully check your trailer lights to make sure they work before you tow, both as a directional and when braking, and scan the wiring to ensure that the connectors and wires are intact and will continue to work well. If your trailer lights don’t work, schedule and appointment with a mechanic to get your lights in working order.
Don’t assume that the tire pressure of your vehicle and trailer are at optimal pressure, especially if the trailer has been sitting idle. A visual scan is not enough, nor is relying on your truck’s TPMS sensor. A TPMS sensor may not activate a dash warning light until your truck’s tires are 20% or more underweight. Low tire pressure can cause premature flats, leave you calling for a tow truck on the side of the road, compromise your truck and trailer ride, and decrease your gas mileage. Instead, use a tire pressure gauge to check your truck and trailer tires. Fill all low tires up to the correct air pressure.
If you are hauling a heavy load, typically more than 2,000 pounds, trailer brakes are recommended for handling and stopping. Double check that your connectors for the trailer brakes are connected before you start hauling. If you have trailer brakes installed in your truck, test your vehicle to make sure you can stop when you need it on the road. If you don’t have trailer brakes as part of your truck package but haul on a regular basis, talk to your mechanic about having a trailer brake controller installed in your truck. Trailer brake installation, and making these five quick hauling checks before you hit the road, ensures a smooth and safe haul with your trailer.