9 Tips for Safe Trailer Towing

 

Friends of mine in Minneapolis were driving on Highway 35, talking about this and that, minding their own business, when – Wham! A trailer carrying a boat slammed into their car.

The trailer had disconnected from the tow vehicle and darted across the median in a high-velocity trajectory that could have killed my friends had it not been a glancing blow. Though the shattering glass put them in the hospital, it could have been much worse. It was an accident that shouldn’t have happened.

Safety tips for towing a trailer

One morning while driving to work I was thinking about this very topic and, right in front of me, I saw another towing accident. Someone towing his race car down Mesaba Ave. here in Duluth, Minn., caused a traffic jam when the stock car left the trailer and swept wildly into the midst of rush-hour traffic.

Again, it was an accident that shouldn’t have happened.

Whether it’s a boat, a house trailer or your trash to the dump, safe towing requires attention to detail.

Here are nine key points for safe towing and longer vehicle life

1) Know your weight limits

Make sure your trailer and whatever you’re hauling fall within the towing or hauling capacities of your vehicle. Check the owner’s manual to find the trailer types that your vehicle can haul and the maximum load weight it can pull. Use the right trailer hitch and make sure it is hitched correctly.

2) Distribute weight evenly

If your trailer fishtails (sways while accelerating), back off the gas and see if it stops. If it continues when you accelerate again, check to see how the weight is distributed on the trailer. It may not be distributed evenly from side to side, or else it’s too far back to place sufficient load on the hitch ball.

Try to carry 5-10 percent of the trailer load on the hitch. Redistribute the load as necessary before continuing.

3) Ensure the trailer lights work

Connect the brake and signal lights. Double check to make sure the trailer’s brakes, turn signals and tail lights are synchronized with the tow vehicle.

4) Properly inflate the tires

People I once knew suffered 17 tire blowouts while pulling a trailer from California to South Texas. (True!) You’d think they would have figured out they had too much weight in the trailer. In addition to staying within weight limits for your rig, be sure the tires are in good condition and properly inflated.

5) Your vehicle will handle differently

When towing, you’re operating a vehicle combination that’s longer and heavier than normal. Be sure to adjust your driving practices accordingly.

Backing up is tricky, but it’s a skill you can learn. Until you’re experienced, have someone direct you from outside in those tight spots or places where you have limited visibility.

Avoid sudden turns. I know – sounds obvious. But I was once the first person to an accident where someone decided at the last minute to take the exit instead of going straight. The car ended up upside down because the trailer had other ideas.

When it comes to towing accidents, don’t say, “It can’t happen to me.” Say instead, “It must not happen to me.”

6) Buckle your seat belt

In case your tow vehicle ends up upside down.

7) Stopping requires more distance

It’s a simple matter of physics. When towing, you have more momentum than you would without a trailer. Remember that stopping requires more time and distance. Avoid tailgating and pay attention to what’s happening a little farther down the road than you normally would.

8) Keep your head on a swivel

Maybe you forgot to fasten a chain, secure the hitch or tie down your payload properly. If you’re in a hurry to get home after a long trip, things like that can happen. Once you’re on the road, frequently check your mirrors to make sure everything looks good back there. I know a boat owner whose yacht fell sideways on the highway halfway between Canada and Duluth, which is the middle of nowhere for those who’ve never been there. Something wasn’t fastened properly. Bummer.

9) Upgrade your transmission protection

Towing places enormous stress on a transmission. In fact, because of the intense heat, towing is probably the number-one killer of transmissions.

For this reason, the “towing package” on many trucks includes a transmission-oil cooler. It also helps to use a high-end synthetic lubricant. Synthetics reduce friction and provide better resistance to high heat, helping the tranny run cooler, shift confidently and last longer.

Shameless plug time: AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic ATF handles heat so well, you can confidently double your vehicle manufacturer’s severe-service drain interval in passenger cars and light trucks.

Check out our Las Vegas Taxi Cab field study for all the technical details if you’re so inclined.

Stay save out there!

cleaning filter surface

Changing the Oil in your Motorcycle John Baker|Mar 09, 2020 9:20 AM Guest Blog Post by Monica Pretzl Changing oil in your motorcycle is relatively quick and easy. It’s also important; regular oil changes prolong engine life and keep your bike running smoothly all season. We broke down the process into step-by-step directions for both […]

Synthetic Air Tool Oil

Premium Air Tool Protection New Synthetic Air Tool Oil provides smooth operation, reduces wear and extends tool life. Air (pneumatic) tools are commonly used amongst automotive enthusiasts, mechanics and craftsmen. Powered by compressed air, they provide exceptional precision and higher power-to-weight ratios than their conventional power-tool counterparts, making them popular choices for those working with […]

Reposting – Top 3 Single-Track Dirt Bike Trails in the Upper Midwest Kerry Johnson|Aug 24, 2016 2:53 PM   We sat down with dirt bike enthusiast and AMSOIL Mechanical Lab Technician, Ben Grembowski, to learn about his favorite places in Minnesota to ride the trails. With 54 state and grant-in-aid trails to ride in the state, […]

EXTEND TURBODIESEL ENGINE LIFE Turbodiesel vehicles have established a loyal customer base in North America. Follow these sound maintenance practices to extend the life of these powerful and expensive engines. Allow the Engine to Warm and Cool Upon startup, allow the engine to warm up before revving it or driving off. This is especially important […]