Towing A Trailer: Important Safety TipsJune 24, 2014 | in Defensive Driving Tips, Driving and Safety Tips
Towing a trailer may seem like a fairly simple thing. After all, it just goes where you car goes, right? The reality is that much more thought must go into towing a trailer safely in order for your next outdoor adventure to not be marred by a serious accident. So, no matter what toys or tools that you plan on towing, remember these safety tips before you hit the road.
1. Review Towing Capacity
One of the biggest detriments to safely towing a trailer is having a load heavier than the trailer or the hitch’s towing capacity. Find out what the towing capacity of the trailer you are using is, and make sure the hitch you use is built for the size load you will be carrying. Of course, this requires determining how much your load will weigh in the first place.
2. Load Correctly
When loading a trailer, don’t just throw everything on haphazardly. Failing to distribute the weight correctly and secure everything down could result in major property damage if the load shifts, or it could cause an accident should something fall out while you are driving. When loading, aim to have 60 percent of the weight near the front end of the trailer and distribute those items evenly from right to left. In addition, it is best to tie down and cover an open trailer to ensure everything stays put.
3. Check the Lights
If you are new to towing trailers, you may not even realize that a trailer has lights. However, it is important to make sure that those lights are properly connected because the trailer is now essentially the back of your vehicle. Have someone stand behind the trailer while you test the turn signal and the brake light before hitting the road.
4. Check Tire Inflation
Properly inflated tires allows the trailer to operate at its best capacity, so check the manual to see what the recommended levels are. While you are at it, check the pressure in your vehicle’s tires as well – and make sure you have the best tires possible. You’ll get much better gas mileage with properly inflated tires.
5. Check Your Mirrors
Depending on how big the trailer is you are towing, it may block your view out of the rear view mirror. If this is the case, you will need to get side mirrors with an extended-side view. These are the side mirrors you see on semi-trucks. They will allow you to see what is beside you and behind you.
6. Test the Brake System
Most towed vehicles are required to have their own braking system. Test the brakes before you leave to see if the two vehicles’ systems are synced up, and of course, that they both are working. The added weight from a towed vehicle is often too much for the towing vehicle’s brakes to handle, so don’t think you can go without both systems working. While driving, give yourself extra time to brake. Not slamming the brakes is the best policy for avoiding a failed system.
7. Drive at Slower Speeds
It is tempting to drive fast when you have an open stretch of highway and a destination you are itching to get to, but when you have a heavy load, driving fast significantly increases your likelihood of an accident. Instead, drive slower than you normally would, so you have more time to respond to a change in traffic or to stop at a traffic light.
8. Plan Your Route
Towing a trailer adds a lot of length to your vehicle, making it much more difficult to maneuver tight turns or to back up. Plan your route with these restrictions in mind, so you don’t get stuck in a tight spot or have to deal with the frustration of making a difficult turn.
Finally, practice driving with your trailer. Try backing up, making turns and changing lanes in areas in which it’s fairly easy to do so until you get the hang of it. Brushing up on your driving skills can also be helpful, such as taking a defensive driving course. Stay safe.
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