Safety and Towing Tips

We’re often asked to provide information about towing and towing safety. The following safety and towing tips checklist will help and ensure your adventure is a safe and successful one.

TOW VEHICLE

  1. Know your tow vehicle. Do not exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your tow vehicle as specified by the manufacturer.
  2. Check the GVWR rating on the hitch or bumper to make sure it meets or exceeds the GVWR rating on the trailer.
  3. Check hitch ball to make sure it is the same size as the trailer coupler. Also, the hitch ball should meet or exceed the GVWR of the trailer. Periodically lubricate the ball and visually check for any signs of deterioration. With excessive wear, hitch balls can come loose from the trailer coupler.
  4. If you are towing with a vehicle that did not come with a factory installed towing package, make sure to install a transmission cooler and a heavy-duty turn signal switch.
  5. Your tow vehicle should have properly installed fastener points (either links or rings) for the trailer’s safety chains. If you are using a bumper or a straight frame hitch, you may need to have fastener points added to the tow vehicle.
  6. Check your tow vehicle’s tire pressure. When you add the hitch weight to tires that are improperly inflated, tread wear and handling characteristics will be greatly accelerated.
  7. Make sure the mirrors are wide enough to see the back corner of the trailer. Most trucks have adequate mirrors, but most automobiles will require add-on extended mirrors that can be purchased at almost any auto or RV parts supplier.
  8. When you are hitched to the trailer, make sure both the tow vehicle and trailer are riding level. If the hitch weight makes the tow vehicle “squat” in the rear, you may need to purchase an equalizer hitch to eliminate this problem. A tow vehicle that rides low in the rear may not steer properly and may cause damage to the rear axle, hubs and tires from an overload situation.
  9. If you are towing with an automatic transmission, you should never tow in overdrive.
  10. When hooking up your trailer with electric brakes, it is a good practice to pull the breakaway plunger to test the brake and battery operation.

TRAILER

  1. Know your trailer. Do not overload. Stay within your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) capacity. Refer to your trailer’s identification plate for the GVWR.
  2. Follow the axle manufacturer’s recommendations for checking lug nuts on wheels.
  3. If the trailer has been idle for several months, it is a good idea to grease the bearings as condensation can build up in the bearings. Regular use keeps the bearings free of moisture.
  4. Check tire pressure on the trailer regularly and keep inflated per the PSI listed on the sidewall of the tire.
  5. Scale your trailer after it is loaded to make sure it does not exceed the GVWR. Make sure the hitch weight is between 7 and 10 percent of the trailers loaded weight. For example a trailer that weighs 2000 lbs. loaded should have a hitch weight no less than 140 lbs. and no more than 200 lbs.
  6. Check your coupler periodically for adequate lubrication. A dry coupler and hitch ball will cause excessive wear. This will result in coupler or component replacement.
  7. Make sure you have a pin or padlock to secure the latching lever on the coupler. Without properly securing the latching lever, it could accidentally disengage allowing the coupler to jump off the ball.
  8. Triton equips all their new trailers that have brakes with breakaway systems that meet Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) standards. When coupling your trailer to your tow vehicle, be sure your battery is fully charged and the breakaway switch cable is secured to the tow vehicle.
  9. Make sure your trailer’s safety chains are in good condition. Triton manufactures all their trailers with chains that exceed the GVWR rating of the trailer. Securely latch the chains to links (or rings) on the tow¬†vehicle. Be sure to cross the chains before you attach them to your tow vehicle. This crossing technique creates a cradle to catch the coupler should it disengage from the tow¬†vehicle preventing it from dragging or plowing into the road. This will enable you to stop more safely in such an emergency. Do not allow the chains to drag on the road surface because over time this will weaken the chains and lessen their effectiveness. All ball coupler hitch trailers are required to have safety chains.
  10. Make sure all doors are closed and locked while in transit. Make sure all roof vents and windows are securely closed.
  11. Make sure your load has been properly secured so it does not shift while you are towing.
  12. Before each trip, check the operation of all lights on the tow vehicle and trailer.
  13. Before each trip check the trailer’s brakes and make sure they are properly adjusted for the load you are carrying. Remember, it takes more room (and time) to stop a heavier loaded trailer than a light one. Anticipate stops and don’t tailgate.
  14. Use common sense when towing a trailer. Watch your speed and plan ahead for when you need to turn. Make your turns a bit wider to accommodate your trailer.
6 Comments

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  • Michael Lee

    I am with the author on the importance of not going over the weight limit. Whenever I tow or engage in semi towing, I secure everything and check it twice. Anyway, thanks to the author for taking the time, this was an easy and quick read!

  • Danielle Thomson

    Triton is glad you enjoyed the read. We want everyone to be safe while towing our trailers.

  • Stephen Adams

    Thanks for the great list. Number 12 was especially important for me. My RR trailer light was out, but I didn’t know. It was a quick fix, but I’m glad I read this before my trip. I hate dealing with fix-it tickets. Thanks again.

  • Luke Smith

    I really appreciate your comment about checking the tire pressure on a trailer regularly. I imagine that many people would purchase an enclosed trailer to use for camping or work and not think to check it’s tire pressure when they check their cars. It makes sense to me to check the pressure on all the wheels that are on the road, not just the ones on your car.

  • Ashley Maxwell

    My husband and I are considering renting an enclosed trailer, and we want to make sure we use it safely on the move to our new home. Thanks for your tip to make sure that the hitch ball and the coupler are the same sizes. I didn’t know that you should always check it to make sure it’s not falling apart.

  • Derek Dewitt

    I’m moving this spring and I only have a small car and trailer to use so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about staying within your GVWR capacity. I’ll be sure to do double check this so I don’t overload the trailer.