Trailers are an important tool for work and play, but proper preparation and usage play an important role in whether or not your trailer safely gets from point A to point B. An improperly hitched trailer can break free and cause major damage on the road. Fortunately, these accidents are completely preventable. Here are five important safety tips you need to follow when hitching a trailer.
1. Use the right size hitch ball.
The size of your hitch ball matters down to the smallest eighth of an inch. If you have a 2-inch trailer, you should be using a 2-inch hitch ball. Otherwise, the trailer could pop off during towing and have dire consequences. The process for latching your trailer should go smoothly, without resistance or force, and make sure to use a pin or lock to safely secure it.
2. Pick the right vehicle and hitch for your trailer's weight.
Weight is an essential factor in pulling a trailer. Before settling on a vehicle, make sure to look up exactly how much weight it can safely tow by looking it up in the owner’s manual. Once you’ve settled on a car, you can focus on finding the right hitch. Based on the gross trailer weight (GTW) and maximum tongue weight, you can use this guide to identify which class of hitch you need. Keep in mind that within each classification are numerous hitches made by a variety of manufacturers.
3. Choose a ball mount that will keep the trailer level with your vehicle.
To limit sway, you want to make sure that you have the right amount of rise or drop to keep the trailer level with your car or truck. To determine whether your ball mount will need to have rise or drop, subtract the receiver tube height from the coupler height. If this number is positive, you need rise. If it’s negative, you need drop. Consult your trailer dealer to help find the right ball mount.
4. Prevent additional damage by crossing your safety chains.
You should always be using safety chains when pulling a trailer. For added safety, arrange them into an X when hooking them up. Crossing your safety chains helps to form a “cradle” so that, in the event of the ball and hitch separating, they will catch the tongue and minimize the amount of damage.
5. Check your lights.
Lighting and wiring problems can be common with trailers. Make the road a safer place for you and those around you by double-checking your trailer lights before backing out of the driveway. Once the lights are connected, make sure to check the brakes, hazards, both turn signals, and running lights, with the tow vehicle’s headlights on.
Safety comes first, especially when it comes to trailer usage. If you have any hesitations or questions while hitching your trailer, consult a professionally trained expert and allow them to set you up safely.
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