You've just bought your first camper, horse trailer, boat or cargo hauler, and now you have to tow it from the place you bought it to where you're going to store it. Don't get caught unprepared. While towing might seem intimidating at first, the following tips, coupled with the right equipment and practice, can make you a master tower.
Understand the language of towing
Towing has a language all its own, and you need to learn it for buying, towing and following the law in your state. There are many acronyms in trailering and most have to do with weights and capacities. Below are just some of the most important:
Hitch balls are critical safety gear
The hitch ball is attached to the tow vehicle receiver hitch. Many vehicles come with a factory-installed receiver that is typically attached to the frame or reinforced section of a unibody. Higher-quality aftermarket hitches are available as well, but all should be clear about exact weight rating capabilities. The ball itself supports some trailer weight and couples the trailer with the truck or car. Trailer hitches are categorized by tongue weight, and as hitch numbers climb, so does the tongue weight it can handle.
Always use safety chains
Nobody who wants to tow safely would fail to make sure the trailer and tow vehicle are attached, not only between ball and tongue, but also with strong safety chains. Experienced towers cross the chains under the trailer tongue so in case of a catastrophic separation, the trailer and the hitch are less likely to separate. Be sure there is enough chain slack to make turns, and always be sure the chains will not drag on the pavement.
Trailer load balance is important
Most manufacturers recommend you distribute 60 percent of the weight of the trailer load over the front half of the trailer. After you have the load balanced correctly, make sure that cargo is secured with straps or tie-downs. When cargo shifts, your load becomes unbalanced, making your trailer unstable and less predictable.
Driving with a trailer
At the risk of oversimplifying the point, driving with a fully loaded trailer — when done properly and safely — is not much more difficult than driving your tow vehicle empty. However, do not confuse the two as the driving techniques and vision strategies are very different. Most people tow a boat, a camper or perhaps a car trailer to a show or race.