Whether you’re pulling a trailer because you’re moving or pulling a travel trailer to take on vacation, it’s a big driving adjustment. You are used to driving your car without extra weight attached, so when you pull a trailer there are new things you need to know. As a driver, here are the safety tips you need to know when it comes to driving with a trailer attached to your vehicle.
Driving with a Trailer
To be able to pull a trailer behind, you need to be a skilled driver in and out of the vehicle. To even hitch and unhitch a trailer from a tow vehicle requires new skills and a number of steps. If you forget even just one step of the process, you could compromise safety. To drive safely with a trailer, Consumer Reports lists the steps that you should follow:
- First and foremost, check your trailer. While it’s equally as important to make sure you check the tires on your towing car, checking the trailer tires is often overlooked. Inspect the trailer tires for signs of rot or cracking, especially if the trailer has been stored outside and gone unused for a long period of time. Don’t forget to make sure the wheel lug nuts on the trailer and tow vehicle are tightened to the specified torque. Also check your trailer’s brakes and lights during your inspection.
- Make sure your tow vehicle’s maintenance is up to date. When you pull a trailer, you are adding additional stress on your everyday vehicle. Before hitting the road, make sure you check your oil, brakes, engine coolant, transmission fluid, and more before you decide to pull a trailer.
- Check the hitch ball to the trailer. The ball on your tow hitch should be the same size as the coupler on your trailer. Different size hitch balls are the number one cause of trailer accidents.
- Have a spare. You don’t want to get stranded on the side of the road because of a flat trailer tire. You’ll also need to make sure that you have a lug nut wrench that is specific to your trailer’s wheels, as well as a jack that will work properly with your trailer in case you need to change a flat.
- Use trailer safety chains. Every trailer should have safety chains that hook up to the hitch. If anything were to happen and the trailer gets disconnected from your truck, the crossed chains will form a cradle for the tongue of the trailer to fall down onto instead of digging into the pavement.
- Choose the right hitch and mirrors. Some cars come with factory-installed tow hitches, but for those who don’t, find the right hitch is important. You should also consider getting tow mirrors so you can have proper visibility when backing up.
- Get a larger fuel tank. Some full-sized pickups can be ordered with a larger-than-standard fuel tank – a good idea if you plan on doing a lot of towing.
- Use wheel clocks. When unhooking the trailer from the tow vehicle, place wheel chocks in front of and behind the trailer’s tires to ensure the trailer doesn’t roll away when it is released from the tow vehicle.
Safety Tips While Driving with a Trailer
Now that you know how to get ready to drive with a trailer, here are safety tips to keep in mind while you get ready to leave town with your trailer. You should plan to:
- Drive at slower speeds. It’s tempting to drive fast so you can get to where you’re going, however, when you have a heavy load, driving fast significantly increases your chances of getting into an accident. Drive slower so you have more time to respond in traffic.
- Know your route ahead of time. Towing a trailer adds a lot of length to your everyday vehicle, which makes it more difficult to maneuver tight turns or back up if you miss a turn. Plan your route ahead of time with these restrictions in mind so you don’t get stuck.
- Practice. You should practice driving with your trailer before you go long distances. Make sure you can back up, make turns, and change lanes in areas you know it will be easy to try before you hit the road.
Call Scott’s Auto
If you need anything inspected before you hit the road, stop by and see us at Scott’s Auto. With four convenient locations in Colorado, we’re here for you and the communities of: Fort Collins, Loveland, Montrose, and Grand Junction.