If your vehicle has a powerful engine, you can put it to good use by towing all sorts of ancillary items, such as a boat, tractor, or a trailer full of your possessions. Diesel engines have the wherewithal to tackle just about any job that comes your way, but you can use just about any type of vehicle to tow lighter loads. Regardless of what you’re looking to tow, use these safety tips to protect yourself and your car on the road.
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Know Your Limits
Every vehicle comes with a specific towing capacity, which is the maximum amount of weight the vehicle can tow. It’s determined by several factors, including the make and model of the vehicle, its overall weight, and the engine. Going over the towing capacity can result in vehicle damage and accidents on the road. You’ll need to calculate the total weight of your payload to make sure it’s under the towing capacity. Check the towing capacity for your vehicle. This information can be found in your user manual or on the manufacturer’s website.
Compare this information with the gross trailer weight (GTW), which includes the weight of the trailer and its contents. Whether you’re renting a trailer or using your own, check the manual to find out much the trailer weighs when empty. The trailer may come with its own weight limitations as well. You can weigh your cargo before putting into the trailer and then add up the total at the end, or you can put the full trailer on a trailer scale to find out the exact GTW. If the GTW is below the towing capacity, the trailer is safe to tow.
Follow the Instructions
Both the vehicle and trailer should come with specific instructions for towing. Consult the manufacturer for additional information when using this equipment. The hitch ball will need to match the coupler on the trailer. Make sure the ball is the same size as the coupler, or the two could detach during your trip. Most hitch balls come as follows: 1.875 inches, 2 inches, or 2.3125 inches.
The trailer should also come with safety chains as an added layer of security. The chains should attach to the hitch in case they get separated on the road. You should always cross the chains instead of running them straight. There should be enough slack to safely turn with the trailer without letting it drag against the pavement.
Adjust Your Driving
You’ll need to adjust your driving habits when the trailer is attached. You should practice driving with the trailer to make sure you feel comfortable behind the wheel. Go slow and take your time when turning and stopping, depending on the size or weight of the trailer. It many cases, the trailer may weight more than your vehicle, which will change the way the vehicle handles. Consider the height of your trailer as well. Make sure you have enough clearance to move under bridges and underpasses.
Give yourself more room to turn. The wheels on the trailer will be closer to the inside of the turn than the wheels of your vehicle. The trailer could bump up over the curb, so give yourself plenty of room to maneuver and avoid tight spaces.
When traveling on the highway, stay in the right-most lane to stay close to the exits. Changing lanes can be a challenge when you have a large trailer attached to your vehicle. You can also pull off to the side of the road easily if you need to stop.
If your trailer comes with a vehicle brake control system, you can adjust the power of the electric brakes depending on the weight of your vehicle. Increase braking power when the trailer is full and decrease the power when it’s empty.
You want everyone on the road to see your trailer, especially when driving at night. Make sure the lights on the trailer are working properly before you depart. You’ll need to have someone look at the lights while you hit the brakes. The trailer lights should be connected to the brake lights on your vehicle, so both machines are in sync. The wire should have enough slack to handle turns, or the connection could come loose.
You also need to see more of your surroundings when towing a wide trailer. If the trailer takes up more room on the road than your vehicle, consider adding aftermarket tow mirrors to increase rear visibility, so you can turn and change lanes with ease.