Towing Safety Tips For Transporting Your Emergency Preparedness Trailer

Wednesday July 28, 2021

Taking a trailer on the road, whether it's just down the street or cross-county, necessitates a number of precautions to protect your vehicle, trailer, cargo and most importantly, yourself and others who are with and around you.  It can be intimidating for many drivers, especially those who are new to towing a trailer.

To assist, we've compiled a list of important trailer towing safety advice that are proven to be helpful when towing your trailer and cargo.  These suggestions, when combined with the safety instructions for your specific car and trailer, will ensure a smooth ride every time you head out on the road.

Safety Tips for Trailer Towing

1. Be aware of your vehicle’s towing capacity

To avoid damage to your car and trailer, as well as safe braking and road stability, keep your towing weight under capacity.  The towing capacity of your tow vehicle can be found in the owner's manual.  It will include instructions and trailer towing safety recommendations for your vehicle make and model.  Contact the vehicle manufacturer or dealer if you can't find the manual.  Owner's manuals for several models are also available online.

Compare your towing capacity to the combined weight of your trailer, goods, and passengers once you've determined your towing capability.  The manual will once again provide specific instructions for your vehicle.

2. Cross the safety chains and secure the coupler

Do this so you'll make sure your trailer stays connected to your car throughout the trip.  Even if you're simply driving around the corner, don't skip this step.

To begin, make sure the coupler is securely latched and locked, so your trailer is properly coupled to your tow vehicle. Then, for a bumper pull or on either side of a gooseneck, connect the safety chains that dangle under the coupler.  In the event that the trailer detaches from the coupler, these safety chains are your emergency backup.

Cross the safety chains under the coupler with a bumper pull so they can grab the tongue should it slip out.  If you don't do this, it would fall to the ground and crash.

3. Check your trailer electrics and brakes

When you connect a trailer to your tow vehicle, it shares responsibility for signaling and braking. Before you leave, double-check that your trailer's turn signals, emergency lights, and brake lights are all working properly.

Before driving a trailer with electronic brakes, make sure the batteries are fully charged. You should also have a brake controller.  The controller's instructions in the owner's manual will tell you how to check that it's adjusted and working properly.  Finally, once you've finished reading these trailer towing safety recommendations and are ready to get on the road, take your trailer for a brief test drive to double-check brake function.

4. Make necessary adjustments to your mirrors

Don't wait until you start your vehicle to adjust mirrors.  Instead, once you've connected your trailer, get in the driver's seat and take your time adjusting the mirrors. You'll quickly realize that your trailer expands your blind zones dramatically.  Mirror extenders may be necessary for increased visibility depending on the size of your tow vehicle and trailer.

5. Tires should be inflated to their maximum PSI

Preventing blowouts requires filling your tires to the maximum PSI.  This should be done before to your trip.  It's best to  have the tires rested and cool (not directly off the road) to fill them properly.  The temperature surrounding you has no bearing on the maximum PSI.

6. Make sure your trailer's weight is distributed evenly

Place the heaviest cargo over the axles when loading your trailer.  Weight will not be distributed equally if they are placed too far to the front or back. This will make your tow vehicle work harder, maybe causing damage to the car or the trailer.

A weight distribution hitch can be used with bumper pull trailers (cargo or utility) to distribute weight from the towing vehicle's bumper to the axles of the truck and trailer.  They not only improve control when driving, but they also add security if you're towing a load that's close to capacity.

7. Drive slower than you normally do

For anyone who has never pulled a trailer before, when you hitch up a trailer, its weight pushes against your tow vehicle, increasing your stopping distance dramatically.   You should also keep in mind that merging into the highway safely will take some extra time and space.  Drive slower than you are accustomed to driving.  Even experienced drivers should always be cognizant about the importance of slowing it down a little.  

Additional Safety Tips Include...

• Lug nuts should be checked for the correct torque
• Make sure hitch pin is securely fastened
• Use a weight distribution hitch stabilizer for heavily loaded trailers
• Make sure the “trailer break-away lanyard” is connected to the tow vehicle
• Have the trailer tongue jack and support jacks up all the way so they won't come down while traveling
• Be certain the load inside the trailer is secure
• Always have a set of wheel chocks