Archive for the ‘safe towing’ Tag

The 6 Worst Towing Mistakes

Summer is in full swing and that means roads full of vacationers towing their homes-away-from-home behind them. If you plan to be one of them, make sure to avoid these common towing mistakes — you’ll enjoy your trip much more and so will the people driving behind you.

1. Not knowing your ratings

Your tow vehicle (the vehicle doing the towing) can only carry and haul so much weight. Overloading your tow vehicle, trailer, or both can cause a whole host of problems like failing brakes, broken suspensions, overheated transmissions, or blown-out tires. None of these things make for happy campers, and some can be very dangerous.

Remember to look up your vehicle’s tow ratings before you attempt to tow anything and make sure your hitch system matches your vehicle’s towing specs. All of the following numbers need to be checked and complied with. Your tow vehicle’s specs are generally listed in your owner’s manual and on the sill of your driver’s-side door. Your trailer’s unloaded weight (along with its weight ratings) can be found on its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate.

Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR): the weight limit for your vehicle (including the vehicle itself plus passengers, cargo, and accessories).

Gross combination weight rating (GCWR): the maximum weight of the tow vehicle plus the loaded trailer, equipment, passengers, fuel, and anything else you plan to haul or carry.

Gross axle weight rating (GAWR): the amount of weight a single axle can safely bear. It’s important to know this value for both your tow vehicle and your trailer.

Towing capacity: the amount of weight your vehicle can pull.

Tongue weight: the amount of the trailer’s weight that is borne by the trailer hitch. Ideally, this should be about 10 percent of the total trailer weight. Too much tongue weight will make your vehicle’s steering less responsive. Too little and the trailer might sway. Tongue weight can be measured using a specialized scale (available at trailer supply shops).

If you’re having trouble estimating the combined weight of your trailer plus cargo, take the loaded trailer to a vehicle scale at a nearby weigh station or truck stop.

2. Not checking the local regulations

A ticket is nobody’s idea of a great vacation souvenir, so remember that towing laws and restrictions vary from state to state. While most states require taillights on your trailer and safety chains that connect the trailer to the tow vehicle, some states also require special braking equipment or additional side and rearview mirrors.

States also differ on their maximum towing speeds, the maximum trailer width, and the number of vehicles you’re allowed to tow. So be sure to know the laws, not just for your home state, but for any state you might pass through.

3. Forgetting to put on the brakes (and the wires)

The added weight of the trailer gives your vehicle extra momentum, which means it takes longer to reduce your speed. For this reason, many states require trailers over a certain weight (usually 1,500 lb.) to be equipped with a separate braking system. Trailer brakes not only improve control, but also will stop the trailer if it gets separated from the tow vehicle. The 2 types of trailer brakes are electronic (which are attached to a controller in the tow vehicle) and surge (independent hydraulic brakes that are activated by momentum). Not all jurisdictions allow surge brakes, so check your local laws.

Because cars behind you can’t see the lights on your tow vehicle, federal law requires trailers to be equipped with brake lights, taillights, turn signals, and reflectors. These are powered by a connector that hooks up to your vehicle’s electrical system. Make sure your wires are taut enough not to drag on the road, but loose enough not to disconnect during turns.

4. Loading your cargo improperly

If your trailer is off-balance, it will be difficult to control. Make sure cargo is distributed evenly, with about 60 percent of the total weight in front of the axle (but not too far forward). Secure cargo items to prevent them from shifting and keep the overall center of gravity low.

5. Forgetting you’re towing a trailer

No matter how strong or nimble your tow vehicle is, it’ll be less responsive once it has a trailer behind it. Since you won’t be able to accelerate, turn, or brake as fast, you’ll want to look further up the road and give yourself extra time and space to change lanes or slow down. It’s also a good idea to do some short practice drives before heading out on your big trip.

6. Not checking tire pressure

If you haven’t taken your trailer out for a while, there’s a good chance the tires need inflating. Driving a fully loaded trailer with underinflated tires is very dangerous — underinflated tires produce more friction, which can lead to blow-outs and possible rollovers. Be sure to check the tire pressure on both your tow vehicle and your trailer before you go (and while you’re at it, check the tires themselves for signs of wear).

Check your coverage capacity

One safety precaution you should always take is having adequate insurance. If your tow vehicle is insured, you can get basic liability coverage for your trailer under your auto policy. But travel trailer insurance offers much broader coverage, including total loss recovery, personal effects replacement, funds for lodging if your trailer is damaged, and even a full-timers package (if you live in your trailer year-round).

Read more at: http://blog.esurance.com/the-6-worst-towing-mistakes/#.VZ6jS2Dpjdm

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What to Know Before you Tow!

It’s that time of year again! More trailers are on the road during the summer months than any other time of the year so making sure that your trailer is properly prepared can mean the difference between life and death for the family in the minivan behind you.

For that and so many other reasons, it’s important to take towing seriously. There are some simple rules to remember when hooking up so that your trip doesn’t end up a disaster, many of which apply from the largest car carriers down to the smallest scrap haulers.
It All Starts With Your Vehicle

First, you need a properly equipped vehicle. Just about any car on the road can be fitted with a hitch and it is important to consult the owner’s manual of your particular vehicle to find out how much it is rated to tow. Ideally, you shouldn’t be pulling more than 75 percent of the listed maximum for a safe feeling load. Hitting or exceeding the maximum weight not only puts extra strain on your vehicle, but it also makes driving more dangerous. That is why pickup trucks and SUVs are commonly used for hauling, because their heavy curb weights allow heavier loads to be controlled more easily. Powerful engines and body-on-frame construction also qualify pickups and SUVs over cars, but they aren’t essential for all hauling jobs.

There are also different types of hitch receivers ranging from class I to class V, with each designation representing how much a hitch can tow, how that particular hitch is set up and what type of specific hardware must be used. Class IV hitches are the most common and can be found on most new half-ton pickup trucks like the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 and Ram 1500.

SAE says that a Class IV can tow up to 12,000 pounds gross-trailer weight and 1,000 pounds of tongue weight. It must use a two-inch hitch receiver opening, which has to use a five-eighths inch pin to secure the ball mount in place. The ball itself must be a minimum of 1.25-inch diameter.

Starting with the proper hardware for your hitch is essential, and getting the right size hitch ball is a big part of that. Different trailers call for hitch balls ranging from one and seven-eighths of an inch up to 2.5 inches. Making sure the ball is the right size for the receiver will ensure a safe connection between your vehicle and the trailer, but that’s only the beginning.
Even Weight is Essential

Weight distribution is one of the most important factors to consider. As you increase weight on the tongue of the trailer, the rear end of the vehicle will sink, causing the front end to lift. That puts more strain on the rear suspension and reduces contact between the front tires and the road. In turn, that means less stopping power and reduced steering ability. Tongue weight – the actual amount of downward force being put on the rear end of the tow vehicle – should be between 15 and 20 percent of the overall trailer weight, though that can be tough to measure accurately. The easy way to check for proper weight distribution is to eyeball your rig and make sure that both the vehicle and trailer are sitting flat.

There’s more than one way to combat poor weight distribution. Ideally, you want about 60 percent of the weight on the trailer to be on top of or in front of the axle, distributed evenly from side to side. If you are hauling an ATV or a snowmobile, this is easily achieved by simply moving the machine until the weight is centered. With something like a travel trailer or a load of gravel, where you can’t simply shift the weight around, there are still ways to achieve proper weight distribution.

Hitch height is an important part of this. Measure from the ground to the top of the hitch ball on both your vehicle and trailer to make sure your tow vehicle isn’t too tall, or too short for your trailer. If the two numbers are different, the difference can be addressed with a drop hitch. Some drop hitches are actually adjustable, which is an ideal setup if you plan to pull more than one trailer with the same vehicle. These adjustable setups will usually also accommodate a trailer this is taller than your tow vehicle as well, although that isn’t as common.

If your hitch height is perfect but you near the vehicle’s maximum tow rating, odds are the rear end of your vehicle will still be sagging, the solution for which is a weight-distributing hitch. This type of hitch will spread the weight on the tongue out onto the trailer axle and to the front wheels of your tow vehicle, helping to achieve a flat ride.
Slow Down

There are several rules to keep in mind while hooking up your trailer, but one reigns supreme: never rush. Taking the time to double check connections and tie downs can mean the difference between arriving safely and going to the hospital.

With that in mind, the next step to hooking up is backing your vehicle up to the trailer. You always need a spotter to guide you into position with your hitch ball sitting underneath the hitch ball housing. Once lined up, open the handle on the ball housing and drop it onto the ball using the tongue-mounted jack. Close the handle on the housing and your trailer is now hooked up. But you aren’t ready to hit the highway yet.

Always use safety chains to ensure that your trailer will remain attached even if the ball somehow becomes disconnected. The key thing to remember with these chains is to cross them. The left-mounted chain on the trailer goes to the right side hookup and vice-versa. That way, if the tongue of the trailer falls off, the chains will act as a cradle and keep it from dragging on the road.

Once the chains are on and the tongue is hitched, it’s time to connect the lights. Most modern pickups and SUVs are fitted with receivers for both four-pin and seven-pin connectors. Adapters are available to make sure you can hook up the lights if your vehicle isn’t fitted with the right connection.

Smaller trailers generally use the four-pin setup, while larger trailers tend to use seven-pin. The difference is that larger trailers usually have their own brakes.

As a side note, make sure the connector is off the ground and covered to prevent it from rusting when the trailer isn’t in use. If your connection isn’t working, try spritzing it with WD-40. Sometimes that’s enough to solve the issue.
Always Double Check

So now your trailer is properly balanced, the safety chains are on and the lights are connected. That means it’s time for a circle check.

Commercial vehicle operators are required to walk around their entire truck before driving on the highway and it’s a habit that is important for personal vehicle owners as well.

Start by double-checking all of the connections at the hitch. Then walk around the trailer looking for any problems that may arise. Specific things to watch for are tire pressure , anything loose on the trailer or debris lodged in or around the axle. Make sure to check that all of the lights functions are working properly as well. Finally, make sure that whatever it is that you are hauling is secured properly to the trailer.

And that’s it! You’re ready to haul. Whether you’re taking toys out for a weekend adventure or hauling a load of scrap to the dump, towing can be hugely helpful and even fun as long as you remember to take it seriously.

As read on: http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2014/06/know-tow.html?utm_campaign=twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitter