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September 18, 2018

Top 7 Safety Considerations for Trailer Towing

Towing a trailer has inherent risks to both property and personnel. The risks can be minimized by making sure that your trailer is in good working condition and operated in a safe manner. Of course, the most significant aspect to trailer safety is the skillful operation of the tow vehicle. That can come with training and with experience. Assuming the vehicle is being operated by a competent driver, here are a few more safety considerations:


1. Towing Capacity – GVWR and GCWR

The acronyms GVWR and GCWR are in regard to how much your vehicle can safely haul and tow in a safe manner, not about the maximum possible amount your vehicle can move.
The driver’s door sticker should include your GVWR and your owner’s manual should include both GVWR and GCWR. Make sure when pulling a trailer that the loaded weight of the vehicle is less than the GVWR and the combined weight of vehicle plus loaded trailer is less than the GCWR.
Keep an eye on this website for a future article explaining GVWR and GCWR.


2. Hitch Coupling and Safety Chains

Second to driver error, the next most common cause of trailer related accidents is incorrect hitch couplings. The connection between your vehicle and trailer needs to be secure, including secondary safety chains, and allow the type of pivot movements required when driving. 

If a trailer hitch is not properly secured to the hitch ball, such as if the locking lever on the coupler is not locked down and pinned in place, the coupler can bounce off the hitch ball on an uneven surface; placing the trailer, contents, vehicle, plus occupants at risk.
A proper trailer to vehicle connection will include the coupler and locking lever firmly in place plus the coupler safety pin, the trailer light wiring connection, safety chains, and, if equipped, the emergency breakaway cable.  
We will be posting a guide to the various hitch classes and capacities in the near future.


3. Tires & Wheels

Check to ensure that your trailer tires are inflated to the proper pressure and that your tires are in good shape. This step is important regardless of the length of your trip as a trailer tire failure is equally dangerous around the block or half way across the continent. Also, check that your spare tire is properly inflated and in good condition. An unusable spare, especially on a weekend road trip, can result in losing hours or days off your trip and causes much strain and frustration.


4. Trailer Lights

Your trailer lights are the early warning system for all drivers behind you. Most trailers obscure the tow vehicle tail lights so drivers following you rely on your trailer lights to know when you are braking, turning, or changing lanes. Follow the quick light test procedures in our article on trailer lights to test your tow vehicle with your trailer each time you hitch up.


5. Trailer Loading

Common safety issues with trailer loading fall into one of three categories.
1. Overloading a trailer beyond its rated capacity. This can lead to wheel or axle damage and potential failure while in transit.
2. Uneven loading or uneven weight distribution. The weight of the trailer load should be balanced both front to back and side to side and centered over the trailers axles or the load may exceed the rated capacity on an individual trailer component.
3. Unsecured loads which can be a hazard to vehicles driving behind if the load shifts and falls off the trailer.


6. Vehicle Brakes and Trailer Brakes

Your vehicle owner’s manual will contain trailering information such as the weight at which trailers should be equipped with their own braking system. Trailer brakes are used when the safe vehicle braking capacity will be exceed by the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer. Trailer braking systems may be mechanically actuated by the tow vehicle slowing and placing backward pressure on the hitch which then causes the trailer brakes to be applied. Electronic braking systems relay a signal from the tow vehicle when the brakes are applied, and this activates the trailer brakes.


7. Rear View Mirrors

Being able to see past the outer edges of your trailer is a legal requirement throughout North America. This line of sight to the road behind you is essential to ensure you are safely able to change lanes and for any reversing operations of the vehicle and trailer. Many vehicles designed for towing have mirrors which can be extended outward to provide the proper angle of viewing. Aftermarket components are also available to add onto the existing mirror housing or to clamp onto the hood and fender of the tow vehicle. For many trailers, the height of the trailer or the cargo will render the rear-view mirror in the cab of the vehicle unusable so proper vision from side view mirrors is required.

Categories: Trailer Tip

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