Safety Tips for Towing a Trailer with Your Vehicle

Whether you want to haul a boat to the lake or move your possessions to a new house, sometimes pulling a trailer is necessary. Ensure you know how to get yourself and your cargo to the destination without incident.

Safe towing requires knowing your vehicle’s towing capacity, what your loaded trailer will weigh, what to do before you leave, and how to drive safely.

What to Know About Towing

Your vehicle should have a tow package equipped with electric brakes, lights, and the suspension necessary to tow the trailer safely.

Find out your vehicle weight rating to determine how big of a trailer your vehicle can tow safely. You also want to determine the maximum cargo weight your trailer can handle. Hauling a heavier load can break your tow vehicle’s axle. The ability of tow vehicles to stop loaded trailers is more important than their ability to pull the trailer.

For many trailers, you can find information about weight rating on a plate near the hitch. If it’s an open trailer, you should secure your cargo with a tarp or tie-down straps.

Preparing the Trailer and Cargo

When you hook up the trailer, double-check that the trailer hitch and ball mount are in good condition and that any locking pins are securely attached. Also, securely fasten the safety chains.

If the trailer has breakaway brakes that engage in the event of an accident, make sure you charge the battery. Inspect all tires for tread defects, bubbles, or embedded objects in the tire walls. Check tire pressure, including the spare tire. Ensure each running light, taillight, turn signal, and brake light works.

When loading your cargo, try to balance the weight from side to side, Keep the heaviest cargo over the axles, and secure the cargo to prevent shifting. Following these tips reduces the likelihood of trailer sway and takes the pressure off your hitch, which improves your steering.

Close and latch all doors and windows securely. Include a jack and the proper tools to change a tire if needed. If a tire shop puts your tires on, this may include a cordless impact wrench or a long bar for leverage.

Driving Tips for Safe Towing

When you’re towing a trailer, keep in mind that your total vehicle weight is much higher than usual, so it takes longer to stop. Maintain at least three lengths of the tow vehicle and trailer between you and the car in front of you. Drive at a safe speed for the road conditions. Don’t exceed the speed limit.

Other drivers often see trailers as an impediment and will pull out in front of you. If you see a car approaching an intersection, be prepared to slow down. They will also invade the space you leave between yourself and the vehicles in front of you. When towing a trailer, you need to be aware of other drivers and be able to respond quickly.

When turning a corner to the right, you need more room than usual to prevent your trailer from running over the curb. Backing up can be difficult due to visibility, so ask someone to guide you.

High winds, improper loading or tow vehicle size, and the gusts coming off large vehicles traveling in the opposite direction can cause your trailer to sway. In severe cases, the sway can cause you to crash. A pickup truck with dual rear tires will prevent most trailer sway.

If your trailer starts to sway, take your foot off the accelerator, and keep the steering wheel straight. If needed, use the trailer brake to slow the trailer, but don’t step on the brakes. If you slow down the tow vehicle too quickly, you can cause the trailer to jackknife.

If you’re hauling live animals, don’t accelerate or brake too quickly, and slow down for turns and curves. Rapid changes in speed or direction can cause the animals to lose their balance and fall, resulting in injuries.

Hire a Lawyer if You’ve Been Injured in a Towing Accident

If you’ve been a victim of an accident involving improper towing practices, contact the St. Louis car accident attorneys at Cofman Townsley for a free consultation. We handle the legal paperwork, negotiations with the insurance company, and the stress of filing a claim to allow you to focus on your recovery.