Some Advice When Pulling A Trailer
I recently saw this clip online and thought it worth sharing. While it's generally our advice to leave hauling items to the professionals, sometimes it makes sense to do the job yourself. So, should you find yourself needing to pull a trailer behind your vehicle, pay attention to some of the basics of trailering and you'll be that much safer while on the roads. Pre-trip Checks:
- Make sure the trailer is safely connected to the hitch. For a regular ball hitch, the tongue on the trailer should be properly attached to the vehicle hitch, with the locking mechanism snapped and lock pin in place. If the hitch isn't secure, it could off and go through someone's windshield. A trailer connection to a vehicle should also have two chains, criss-crossing in an X shape, between the vehicle and the trailer.
- Make sure brake lights and signals are working properly
- Before you hit the highway, though, make sure you're familiar with driving your vehicle-trailer combination. A good way to get used to maneuvering, including some practice backups, is to drive in an open parking lot, or at least a familiar area. Backing up can be especially difficult; try turning in the opposite direction you want to go. So if you want the trailer to go right, turn the wheel left.
- The most difficult part of trailer driving for many motorists is making turns. While it does not seem like there might be a need for it, drivers pulling trailers must overshoot their turns, taking them wide enough so that the trailer's path does not put it off the road or in contact with telephone poles or other street-side obstacles. Cutting a corner with a trailer will put the trailer, as well as pedestrians, other drivers, and yourself, in danger of collision.
- Be aware of the size of your trailer?what is the clearance? Could you drive it through a 12-foot-high tunnel? Whatever's on the trailer must be securely fastened down, to prevent debris and other safety hazards.
- If you start a corner too tight and get into trouble, stay calm and stop. Make sure the roadway behind you is clear, back up a little bit, and take the turn again wider. It will probably be the last time you cut a corner with a trailer!
- Make sure you are within your vehicle's towing capacity. Some large trailers have a braking mechanism that helps slow the trailer along with the vehicle.
- The other big thing to avoid when pulling a trailer is what is called "jackknifing." Named for the position of the vehicle and trailer, this is most common when backing up with a trailer. It is basically a situation where the angle between the vehicle and the trailer it is pulling is less than 90 degrees, or beyond an L shape to a V shape.
- Avoid this by never letting the trailer position get beyond the L shape. When reversing with a trailer, just take it slow and get a feel for the trailer. Keep your movement of the steering wheel to a minimum, and remember, you can pull forward to straighten out, so if you are struggling, just start over. Jackknifing will damage the hitch and trailer, so be aware of it at all time.
Posted by Jim Henderson