NEVER EXCEED THE GVWR (GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING) OF YOUR TRAILER AND REMEMBER THIS INCLUDES THE COMBINED LOAD OF THE TRAILER AND THE LOAD IT IS CARRYING.
Proper trailer loading is your first-line defense against dangerous instability and sway. Heavy items should be placed on the floor in front of the axle. The load should be balanced side-to-side and secured to prevent shifting. Tongue weight should be about 10-15 percent of gross trailers. Too low a percentage of tongue weight (a netural tongue) can cause trailer sway which can be very dangerous. Load the trailer heavier in front BUT DO NOT EXCEED THE RECOMMENDED MAXIMUM TONGUE WEIGHT(SEE BELOW).
Passengers in Trailers
Trailers should NEVER be occupied while being towed, under any circumstances.
Trailer Lights, Turn Signals and Break Switch Connections
Make these safety-critical connections EVERY TIME YOU TOW, no matter how short the trip. All states require that your trailer lights be operational during towing.
Cross safety chains under the trailer tongue and attach to the hitch or towing vehicle with just enough slack to permit full turning. Don't let them drag on the road. Secure the connections so they can't bounce loose. CONNECT THEM EVERY TIME YOU TOW.
Check the recommendations of your towing vehicle and the tire manufacturer for proper inflation when towing.
Good habits for normal driving need extra emphasis when towing. The additional weight affects acceleration and braking and extra time should be allowed for passing, stopping and changing lanes. Severe bumps and rough roads can damage your towing vehicle, hitch or trailer, and should be negotiated at a slow, steady speed. IF ANY PART OF YOUR TOWING SYSTEM "BOTTOMS OUT" OR IF YOU SUSPECT DAMAGE MAY HAVE OCCURRED IN ANY OTHER WAY. PULL OVER AND MAKE A THOROUGH INSPECTION. CORRECT ANY PROBLEMS BEFORE RESUMING TRAVEL.
Many trailers have an information label which states the maximum allowable gross trailer weight and other load information.
Observe the limitations set by the manufacture, remembering that you must use a scale to determine what the trailer actually weighs.
Trailer brakes are an important consideration, and all but the smallest trailers need them. Electric brakes or hydraulic surge brakes are most commonly used. Some electric brakes can be adjusted or applied independently from inside the towing vehicle. Hydraulic surge brake units utilize the push of the trailer against the breaking towing vehicle to actuate the trailer brakes.
Note: Some surge brakes do not work well with weight-distributing hitches because the spring bars restrict movement in the surge brake unit. If you are considering use of a weight-distributing hitch with a surge brake trailer, check with the brake manufacturer to determine if and how this can be done. Also, some sway control devices must be specially adapted to avoid interference with surge brake operation, again check with the brake manufacturer for compatability questions.
Gross Trailer Weight (GVW)
is the weight of the trailer. Measure GROSS TRAILER WEIGHT by putting the empty trailer on a vehicle scale.
Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum weight the trailer can carry, this is a combined weight than includes the weight of the trailer when it is empty and the load the trailer is or can carry. Never exceed the GVWR of the trailer.
is the downward force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler with weight-distributing devices, if any, deactivated. Measure tongue weight with the trailer fully loaded and on a level surface and with the coupler at its normal towing height. Measure directly with a commercial tongue scale or a bathroom scale for ratings under 300 pounds can be used (See side diagram). Always check your tow vehicle manufacturer and hitch manufacturer for proper tongue weight recommendations.
supports trailer tongue weight just as though it were luggage located at the ball or other connecting point. They are the most popular type of hitches and are commonly used to tow small and medium sized trailers. They are usually custom built for specific models of towing vehicles and are rated by gross trailer weight and tongue weight capacities.
Both electric and surge brakes are usually equipped with a breakaway device which will apply the brakes if the trailer becomes disconnected from the towing vehicle.
Get to know your trailer inside and out. Study the information provided by the manufacturer and take a few "practice runs" before starting out on a vacation trip.
Other Useful Equipment
AIR SPRINGS, AIR SHOCK, or OVERLOAD SPRINGS for your towing vehicle's tear suspension are especially useful for heavier weight-carrying hitch application, since the load on the rear axle is about 50 percent greater than the tongue weight. A TRANSMISSION OIL COOLER may be necessary for heavy towing. TOWING MIRRORS on both sides are required by law.
Your Towing Vehicle
Your towing vehicle's capability to handle gross trailer weight and tongue weight must be compatible with your trailer. Most manufacturers discuss these capabilities in owner's manuals and towing brochures, along with other useful information on towing. Some would-be trailerists have learned only too late their towing vehicles were not up to the job. REVIEW THE TOWING VEHICLE MANUFACTURER'S LOAD RATINGS BEFORE TOWING.
There are two basic types of trailer hitches, weight-carrying and weight-distributing (sometimes called equalizing).
Weight Distributing (Equalizing) Hitches
(shown in yellow) apply leverage between the towing vehicle and trailer and thus distribute tongue weight to all the towing vehicle and trailer wheels. This allows greater tongue weight to be carried while the towing vehicle and trailer tend to remain more level. Weight-distributing hitches have commonly been used to low medium to large travel trailers and recently have found use in towing smaller trailers with downsized cars and trucks.
The coupler is the part of the trailer that attaches to the hitch ball. Its socket must match the ball size, and should be smooth, clean and lightly lubricated. Couplers with screw-type retaining mechanisms should be tightened just enough to eliminate play and not over-lightened.
Utility Ball Mount
Inserts into a receiver and comes in many different applications.
Hitch balls must match or exceed the socket size of the trailer coupler. The ball attachment must be compatible with hole size and thickness of the mounting area on the hitch and a lock washer or equivalent locking device must always be used.
An adjustable trailer brake control mounted in the towing vehicle that automatically synchronized the application of brakes on the tow vehicles and trailer to insure smoother safer stops.
An automatic transmission cooler is basically a supplemental radiator that helps cool your vehicle's transmission fluid and help prevent costly repairs caused by increased heating due to trailer towing.
Towing vehicles must be fitted with proper wiring connected to the trailer to operate trailer safety lights at all times (this is a law in all 50 states). A heavy duty flasher should be installed in your vehicle to compensate for increased electrical demands from trailer lights.