Towing 101: A Quick Guide For Safe Towing

Towing is serious business. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pulling a small, single-axle 5×10-foot open utility trailer, a 30-foot dual-axle travel trailer, or a 40-foot triple-axle gooseneck trailer, towing needs to be approached with a “safety first” mindset. Not only may your life depend on it, the health and safety of someone else might as well. While you may have great driving skills, how you configure and maintain your trailer could determine the end result when a situation out of your control arises.

Each towing situation is different and depends on the type, size, and overall weight of the trailer. For example, towing an open trailer offers better visibility than an enclosed trailer. Bumper towing creates challenges not inherent to fifth-wheel/gooseneck towing, due to the placement of the connection location on the tail of the tow rig whereas a fifth-wheel/gooseneck’s hitch weight is distributed more evenly on the tow rig due to its forward location.

Even though towing situations vary, there are basic rules and tips to make the towing experience safer and trouble-free. What follows are some trailering basics. Think of it as “Trailering 101.” It’s important to note that your local and state laws may determine how and what you tow. Furthermore, the overall weight of what you tow may require you to get a special endorsement on your driver’s license. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to contact your local and state government to find out exactly what’s required of you before you set out on the road.

Towing Testimonial
  • Tire PSI. Tire PSI. Tire PSI – underinflated trailer tires can cause just as many problems as an overinflated tire in terms of working outside its engineered specs. The underinflated tire ends up absorbing the work the suspension was intended to do.
  • Trailer Capacity – We have all hauled more than the trailer is certified for. Knowing what your equipment weighs and the trailer’s ability to carry it (don’t forget about the trailer’s own weight) is critical. You can utilize any many major certified truck scales to see the weight you’re hauling.
  • Trailer Condition/Maintenance – With age, use, and wear, comes trailer maintenance.
  • Minimally, inspect the tires, grease the axles, check the lug nuts, and the condition of the deck before hauling anything.

Assuming your trailer is up to snuff with tire inflation, your maintenance is good, it’s time to load up. We’ve all seen the folks who think everything needs to be loaded to the nose (U-haul style). Personally, I will start loading the equipment on the trailer, and once the load is forward of the tail of the trailer, watch the rear of the tow vehicle for the first sign of movement.

Once the tow vehicle starts to squat, I will move the load back roughly 6 inches and strap it down. (assuming I have room behind to not hang over the back of the trailer.) The end goal is to let the trailer carry as much of the load without leaving the tow vehicle nose high and light on steering.

Strapping down the equipment is unique to the setup itself. I have used crossing straps and strapping parallel to the trailer, both of which have got me to my destination safely, but a quick check at fuel stops of straps is a good habit to get into.

Finally, the biggest error I see is traveling speeds with heavy loads. The tires on the tow vehicle may be capable of speeds beyond what the trailer is capable of, but for safety’s sake, slow it down. Speed and outside temperature also come into play. If you’re hauling, and it’s 105 degrees outside, what do you think the road temperature is? A few miles per hour speed reduction not only helps mileage, but overall tire temperature will not rise as harshly. It could very well be the difference between changing a tire at a Pilot fueling station or getting to your destination a few minutes later than the GPS determined while comfortably sitting in the A/C.

 

 

 

About the author

Eddie Maloney

A resident of Las Vegas, Eddie has been involved in drag racing most of his life. Currently an NHRA tech and photographer, he has served 17 years in the military.
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