Home » Autos and Cars

Towing Precautions That Can Save Lives

Mar 15, 2008
If you've perused the Internet very often like I have, you may have come upon some ridiculous pictures of some "redneck" towing rig where the truck's back wheels are weighed down so much the wheels sag, and are covered partially by the wheel wells, while the front tires look as if they are about to come off the ground.

It's got disaster written all over it, and I only wonder if it really is for real or the photographer just did it for kicks. It's an extreme example of a poor hitch job, but even some small precautions overlooked can lead to serious problems when latching big weight to an auto.

The Right Tow Vehicle for the Job

It's not really how big the vehicle is, it's about brakes and suspension. Will you be able to stop such a load if you need to on the road? That is the biggest question that should be asked when the potential inertia of the load is added. Make sure the brakes are in good shape.

The suspension also affects the brakes. Think of a sagging back end that takes traction away from your front tires (see the extreme redneck example written above). Since most of the braking power comes from the front tires, having such a small bite on the road will draw much of the power from the brake response. And when the vehicle brakes, the hitch will also want to "dive," which will bring the back end even further down, taking more front brake power, which leads back to suspension quality again.

Hitches for Proper Linkage

It's good to leave the guesswork to the hitch technician when determining what the proper tongue weight should be. Don't confuse the hitch weight with what the listed "ball" weight if you've purchased a rapid hitch or something to that effect. The hitch will typically need to be professionally welded to your vehicle. It's best not to just go with the nuts and bolts that come with it.

Where you place the hitch is also important. The hitch and the trailer have to be level. Sometimes the tongue and trailer don't match so it's important to go with an adjustable hitch type, like an adjustable ball hitch that can be moved vertically. Something like an adjustable ball hitch would be a choice option since there is some change in alignment when weight is loaded on.

Other precautions during loading one should look into are:

- Making sure that the trailer lights are properly wired and tires are inflated
- The bearings on the trailer wheels are packed and greased
- The goods are centered well over the trailer axle and secured by a proper rope or cargo buckle system
- The trailer is weighed as to prevent overloading and to find that only 10 to 15 percent of that weight is on the hitch

With some of those precautions in mind, also take a look at your state government's website or any traveling site for more info.
About the Author
Trucks, Trailers & Outdoors (http://www.truckstrailersandoutdoors.com) offers trailer and hitching products online. They have products such as the Rapid Hitch that can be viewed in action from their multimedia section. The author, Art Gib, is a freelance writer.
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