Trailer Times > Towing Guidlines
At Pace American, we care about more than just selling you a trailer. We want your towing experience to be as pleasant and carefree as possible. With that in mind, here are some guidelines to follow when towing a trailer.
Hitching Up Your Trailer
Hitching up a trailer to your tow vehicle is usually a one-person job, but it is easier when someone helps you.
Here are a few basic steps:
- Back your tow vehicle as close as possible to the trailer. It is easier and safer to do this than to pick up and pull the trailer to your car or truck.
- Release the coupler locking device.
- Raise the front end of the trailer. Place the coupler directly over the hitch ball, then lower it until it is seated on the hitch ball, covering it completely.
- Check under the coupling to ensure the ball clamp is below the ball and not riding on top of it.
- Latch the coupler to the hitch ball. Make sure it is locked in place by lifting up the trailer tongue. If the coupler comes loose from the ball, unlatch it and go back to Step
- Insert a pin, bolt or lock through the coupler latch.
- Make sure your jack is fully raised.
- If you have a weight-distributing hitch with spring bars, follow the above procedures. Then attach the spring bar chain to the trailer and tighten it until your trailer and tow vehicle are in normal, level position.
- If your trailer has a brake breakaway cable or chain, attach the cable or chain to your tow vehicle, allowing enough slack for you to make tight turns.
- Attach the safety chains to your tow vehicle.
- Connect the trailer wiring harness to the lighting system of your tow vehicle and check its operation.
With a trailer in tow, you're operating a vehicle combination that is longer, heavier and sometimes wider and taller than you're used to. So you'll have to make some compensating adjustments in your normal driving practices. Here is some helpful advice in trailering tactics:
- Take a "Shakedown Cruise". At least one short trial run before your first trip will help familiarize you with your trailer's operating characteristics. It will also allow you to check the trailer's lights, brakes, hitch, etc. and let you know they are all working properly.
- Slow down. Moderate to slower driving speeds put less strain on your tow vehicle and trailer and make for safer traveling.
- Allow extra time and space between your rig and traffic. You will need both when passing and stopping, especially if your trailer is not equipped with brakes.
- Check rear view mirrors. Doing this frequently will let you know that your trailer is riding properly. We recommend outside rear view mirrors on both sides of your tow vehicle.
- Swing wider. You need to make wider swings (turns) at curves and corners because your trailer's wheels are generally closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels on your tow vehicle.
- Pass with extra care and caution. It takes more time and distance to get around slower moving vehicles and to get to the correct lane when you've got a trailer in tow.
- Watch the wind direction and speed. To avoid swaying, be prepared for sudden changes in air pressure and wind buffering when larger vehicles pass from either direction. Slow down a bit and keep a firm hold on your steering wheel. Aim straight down your lane.
- Conserve fuel. You'll go farther on a tank of gas at moderate speeds. Higher speeds increase wind resistance against the trailer and reduce fuel mileage.
- Avoid sudden stops and starts. This can cause skidding, sliding or jackknifing, even if your trailer has brakes. Avoid quick stops when turning. Smooth, gradual starts and stops will improve your gas mileage.
- Signal your intentions. Let surrounding vehicles know what your intended to so well in advance before your stop, turn, change lanes or pass.
- Shift to a lower gear. A lower gear will help ease the load on the transmission and engine when going over steep hills, sand, gravel or dirt roads. If your tow vehicle has an overdrive gear, shifting out of overdrive to a lower gear may improve your gas mileage.
- Always be courteous. Make it as easy as possible for faster moving vehicles to pass you. Keep to the right of the road and prepare to slow down if passing vehicles need extra time to return to their proper lane.
- Don't tailgate. Allow at least one car and trailer length between you and the vehicle ahead for each 10 mph on your speedometer. Three seconds should be the minimum distance.
- If a problem occurs, don't panic. Stay calm and cool. Say you experience a sudden bumping or fishtailing. It may indicate a flat tire. Don't jam on the brakes or mash the accelerator in an attempt to drive out of it. Instead, come to a stop slowly as you keep driving in as straight a line as possible. If conditions permit, coast to a very slow speed and try to avoid braking, except when your wheels are straight ahead and your tow vehicle and trailer are in line with each other.
- If your trailer begins to fishtail as you accelerate to highway speed, back off the accelerator a bit. This should stop the fishtailing. If it begins again as you increase speed, stop and check your load. It probably isn't distributed evenly from side to side or it is too far back to put a sufficient load on the hitch ball. It is recommended that 10% of the trailer load be on the hitch. Redistribute the load as necessity dictates before continuing on the highway.
- Maintenance Checklist (Up to date)
- Hitch Ball Tight
- Hitch Ball Lubricated
- Hitch Secured in Receiver
- Safety Chains Crossed and Attached
- Coupler Latched onto Ball
- Load Distributed Correctly and Securely
- Trailer Level when Hooked Up
- Trailer Lights Working Correctly
- Lug Nuts Checked and Tightened
- Inspect Tires for Cuts
- Tire Pressure Checked
- Breakaway Battery Charged
- Breakaway Cable Hooked Up
- Pin or Bolt Through Coupler Latch
- Block Tires When Loading or Unloading
The Main Causes of Trailering Accidents:
- Driver error.
- Failure to match speed with weather and road conditions.
- Trailer sway due to improper loading - more or less than 10% cargo hitch weight.
- Failure to perform routine maintenance.
Remember, never carry passengers in a trailer while moving. Check hub temperature at each stop. Adjust sensitivity of brake controller to match load.
The examples given in this site are general guidelines for illustration purposes only and cannot cover every possible combination of vehicle, hitch and trailer or every loading situation. Have your particular rig inspected by an authorized Pace American dealership before towing heavy loads or if any handling problems occur. There are handling problems that cannot always be solved by proper trailer loading. You are solely responsible for the safe loading and operation of your vehicle and trailer.