Six Trailer Towing Safety Tips

If you have a boat, own a horse, or enjoy RV-ing and want to bring your car or other vehicle along with you, you probably tow these items behind your car, you truck or your recreational vehicle. While heavy duty towing makes it easy to get these large items from one place to another, it does present a number of safety hazards if you're not careful.

Towing safety tips

1. Inspect and then inspect again. Make it a habit to check your tires, the tie-downs, the hitch and the safety chains every time you stop, even if it's just a brief fuel stop.

2. Set the tongue weight correctly. The NHTSA recommends that you set the tow weight to approximately 10 to 15 percent of the trailer or towed vehicle's total weight. Too little weight will cause the trailer or vehicle being towed to sway. Too much tongue weight can also cause problems, such as not having enough weight on the front tires.

3. Cross the safety chains. By attaching the safety chains in a cross pattern, you can minimize the damage to your towing rig if the hitch should become unattached for whatever reason. If this should happen, the hitch will drop down on the chains rather than to the ground. These chains, which are required in most states, should have enough slack so that the trailer can easily turn, but not so loose that they drag on the ground.

4. Pay attention to your tires. When towing, you want to make sure that you use the same types of tires and don't mix radial and bias-belted tires or tires of different sizes. In addition, you'll want to be extra vigilant that your tires are properly inflated.

5. Empty your RV's freshwater and gray water tanks or boat's bilge tank before you begin towing. The water in these tanks can add to the weight of the vehicle.

6. Distribute the weight inside of the boat, RV or trailer evenly along the middle of the vehicle. Too much weight on either side can cause the towed vehicle to shift dangerously from side to side.

While there's nothing you can do to absolutely guarantee that you won't have run into trouble when towing a large trailer of vehicle, you can dramatically lessen the chances for disaster by setting the tongue weight within NHTSA guidelines, making sure to inspect your hitch and tie-down every time you stop, crossing the safety chains and being careful that your tires are all properly inflated.