Trailer Safety 101

Towing a trailer isn't as easy as it looks. Before you start hauling heavy loads or travel trailers, take the time to go through a safety checklist.

Preliminary Safety Inspection Before you even take the trailer out, go through a preliminary checklist:

  • Once you've hooked up your trailer, double and triple check that your hitch is secure. Cross the chains underneath the ball mount for an added safety measure. If the tongue and ball ever separate, the tongue will land on top of the chains instead of the pavement. The X formation will also keep the chains from coming up short at sharper turns.
  • Make sure the tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended maximum. If your tires overheat on a long drive, you’ll be in trouble - properly inflated tires will run cooler.
  • Check that turn signals, brake lights, and hazard lights are all connected appropriately to the trailer. Just using the lights on your towing vehicle won’t be enough.
  • Add tongue weight. About 1/3 of your trailer’s weight should be towards the tongue. Moving heavier equipment closer to the front of the trailer will increase your tongue weight and lend your trailer more stability. Be careful not to move so much weight forward that your towing vehicle’s rear suspension can’t support it.

On the Road Once you've finished your preparations, it’s time to take the trailer out on the road. Here are a few additional steps to keep in mind while you drive:

  • Don’t expect anything in the trailer to stay put. Bungee or clip cabinet doors shut, and ratchet or strap equipment to the sides. Don’t leave anything loose to rattle around.
  • Remember that your truck is going to be one of the biggest and longest vehicles on the road. Signal well in advance, keep to the speed limit, and don’t take tight turns. Towing a trailer is nothing like driving a compact car: every turn is exaggerated, and you’ll need to adjust your driving to cope with all the extra weight you’re pulling.
  • Stop 10 to 20 miles after you get on the road and check your trailer. No matter how tightly you have secured everything, simple road vibrations can loosen the straps. Make sure everything is still secure before you start a long leg of your journey.
  • Every time you stop, make checking the trailer a habit. Make sure the tires are still inflated, the hitch is secure, and everything is still strapped down tightly. You also want to check that your truck is not overheating.

Whether you’re towing a utility trailer or the family camper, you can never be too careful. If you have questions about safety or towing procedures, contact the manufacturer or our experts at J&J Trailers before you set out.