Towing Tips

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  by Bob (Ram) Muessig


              Tires used on trailers are designed to carry loads depending on the “Load Range” and the inflation pressures within that specific range.  It is recommended that your tires be inflated to the specified range when you’re carrying a load.  Should you be towing an “unloaded” trailer, the minimum pressure within a range may be sufficient and will allow for a softer ride and smoother towing.  However, you must be sure to add pressure (up to the maximum within a range) before loading, for pulling a trailer with “under-inflated” tires will cause excessive sidewall flexing and produce extreme heat which will ultimately lead to early tire failure.  We’ve all seen the big pieces of truck tires lying about on the roadway, especially in hot climates.  Excessive heat is the reason for the failure of these truck tires.  Speed is a major factor here, too.  It also generates lots of heat.  So, if your tires are not properly inflated and you are inclined to drive fast, you can rest assured that tire replacement costs are going to soon figure as part of your traveling expenses.



                   While many states require supplementary mirrors on both sides of the tow vehicle, common sense dictates their necessity for both convenience and safety.  A “convex” mirror on each side will help eliminate or minimize those “blind spots” which become hazardous when changing lanes.  A general rule-of-thumb regarding the size of the mirror is:  “One inch diameter for each ten feet of overall vehicle length.”  For example; if your tow vehicle/trailer combination is 39 feet long (bumper-to-bumper), then your convex mirrors should be at least 4 inches in diameter.  Bigger is always better than smaller in this case.  Size does matter, regardless of what some folks say.

                  Now, adjust your mirrors properly.  How?  Easy.  First, get your combination lined up straight.  Then, sitting in the driver’s seat, adjust your left mirror so that you can see down the left side of the trailer and about 200 feet beyond the rear of it.  With someone assisting you on the outside, do the same with the right-hand mirror.



                   It is necessary to maintain a certain percentage of the total trailer weight on the towing vehicle or dangerous handling characteristics (sway) may result.  A common recommendation is approximately 10% to 15% of the gross trailer weight be placed on the tongue.  For example; if trailer and its contents weighs 1000 pounds, the amount of weight placed on the hitch should be about 100 to 150 pounds.  This can be checked with a simple bathroom scale.  Some trailers may tow with as little as 5% tongue weight, but the exact weight necessary is more a function of trailer geometry and design.  Now is a good time to make a short trip to ensure that your trailer is loaded properly.  An improperly loaded trailer with insufficient tongue weight will tend to sway and cause the rear end of the tow vehicle to feel skittish and wobbly.  Definitely not a good sign.  Too much tongue weight will cause your vehicle to feel heavy, may put undue stress on the hitch, and could easily push the rear end of your tow vehicle around.  If you see taillights and they’re yours, something is most assuredly amiss!  The key thing to remember here is:  proper load distribution is essential for stable trailer towing.



      Is your trailer level?  Is it level with your tow vehicle?  Or is the hitch so low that the nose of the trailer will drag on high spots in the road?  Maybe the hitch is so high that the tail end of the trailer will drag.  Either of these conditions may adversely affect the trailer’s towability and incapacitate the trailer suspension.  Don’t underestimate the importance of being level.  Modifications to the hitch or tongue may be necessary in order to get things nice and level.

                  If everything (tow vehicle and trailer) is level, the suspension will work properly and within its design limits.  This will help ensure a smooth ride and safe, predictable performance.  At this point, you may also consider investing in an “anti-sway hitch” such as the Hensley Arrow or the Pull-Rite if you still experience any instability.  Both these hitches do an excellent job of controlling trailer sway.  However, if the trailer is designed well and properly loaded, your tow vehicle is designed for the job at hand, you may very well not need either of these devices.  Even so, having one can’t hurt anything and may protect your “peace of mind”.


                  With all that said…Happy Travelin’…and I’ll see ya down the road.