Tips And Information

Information About Trailers


Welcome to our "Tips & Info" page. Here you can find tips and information on anything from trailer towing to safety to welding and trailer building tips and more. If you are new to trailers or towing a trailer, we also provide you with some links at the bottom of the page that you may find useful.

New articles and information are added regularly so be sure to bookmark us and stop back by once in a while to see if we have anything new that may interest you.


Safety Tips for Driving with a Trailer


Here are some basic safety tips for driving with a trailer from the U.S. Department Of Transportation.

Take time to practice before driving on main roads and never allow anyone to ride in or on the trailer. Before you leave, remember to check routes and restrictions on bridges and tunnels. Consider the following safety tips each time you drive with a trailer.


General Handling

Use the driving gear that the manufacturer recommends for towing.
Drive at moderate speeds. This will place less strain on your tow vehicle and trailer. Trailer instability (sway) is more likely to occur as speed increases.

Avoid sudden stops and starts that can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing.
Avoid sudden steering maneuvers that might create sway or undue side force on the trailer.
Slow down when traveling over bumpy roads, railroad crossings, and ditches.
Make wider turns at curves and corners. Because your trailer's wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, they are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs.

To control swaying caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger vehicles pass from either direction, release the accelerator pedal to slow down and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.

Allow considerably more distance for stopping.
If you have an electric trailer brake controller and excessive sway occurs, activate the trailer brake controller by hand. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this will generally make the sway worse.
Always anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.

Acceleration and Passing

When passing a slower vehicle or changing lanes, signal well in advance and make sure you allow extra distance to clear the vehicle before you pull back into the lane.
Pass on level terrain with plenty of clearance. Avoid passing on steep upgrades or downgrades.
If necessary, downshift for improved acceleration or speed maintenance.
When passing on narrow roads, be careful not to go onto a soft shoulder. This could cause your trailer to jackknife or go out of control.

Downgrades and Upgrades

Downshift to assist with braking on downgrades and to add power for climbing hills.
On long downgrades, apply brakes at intervals to keep speed in check. Never leave brakes on for extended periods of time or they may overheat. Some tow vehicles have specifically calibrated transmission tow-modes. Be sure to use the tow-mode recommended by the manufacturer.

Backing Up

Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right. Back up slowly. Because mirrors cannot provide all of the visibility you may need when backing up, have someone outside at the rear of the trailer to guide you, whenever possible. Use slight movements of the steering wheel to adjust direction. Exaggerated movements will cause greater movement of the trailer. If you have difficulty, pull forward and realign the tow vehicle and trailer and start again.


Try to avoid parking on grades. If possible, have someone outside to guide you as you park. Once stopped, but before shifting into Park, have someone place blocks on the downhill side of the trailer wheels. Apply the parking brake, shift into Park, and then remove your foot from the brake pedal. Following this parking sequence is important to make sure your vehicle does not become locked in Park because of extra load on the transmission. For manual transmissions, apply the parking brake and then turn the vehicle off in either first or reverse gear.

When uncoupling a trailer, place blocks at the front and rear of the trailer tires to ensure that the trailer does not roll away when the coupling is released. An unbalanced load may cause the tongue to suddenly rotate upward; therefore, before un-coupling, place jack stands under the rear of the trailer to prevent injury.

Connecting Your Trailer to Your Tow Vehicle

Tow vehicles and trailers must be compatible with hitching, braking, and wiring systems to ensure safety.

Hitching Systems

The trailer towing industry has developed a classification system that differentiates hitches according to the amount of weight they can tow. This system addresses tongue weight and total weight. Keep in mind that within each classification are numerous hitches made by a variety of manufacturers.

The three most common types of hitches are the weight-carrying hitch, the weight-distributing (or load equalizer) hitch, and the fifth-wheel hitch, or gooseneck. Weight-carrying hitches are designed to carry all of the trailer's tongue weight. Weight-distributing hitches are used with a receiver hitch and special parts that distribute the tongue weight among all tow vehicle and trailer axles. Fifth-wheel hitches are designed for mounting the trailer connection point in the middle of the truck bed.

Hitch receiver

When purchasing a hitch, use the recommendations of the manufacturer of the tow vehicle and trailer based on the type and weight of the trailer. Make sure the hitch has provisions for the connection of safety chains, which are required by most states. When connected, safety chains should have some slack to permit sharp turns but should not drag on the road. In addition, they should cross under the trailer tongue to help prevent the tongue from dropping to the road in the event the trailer separates from the tow vehicle. Safty chains from trailer to vehicle.

Braking Systems

The selection of a brake system also will depend on your tow vehicle and the type and fully loaded weight of your trailer. For a trailer with a loaded weight of more than 1,500 pounds, many states require a separate braking system and a breakaway switch, located on the tongue of the trailer, to activate the trailer brakes in the event the trailer separates from the tow vehicle. There are two basic types of brake systems designed to activate the brakes on a trailer:

Electronically controlled brakes usually provide automatic and manual control for trailer brakes. They require that the tow vehicle be equipped with a controlling device and additional wiring for electrical power. These brakes typically have a control box installed within reach of the driver and can be manually or automatically applied. The control box may require adjustment or tuning in for variations in trailer load.

Surge brakes are independent hydraulic brakes activated by a master cylinder at the junction of the hitch and trailer tongue. These brakes are not controlled by the hydraulic fluid in the brake system of the tow vehicle. Note: The hydraulic system of the tow vehicle should never be directly connected to the hydraulic system of the trailer. These systems are self-compensating and do not require adjustment for variation in trailer load.

Follow the tow vehicle manufacturer's recommendations for brake selection. Some states require braking systems on all axles of the trailer. So, check your state's requirements by contacting the motor vehicle administration.

Wiring Systems

To provide power to trailer lights, a four-way (or more) connector is hooked into the tow vehicle's electrical system. Many tow vehicle manufacturers offer a 7-way connector that may include an electric brake signal, power supply, and backup lights, in addition to the typical four functions. Note: You must ensure that the signals on the electrical connector of the tow vehicle match the electrical connector of the trailer.

Basic Towing Components

There are several different components needed for towing any type of trailer. A towing system is not only made up of the vehicle and trailer, but also the equipment used to connect them.

First is the tow vehicle.


A tow vehicle is the car, truck, van, crossover, SUV, RV or other automotive vehicle – even an ATV -- used to pull a trailer. Different tow vehicles have different weight capacities, and the vehicle owner's manual will typically tell you how many pounds your vehicle can safely tow. As a rule, the lowest rated towing component must always determine the maximum amount of weight you can potentially tow.


Next is the trailer.

A trailer is a wheeled construction that is pulled by another vehicle. Some common trailer types include utility trailers, popup campers, travel trailers, livestock trailers, flatbed trailers, enclosed car haulers and boat trailers.

Just like tow vehicles range in weight capacity, trailers range in gross trailer weight and tongue weight.

Next is the Trailer Hitch.

A trailer hitch is the primary connection component in a towing system that attaches a trailer to your tow vehicle. A trailer hitch requires some extra components, such as a ball mount and trailer ball, to make the connection complete.

A receiver hitch, perhaps the most common type of trailer hitch, mounts to the frame of the vehicle and provides a receiver tube to accept a ball mount or other insert. Receiver hitches typically fall within one of five classes, based on weight carrying capacity and receiver tube size. Selecting the correct type of trailer hitch for your vehicle and trailer is critical.

the trailer hitch and provides a mounting plate to hold a trailer ball. Ball mounts are made in a variety of styles and capacities to accommodate different trailers and coupler heights. A ball mount is held in place in the hitch with a hitch pin & clip or a hitch lock.


Next is the Ball Mount.

A ball mount is a metal tube or bar that inserts into the trailer hitch


Next is the Trailer Ball.

Also called a tow ball or hitch ball, a trailer ball is the immediate connection point between your tow vehicle and trailer. In conjunction with a trailer coupler, a trailer ball allows you to turn corners and travel over bumps and dips without becoming disconnected. The coupler mounts and locks on top of the trailer ball and articulates around it.

Trailer balls come in a variety of diameters, including 1 7/8", 2", 2 5/16" and sometimes 3". In general, the smaller the diameter of the trailer ball, the less capacity it has. However, this may not always be the case. Always abide by the component with the lowest weight rating.

Next is the Hitch Pin & Clip.

A hitch pin is a small metal rod that holds the ball mount in the hitch's receiver tube. Typically, a hitch pin is bent in an "L" shape and drilled or grooved at one end to accept a hairpin-shaped retainer clip. A hitch pin can also be substituted with a hitch lock.



Next is the Coupler.

The coupler, in conjunction with the trailer ball, allows your tow vehicle and trailer to turn corners and travel over bumps and dips without becoming disconnected. The coupler fits over the trailer ball and is designed to articulate around it.

The size of the coupler and ball must match to operate safely.


Next is Safety Chains.

A safety chain is a length of chain strong enough to restrain the trailer from complete separation if the hitch or coupler should fail. Safety cables are also an acceptable alternative.

For every trailer, two safety chains should be used and should be set up to crisscross under the coupler. If the coupler becomes disconnected, the nose of the trailer may be caught by the safety chains, providing a measure of control while the tow vehicle stops. Use of safety chains is required by most, if not all, states.



Next is the Trailer Wiring & Lighting.

If your has lights or is required to have trailer lights, then it is very important that you make sure the lights are woking properly. In order to have working lights, a trailer must be equipped with a wiring system and must be connected to the tow vehicle's wiring system. The connection can be simple or more complex, depending on what features the trailer has.

How to Properly Load Your Trailer

Just as it is your responsibility to know the capacity of your vehicle, trailer and towing system and making decisions based on that knowledge, it is equally your responsibility to make wise decisions on the road. This starts by loading your trailer the right way.

The key is to make sure your trailer has the right amount of tongue weight. This is typically between 10 and 15 percent of the gross trailer weight. The load should also be centered evenly side to side and the center of gravity kept as low as possible.

When packing your trailer, make sure all items are properly secured. Loose items can cause damage to other items, to your trailer or to your vehicle and can be very dangerous if they fall out along the road. Contain small items within a bag or tote and tie down large items with quality cargo straps. A little extra time spent strategically packing will pay off and could save you a lot more time and money.

Sometimes it seems a bit confusing when you hear things like the correct tongue weight is 10 to 15 percent of your gross trailer weight. But one easy thing to always keep in mind is you should always have more weight on the front of your trailer then at the rear of your trailer.

If you do not have a lot of expeeriance towing a trailer below are a couple links to sites with more information you may find useful.