If you’ve never towed a trailer before then this guide is for you. First, don’t be afraid of towing. You’ve probably heard some horror stories about trailer accidents but, honestly, they are rare. Furthermore, if you do some homework (such as reading this guide), you will probably never have an incident. Here’s checklist of what you need to know.
Make sure your car the right size
First, make sure your vehicle is rated for towing the trailer load you wish. You need to find two numbers: 1) The gross trailer weight (GTW), which is the combined weight of the trailer and the load on it
2) The maximum tongue weight for your vehicle to determine the class of hitch you’ll need.
Get the right hitch
Get the appropriate class of hitch for your load installed. Generally, you’ll get a hitch receiver installed that you can use for different size trailer hitches. Ken Garff of West Valley, UT recommends that you use a class 3 or higher hitch.
Class 1: 2000 pounds GTW/200 pounds tongue weight
Class 2: 3500 pounds GTW/350 pounds tongue weight
Class 3: 5000 pounds GTW/500 pounds tongue weight
Class 4: 7500 pounds GTW/750 pounds tongue weight
Class 5: 10,000 pounds GTW/1000 pounds tongue weight
Get the right-sized ball
The larger the ball, the more weight it can carry. Basically, the ball of the hitch will come in one of three sizes:
1 7⁄8 inch (4.8 cm)
2 inch (5.1 cm)
2 5⁄16 inch (5.9 cm)
Attach the trailer
Use the tongue jack to raise the trailer and align it with the ball. Make sure that the hitch lock is unlocked before lowering the trailer onto the ball and securing the tongue. After you lower the hitch, lock it securely. Cross the safety chains to the hooks near the vehicle hitch or the vehicle frame, making sure there is enough slack in the chains but not so much that they drag on the ground.
Attach the lights
Attach the lights with the wiring harness. Generally, these employ a simple one-way connection that makes it easy to hook up the lights to the harness.
Secure your load
Tie down everything that could potentially fly off the trailer. Depending on the load you’re hauling, you might need to use a tarp to secure loose objects in boats or refuse trailers, since you’re responsible for anything that flies out and causes damage.
When underway, stop occasionally and check things.
Stop frequently and check everything. Make sure your cross chains aren’t dragging on the road, make sure your load is securely fastened down in the trailer. It make be a good idea, especially if night is falling to check to see if all your running lights and turn signals are working.