No summer is complete without an outdoor getaway. From camping in the woods to boating on the lake, towing is often necessary to bring your summer adventure equipment along for the ride.
To prepare for your next trip, it’s important to make sure anything you’re hauling is ready for the road. Whether you’re towing a trailer, a camper or even a boat, here are some tips for a safe ride to summer fun.
Before you begin to load your trailer, make sure it’s in tip-top shape. Packing and securing a full load of equipment only to realize your trailer isn’t road-ready is a safety hazard and can cost you a lot of time.
First, verify your trailer is correctly attached to your vehicle. Some components you’ll want to check include hitches, receivers, ball mounts, the trailer coupler and tongues. Next, inspect your trailer to confirm its lights (blinkers and brake lights) are in working order. Be sure to check the brakes, if your trailer has them. Also check that all tires are properly inflated.
Be sure to install a safety chain as a second connection from your trailer to your vehicle. Not only are safety chains a responsible choice, but they’re legally required. Safety chains are the last line of defense if a trailer detaches, so it’s crucial that they’re strong and are checked before every tow.
Once your trailer is prepared, it’s time to load up. It’s important to always load a trailer properly, because a poorly loaded trailer runs the risk of excessive sway, additional vehicle stress and even loss of control. To ensure you’re loading your trailer properly, refer to its owner’s manual.
When loading, be mindful of weight distribution — both front-to-back and side-to-side. According to TRAILER SAFETY WEEK, a good rule of thumb is to distribute 60 percent of the weight in front of the axle and 40 percent behind it. To keep items from shifting, be sure to SECURE THE LOAD with extra restraints.
Never tow more than your trailer’s tongue weight recommendation or your vehicle’s tow weight capacity. You can find this information in the owner manuals for your trailer and vehicle.
With your trailer hitched and cargo packed, you’re almost ready to be on your way! Before hitting the road, just remember to check local regulations and ensure proper insurance coverage in case things go awry.
On the road, err on the side of caution. Towing extra weight means you’ll need to drive a little slower and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Also account for extra space when changing lanes.
It’s also a good idea to check your hitch periodically. POPULAR MECHANICS recommends checking your connection within the first 10 to 20 minutes of driving and then every few hours after that. Even the most secure hookups can loosen from the vibration and the elements of the road.
The biggest difference in driving with a trailer is the swaying that can occur from side forces. Wind, passing semi-trucks and uneven roads can cause a trailer to lose stability. According to LOOK TRAILERS, if this happens, take your foot off the gas and steer straight ahead while manually and gently applying the brakes of your vehicle or trailer brakes, if available.
With these tips, you and your cargo can be safely on your way to summer fun. Just don’t forget to fill up the tank! To find Cenex® stations on your route, check out our LOCATIONS FINDER.
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