Tips on Towing to Safely Move You and Your Gear

Whether you’re an outdoors-enthusiast, a racer, a boater, or someone who likes to do home improvements, trailers and towing can make your life easier. For some people, towing a trailer seems like a daunting task, but here we offer some tips to help you start off right.

First things first

Before you go and buy a trailer (or even go rent one), you need to know whether your current vehicle is properly equipped to tow. To find out if your vehicle can tow a trailer (and if so, what capacity/weight it can handle), refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual. If you don’t have one, you can usually call the dealership where you purchased your vehicle and they’ll be able to locate that information for you.  It’s important to note that towing capacity that vehicle manufacturers indicate are hard and fast rules. If you try and exceed the towing capacity, you can cause damage to your vehicle’s transmission, frame, engine or more.

Hook it up

If your vehicle is rated for towing, now you’ll need to determine if you can hook a trailer up. You’ll need a trailer hitch and receiver. Hitches are located at the center of your rear bumper. Here is what a hitch looks like (and most hitches come with a receiver, which is the bottom picture):

306 × 156

450 × 450 

Next, you’ll need a ball and mount for the receiver. They look like this:

196 × 196

The ball mount slides in the receiver and then is pinned. Trailers use two common sizes of balls, a 2-inch ball or an 1⅞-inch ball. If you will be renting a trailer frequently or using multiple trailers, you’ll want to have both sizes (you can buy the ball without the mount).

Installing a trailer hitch can be a difficult job if you don’t have the proper tools, so if you need one installed, you can make an appointment with our service department and they’ll be happy to install one for you.

Weighing options

Whether you rent or buy a trailer will depend on how often you will need to use it. We’ve found that once most people own a trailer, they soon wonder how they got along without one for so long. Here’s what is important to remember before purchasing a trailer though. Your vehicle’s towing capacity MUST include the weight of the trailer!

To demonstrate this, let’s use an example. Let’s say you’ve moved into a new home and you plan on doing some major landscaping and some small home renovation projects. A typical small landscape trailer weighs around 400 pounds. If your vehicle has a total towing capacity of 1,200 pounds, then you must deduct the weight of the trailer to find out how much you can put on the trailer. So, in our example, you will have the ability to put 800 lbs on your trailer (1200-400=800). That means you could buy and haul up to 16 bags of mulch if they’re 50 pounds each (and that’s provided you have enough physical room to fit them all on your trailer safely).  

Balancing the weight

It’s important to put the bulk of the weight of your load directly over the wheels. If your load shifts forward or backward, it can put undue stress on the tongue (the part of the trailer that attaches to the receiver ball), or it can put too much weight on the back of the trailer causing it to tow unpredictably.  

The first pull

If you’ve not driven a towing vehicle before, prepare yourself. You’re going to hear your vehicle make noises it probably hasn’t made before, and many vehicles will feel as though they’re low on power (because the extra weight of the trailer makes the engine work harder). Remember that your vehicle is now much longer than before so you’ll have to make very wide turns. Your vehicle now has more mass, which means it will need a longer amount of time to stop so when stopping, apply your brakes earlier than you normally would.

Backing up

Backing a vehicle up with a trailer is an art form in and of itself. The important thing to remember is that when backing up with a trailer attached, you need to turn the steering wheel the OPPOSITE direction of  where you want the trailer to go. If the trailer needs to turn left, turn your steering wheel right.

Take it slow and easy when first starting out, and before long you’ll be able to tow a trailer like a semi driver.