One of our favorite things about living in Arizona is the fact that no matter the time of year, there is always somewhere you can camp! In the spring and summer months, Valley residents can head up North to the Mogollon Rim, Flagstaff, Show Low, or the Grand Canyon- to name just a few places. In the fall and winter, the Superstition Mountain desert area and places like Kartchner Caverns near Tucson make great camping destinations.
When traveling to the numerous camping destinations, you may be towing a travel trailer, camper, or even a fishing boat if you will be near one of the lakes. If you are going to be towing a trailer anytime soon, you may want to make sure you are up to snuff on your towing know-how. When you tow improperly, you run the risk of damaging your alignment, brakes, suspension, tires, and transmission. For this reason, we have put together the following towing tips.
Know Your Towing Capacity
Before you hitch up and hit the road, you should consult your vehicle owner’s manual to learn your towing capacity. The towing capacity is the maximum weight your vehicle can pull without causing damage or impacting safe handling capabilities. Have you ever strained your back when lifting an object that is just a bit too heavy? Something similar happens to your vehicle when you overload it. When your vehicle is pulling too much weight or something that it isn’t meant to tow, the axles, brakes, engine, transmission, and/or wheel bearings could be damaged.
Use the Proper Equipment
When towing, you will usually depend on four major pieces of equipment: the hitch, hitch receiver, a hitch ball, and a drawbar. These components work together to keep your trailer safely connected to your vehicle. You need to make sure that your gear matches the size and weight of the load you are carrying.
- Hitch- This is the piece that is attached directly to the vehicle. It is the connection between your vehicle and the trailer. There are over 10 different types of hitches. The type of hitch you will need to use depends on the type of vehicle you drive and its towing capacity. This information can be found in the owner’s manual.
- Hitch receiver- This is the base for all the components and is rated for different sized loads.
- Drawbar- This is a small tube that strings through the hitch receiver and attaches to the hitch ball. They come in different heights so that the trailer will follow at a level plane. Instead of dealing with the hassle of finding the right drawbar for each hitch, you can purchase one that is adjustable.
- Hitch ball- These come in different sizes and can carry growing amounts of weight.
Remember, all towing gear is not created equally. The equipment you used to tow a moving trailer may not be the right size for towing your camper or boat. Refer to the manufacturer of the gear’s guide and your vehicles owner’s manual to help you choose and assemble the proper equipment.
Take Appropriate Safety Precautions
Once the trailer is connected to your vehicle with the appropriate equipment, perform these final safety measures before you hit the road.
- Use chains under the hitch for extra support. When you double-cross a set of chains under the trailer hitch side to side forming an “x” it provides more support and can prevent your trailer from bouncing into a guardrail or swerving into another vehicle should something come loose in the hitch.
- Don’t forget the lights. When you tow a trailer your taillights and brake lights won’t be visible to other drivers. For this reason, trailers come with trailer signal wiring. When you connect the wires from the trailer to your vehicle they will mimic your regular taillights. Test the lights before you head out on your journey to make sure they are set up properly. Turn signals and brake lights that function properly are vital to your safety and the safety of other motorists.
- Make sure the item(s) you are towing are secure. Remember, especially if you are towing an open trailer, that you will be traveling at fast speeds and things will move around and possibly fly out if not properly secured. Fasten a tarp over your load to help prevent flyaways, and to protect your stuff from the elements. Also, use bungee cords to tightly secure items that may bang around and brake inside of the trailer.
- Pay close attention to your driving. When you drive with a trailer it isn’t the same as your everyday driving. When towing a trailer, you will need to accelerate, brake, turn, change lanes, and turn corners at about half the speed you usually do. Also, be prepared to stop for gas more frequently as the extra weight you are towing will decrease your fuel economy.
- Know the laws. Make sure that you know the laws of towing a trailer wherever you may be traveling. At a minimum, most states require you to have working taillights and brake lights. Others, including Arizona, will require your trailer to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Care for ALL your tires. Make sure you are not only maintaining the tires of your vehicle, but those of the trailer, and your spare(s). A blowout is always potentially dangerous, but even more so when you are towing. All tires should be inflated to their recommended psi and closely monitored throughout your trip. When your tires are over or underinflated, it reduces the effectiveness of your brakes, and the trailer could sway.
- Make sure your vehicle can handle the trip. Before you head out on your adventure, make sure your vehicle is up to the task of towing your boat, camper, or trailer. Worn tires, transmission problems, improper wheel alignment and existing brake problems can be dangerous on the road. The added weight of the item being towed will make it even more so. Make sure your vehicle is road trip safe before you leave.
At Virginia Auto Service, we like to help people with their vehicles and road safety in any way that we can. We hope these tips help you stay safe the next time you tow a trailer. If you need help making sure your vehicle is up to the task, we are your go-to in Phoenix, AZ for reliable, high-quality auto repair services. Call (602) 266-0200 or schedule an appointment online.