Author Topic: Requirements/tips/safety/things to keep in mind on long roadtrip towing trailer?  (Read 2830 times)

ketchup

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Hey all, we're going to be going on a roadtrip next week (just over 1,000 miles each way, no real stops along the way beyond gas/rest stops).  Plans have shifted a bit as of yesterday, and now we're going to be towing a small trailer the entire way.  We are going to be borrowing the trailer from someone that's dropping it off the day before we leave.

We have a vehicle with a tow hitch (and a more-than-adequate tow rating), but I've never towed anything with it before.  I know our vehicle is good for it, as the previous owner used it to tow his boat.  I once towed a car about 100 miles home, but that was with a rented truck that already had the trailer attached when I got it. 

I'm aware that I shouldn't break 55, and I know that maneuvering with a trailer can be a total PITA and backing up is pretty much a no.

I don't know the details on the trailer we're borrowing, but I assume it just attaches to the ball and has some chains, etc.  The car has the wiring it needs to connect to the lights.

Is there anything I should watch out for during the whole process? Is there anything stupid I should be careful about avoiding?  Safety tips?

I'm mostly just nervous because we've never done this before, and it seems like something stupid happening would be pretty disastrous. 

guitar_stitch

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1) If your tow vehicle isn't in top condition, abort mission.  Also, make sure the trailer is properly maintained.
2) Be mindful of the extra weight/drag you are putting on your vehicle.  Know its tow limitations and do not exceed them.
3) Double the amount of space you leave in front of you for stopping.
4) At each stop, feel the tires and hubs to make sure they are not overheating.  Bearing failure happens quickly when they run dry.
5) Load the trailer properly.  60% of the weight toward the front of the trailer, but don't exceed the maximum tongue weight of the hitch/vehicle.
6) Use lower gears when climbing grades to reduce transmission temperature.
7) If you're running 50% or more of the max capacity of the vehicle's weight rating and you have an auto tranny, you NEED a cooler.

Angie55

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- Pay attention to areas of high wind/crosswinds. When its windy watch for trailer sway.
- Make sure they lube the bearings prior to dropping off the trailer.
- If you are stopping for any length of time or overnight I would buy a lock for the trailer. But that's not really required.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2014, 01:16:24 PM by Angie55 »

Gone Fishing

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I'd make sure to have a spare for the trailer, a wrench that fits the lugs and a jack capable of lifting a loaded trailer.  Light connections vary a bit and may need an adaptor, or even a different plug if they don't match up with your vehicle.  Depending on the weight, the trailer may require brakes, this opens another can of worms.  Don't base your vehicles ability on what the last guy did with it.   

ketchup

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Thanks for all the tips.  This is super helpful.

Vehicle is in good shape, and rated at far more towing capacity than we'll be utilizing.  I don't think we'll be at the point where we need to worry about brakes.
I'll be sure to give myself more room and be more scared of wind than usual.
I'll make sure the trailer's bearings have been lubed.
I'll check the tires and hubs as we stop for gas/etc.
I'll verify the wiring is compatible.
I'll make sure we have a spare for the trailer and the associated tools.
Unfortunately, it is an auto tranny, but we won't be anywhere close to 50% of max capacity, and I think it might already have a cooler anyway.

Gone Fishing

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Check the air pressure in the tires as well.  Trailer tires usually take a pretty high PSI, don't be afraid to take it up to the max with a heavy load.  The trailer might bounce around a bit when empty, but the less the tires flex under load, the cooler they will stay.

shotgunwilly

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Everybody has said some great tips.  Do all of those. 

A tip I will give is if you HAVE to back it up at some point, an easy way to remember which way to turn your vehicle is to place your hand on the bottom of your steering wheel.  Look over your shoulder at the trailer, and whichever way you want the trailer to go, move your hand (which is clinched to the bottom of the steering wheel) in that direction.  And make sure you stop backing or straighten out before the trailer gets to a severe angle, aka jackknifes.

Hotstreak

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If you need to stop in a town, use a parking lot near a big store and park in the back, so you have space to pull through or maneuver.  You can walk a few blocks to wherever you need to go.
 
Backing up isn't hard once you have a little experience.  Take a few minutes to try it out before you hit the road, so you know what to do if it's required.

Angie55

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One thing I would emphasis is to double check the lights and connections every time you connect the trailer. I found it helps to have two sets of eyes go through everything independently. There have been a few times I hooked up the trailer and got distracted before putting the safety chain on or the hitch clip and we luckily caught it before leaving.

Greg

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Everyone's got great advice.  I strongly encourage you to make sure the tires are good and aired up.  Speed is not an issue unless the tires are overloaded, or the tongue weight is too much/too little.  Keep a safe stopping distance. Watch your mirrors!
« Last Edit: October 23, 2014, 08:29:51 AM by Greg »

Future Lazy

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Careful on long stretches of highway where semi trucks frequent - semi trucks have a wider axle and tend to wear wider ruts in the road, and a trailer with a narrower distance between it's tires can slip into these ruts and rock back and forth dangerously, causing it fishtail and you can lose control of your vehicle. This shouldn't happen if you keep your speeds pretty reasonable like you plan to, but it can happen. Good luck!

ketchup

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Thanks for all the additional input, everyone!

I'll be sure to report back after the trip with how it went!

cavewoman

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Consider a locking hitch pin, or at the very least carry a spare and check it after every stop.

I did not believe this until it happened, but apparently some people think it's funny to pull the cotter pin out of the hitch when you are stopped.  Then maybe they troll newspapers to see if the trailer disengaged and maybe killed someone.  I don't know the motive.

But we did a similar trip, and on the 2nd or 3rd day, after joking about how that was crazy and couldn't possibly happen that often, sure enough ours was missing.  We were close to an auto store and bought a locking one.  I shuddered and lost a little faith in humanity.

We heard about them being stolen from the Expedition Portal forum, a great read for anyone who is into expo vehicles or long camping, living out of a trailer, etc.

ketchup

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Consider a locking hitch pin, or at the very least carry a spare and check it after every stop.

I did not believe this until it happened, but apparently some people think it's funny to pull the cotter pin out of the hitch when you are stopped.  Then maybe they troll newspapers to see if the trailer disengaged and maybe killed someone.  I don't know the motive.

But we did a similar trip, and on the 2nd or 3rd day, after joking about how that was crazy and couldn't possibly happen that often, sure enough ours was missing.  We were close to an auto store and bought a locking one.  I shuddered and lost a little faith in humanity.

We heard about them being stolen from the Expedition Portal forum, a great read for anyone who is into expo vehicles or long camping, living out of a trailer, etc.
That is terrifying.  Thanks for the heads-up!