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    Hauling A Load | Summer 2010 Out Here Magazine

    Towing a trailer takes a bit of extra care and caution

    rearview of a truck pulling a trailer down the highway
    Out Here

    National Highway Safety Administration Guidelines

     

    Towing a trailer requires an extra set of driving skills. Whether you're a towing novice or an old hand at getting your stuff from one place to the next, these guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will help you get it there in one piece.

    General handling
    • Drive at moderate speeds to place less strain on your tow vehicle and trailer. Trailer instability — sway — is more likely at higher speeds.
    • Make wider turns at curves and corners. Because your trailer's wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, they are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs.
    • Control swaying caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger vehicles pass from either direction by taking your foot off the accelerator. Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
    Braking
    • Allow considerably more distance for stopping.
    • If excessive sway occurs and you have an electric trailer brake controller, activate the trailer brake controller by hand. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this generally makes the sway worse.
    Acceleration and passing
    • When passing a slower vehicle or changing lanes, signal well in advance and make sure you allow extra distance to clear the vehicle before you pull back into the lane.
    • Avoid passing on steep upgrades or downgrades.
    Downgrades and upgrades
    • Downshift to assist with braking on downgrades and to add power for climbing hills.
    • On long downgrades, apply brakes at intervals to keep speed in check. Never leave brakes on for extended periods of time or they may overheat.
    • Some tow vehicles have specifically calibrated transmission tow-modes. Be sure to use the tow-mode recommended by the manufacturer.
    Backing up
    • Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right.
    • Use slight movements of the steering wheel to adjust direction. Exaggerated movements will cause greater movement of the trailer. If you have difficulty, pull forward and realign the tow vehicle and trailer and start again.
    Parking
    • Once stopped, but before shifting into park, have someone place blocks on the downhill side of the trailer wheels. Apply the parking brake, shift into park, and then remove your foot from the brake pedal. Following this parking sequence is important to make sure your vehicle does not become locked in park because of extra load on the transmission. For manual transmissions, apply the parking brake and then turn the vehicle off in either first or reverse gear.
    • When uncoupling a trailer, place blocks at the front and rear of the trailer tires to ensure that the trailer does not roll away when the coupling is released.
    • An unbalanced load may cause the tongue to suddenly rotate upward; therefore, before un-coupling, place jack stands under the rear of the trailer to prevent injury.
     

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