There are few things in life as exciting as loading up your trailer and going on an adventure. The anticipation causes the very air to vibrate, and the moment you pull off, you can settle into the experience. Your journey starts not from the airport or train station but right from your home.
However, before getting into your vehicle, you must ensure that your trailer is secure. Without doing the proper safety checks, your trailer could cause harm to yourself and others.
Long before your actual trip, you should start preparing for all possibilities. No matter how careful you are, you cannot account for every risk, which is why you need insurance for your trailer. It will cover the costs if something does indeed go wrong.
On the day itself, you must perform the following safety checks, which may save your life.
The Condition of Your Tow Vehicle
We’re going to assume that, as a responsible traveler, you have done the research and know that your tow vehicle is capable of towing your trailer’s weight. But that does not mean your vehicle is ready to tow your trailer. On the day, you need to do some final safety checks to ensure your tow vehicle is in the right condition.
Be sure to check:
● the tire pressure (including the spare)
● that the wheel lug nuts are tightened correctly
● all the lights (running lights, brake lights, turn signals, hazards)
● the position and visibility of your side- and rear-view mirrors
● the operating condition of your brakes
If you have doubts, do not start your trip until you are 100% sure everything is well. This may mean making a quick trip to the service station to get a second opinion.
You need to do the following fundamental set of checks: check the connection between the vehicle and the trailer. The parts all need to be compatible, with the correct size ratios. It is especially important if you are using parts repurposed from another vehicle or trailer.
You need to check
● the condition of the hitch, coupler, draw bar, and other connecting equipment
● that the safety chains are properly crisscrossed and connected
● that the wiring is connected with enough looseness to make turns but not so loose as not to touch the road
● all the lights on the trailer
● the brakes on the trailer
● that the breakaway system lanyard is connected to the tow vehicle (and not to the safety chains)
Once you’ve checked your connection, as well as the brakes and tires of the trailer itself, you have to make some basic load pre-checks.
Even if you are great at packing, you must be careful when loading your trailer. If you have the owner manual for the trailer, follow the loading instructions to the letter. If you bought the trailer second-hand or have lost the loading instructions, you will probably be able to find a copy online by searching for the specific make and model.
Ultimately, the key is to ensure that the load distribution is even. This may require a fair amount of effort, especially if you have certain items which are particularly heavy and others that are large but light.
You are almost ready to go when you’ve properly loaded your trailer. The final step is ensuring you have the tools you need to fix any issues that come up along the way. Regardless of how careful you are, towing a heavy load is always going to have an impact on your vehicle.
There is no perfect science to traveling with a trailer. While it would be great to leave all repairs to professionals, you may be out somewhere far from a service station.
Traveling with a trailer can be an exciting way to see the country. Some dangers come with the territory, but with the proper pre-checks, you can ensure that you and your family are safe.