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Trailer hauling tips for newbies

Reminders never hurt seasoned haulers either
So, you have your sled ready to play in your favorite place for snow. Whether that’s on a trail, on a frozen lake or out in the mountains, you need to be able to get there safely. Towing a trailer isn’t for everyone; you can find thousands of U-Haul trailer-fails on the Internet to back that up. The best thing you can do before hauling is to be prepared. We came up with a list of hauling tips for newbies, but take note, too, you experienced haulers: Good advice always bears repeating.

■ Be sure your vehicle can handle the trailer
The rear springs of the towing vehicle need to be strong enough to keep the vehicle at a level position while supporting the weight of the trailer. Additionally, your vehicle needs to have the motor capacity for taking on additional weight.

Compare the towing capacity of your ride to the total weight of the towing vehicle, trailer and its cargo. If you plan to drive in the mountains during winter, make sure you have a good set of snow tires (Our Western Crew uses the Cooper Discoverer AT3). Carry chains or something like the AutoSock, which is a great alternative that can be put on in 2 minutes or less, won’t damage your rims and is light and easy to use. And if you’re reading this, you can receive 20 percent off and free shipping by using promo code “SOCK” while checking out!

■ Properly distribute the weight of your load
Nothing will get you in trouble faster than improper weight distribution. Ideally, you should aim to have 60 percent of the weight in the front half of the trailer leaving 40 percent in the rear. Putting the bulk of the weight in the front and the heaviest items on the floor gives the trailer stability. Failure to properly load your cargo can cause whipping, which is essentially the tail (trailer) wagging the dog (vehicle).
■ Confirm a tight fit for the ball and coupler
There are varying sizes of hitch balls and couplers that fit one size or multiple sizes. It is essential that the ball and coupler are correctly mated.

■ Secure the safety chain

This chain is attached permanently to the trailer and needs to be secured to the towing vehicle hitch or frame. Care should be taken that this chain provides enough slack to allow for turning without touching the ground. If you find your chain is a little long, twisting it will provide a small reduction in length.
■ Check your tire pressure
Tire pressure should always be checked when the tires are cold, as the air expands when the tires are warm from driving. The maximum carrying load and the maximum psi are molded on the sidewall of the tires and should never be exceeded. However, this maximum listed psi is not necessarily the best running pressure if your vehicle is lighter than the maximum.

For the towing vehicle, check the owner’s manual or placard attached to the driver’s door edge for the recommended pressure for the specific vehicle. Front tires should use this recommended pressure, although the rear tires of the towing vehicle may be increased approximately 6 psi above this normal pressure to accommodate the increased weight from the trailer. Again, remember the pressure should never be increased to exceed the psi listed on the tire sidewall.

Most agree that the trailer tire pressure should be adjusted to the maximum psi listed on the tire sidewall allowing for the maximum load weight. The cargo, however, should never exceed the tire maximum carrying load OR the load rating on the trailer.
■ Test your lights and signals
Checking your lights and signals is much easier to do at home than on the side of the freeway. Make sure the electrical connection is tight and the blinkers, brake and nightlights are working properly.

■ Change your driving to accommodate towing a trailer
First, you will need to reduce your speed to allow reaction time for emergency situations. So don’t be in such a hurry! Along with this, keep plenty of room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, even doubling the recommended amount of space you would normally allow.

■ Don’t be afraid to downshift when going up or down hills
Sticking to lower gears or downshifting will allow the motor to turn over more easily while climbing hills, and can also help regulate your pace without riding the brakes when you descend.
■ Practice backing up, use the buddy system
Backing up a trailer seems to be the part most newbies dread, but it does get easier with practice. When backing up your trailer, a simple method is to “turn toward trouble.” This means, if your trailer is going somewhere you don’t want, turn the steering wheel toward that object. Most new vehicles are equipped with backup cameras that can assist greatly in lining up to hitch a trailer. Also, adjust your mirrors; most trucks built to haul trailers have mirrors that extend in and out to allow for viewing down the side of the trailer. Finally, a backup buddy outside the vehicle is wonderful to help with the process and to keep you out of trouble.

■ Trailer brakes
Make sure if you are hauling heavy loads that you have trailer brakes. These will assist you in stopping and will keep the trailer from pushing your vehicle, especially during abrupt stops. Test and check trailer brakes before hitting the road.

Be trailer safe!
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