07-01-16

Trailering Tips for Your Truck

Trailering Tips

Trucks and trailering. They go together like summer and road trips. Mountain Chevrolet has some great tips for Aspen area drivers about trailering whether you haul a boat, RV or camper.
Keep in mind driving a truck and trailering are very different. Everything takes longer when you are towing--speeding up, slowing down and cornering. Remember, you've got a second center of mass 10 or 20 ft behind you which can make it more challenging to maneuver.

Aside from just physically getting the trailer hitched to the truck, here's a list of a few things to be aware of.
1. Proper Tongue Weight
Set tongue weight to 10 to 15 percent of the trailer's total weight for good stability. If the tow vehicle doesn't have enough rear suspension spring rate to accept this, get an equalizing hitch. The equalizing hitch will transfer some of the tongue weight forward to the front axle.
2. Safety Chains
Cross the safety chains under the hitch side-to-side, in an X pattern. If, for whatever reason, the hitch comes adrift, the trailer tongue will drop onto the chains instead of onto the ground. And that will maximize your control and minimize the damage to you and your rig. Bonus: With the chains crossed, you can turn in a tighter circle without them binding.
3. Tire Pressure
Check the tire pressures often. Run the tires at their maximum recommended pressure. They'll run cooler, and you'll consume less gas to boot.
4. Inspection
Every time you pull over and stop on a long tow mission, do a walk-around inspection of the hitch, wiring and tires. Be sure the trailer harness connector and breakaway cable are still connected. Check the nut on the bottom of the hitch ball, and make sure that the hitch pin and its hairpin are still holding the drawbar on. You can probably skip checking the tire pressures at every pull-over, but a good thump of all four tires will let you know if one is low just by the sound. Now check the tire and brake drum and wheel-bearing temperatures. A noncontact infrared thermometer gun is cool, and will keep your hands clean, but just using the palm of your hand is fine. If one tire or bearing is noticeably hotter, you've got a problem.
5. Load Check
No matter how tight you make the tiedowns for the load, they'll loosen up as the suspension jiggles everything. Stop after 10 miles and retighten, even if that means opening the door and crawling into an enclosed trailer.
6. Brakes
As you start your tow trip, check electric brake function as soon as you can by sliding the brake controller lever over an inch or so. You should be able to feel the trailer brakes actuate. I check to make sure all the trailer brake shoes are working by holding the brakes on partway on for 10 seconds or so, and then pulling over and checking that they are all heating equally up with my IR thermometer.
7. Bearing Life
Pack trailer bearings with the best synthetic wheel-bearing grease you can find, and do it annually. That goes double for boat trailers that are regularly immersed, and double double for trailers that see a lot of saltwater.
8. Battery Charge
Trailers with electrical-operated brakes have a breakaway switch and a small 12-volt battery to actuate the trailer brakes if the hitch accidentally comes apart. Check the state of charge of that battery regularly. Many trailers have no provision for charging this battery, so it has to be charged manually. I add a diode to charge it from the trailer's plus 12-volt circuit. Got a smaller trailer with no courtesy lights or 12-volt wiring? Run the diode from the brake-light circuit. It'll charge the battery a little every time you touch the brakes.


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