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Trailer Hauling Tips for young and older

 Someone told me they thought this article had some merit, so I re-posted it here     you decide.   


Just because it's on a trailer, doesn't mean you should haul it down the highway

See the Bombay Project for a blow by blow description of this tsunami rescue
Trailer Tips
I tried to find a suitable article written by someone with first hand experience pulling trailers, and all the ones I found were pretty worthless so I wrote an article myself.  I have many years hauling around construction equipment, boats and camp trailers.  I have never hauled a fifth wheel so I will not have much to say about them. Rather than try to put together something sensible I will just do a Q&A thing. This article may entertain you old timers and help a few newbie’s.  If you disagree with something feel free to post comments.
  • First question is “how much can my car/truck haul?"  The answer requires more  questions, do you mean safely? Without voiding warranty? How far? Any big long hills? Auto or clutch? Make model and condition?  As you can see it’s a complicated question, so let’s cut to the chase.  On the door jamb of your car is a tag (or go online) with the factory approved weights your vehicle is designed to carry and tow.  If you are trying to limit your liability in an accident you should heed the numbers.  You can easily exceed load limits without being aware, if you do, you may shorten the life of your automatic transmission, you may overheat, you may not have the experience to stay out of trouble and you don't know it.  Have you ever seen something bad about to happen? Everyone watching sees it and knows it is about to happen  - except the inexperienced person in charge.

  • Next; “ how much tongue weight should I have?”One rule of thumb is    click on "read more"  
        5 to7% up to 10 to 15% of the trailer weight should be on the hitch.  With a camp or boat trailer you can easily move your gear around to make this happen. Too little weight on the tongue will cause your rig to sway or trailer to shimmy above a certain speed. (as low as 35 - 45 mph) Too much weight and your tail will drag while your lights point up  to blind oncoming traffic, your front brakes will lock up, and your steering will be compromised,

  • Trailer swaying, is extremely dangerous, and almost always caused by too little tongue weight.  Here’s what happens, at about 40-45 mph for many rigs, a sway will start.  You find yourself counter steering to correct and the sway repeats only a little worse each time.  You cannot drive out of this situation, you cannot accelerate out of it.  The only way to stop the oscillations are to crash or slow down.  An inexperienced driver will slow down and then speed back up thinking it was the road or something that set it off, only to have it happen again.  What is so dangerous is the fact that a new driver with a poorly balanced rig on a nice smooth highway can easily get going way too fast, (before swaying starts) finding themselves unable to slow down quick enough to regain control when the swaying begins . Resulting in both units skidding sideways and possibly rolling over. Swaying can easily be corrected by shifting some gear forward putting more weight on tongue. If you are stuck driving a trailer that can’t be corrected you must drive below the sway speed for your entire journey. There’s a lot more to talk about regarding swaying but let’s move on.

  • Too much tongue weight, is it possible? Well of course it is, you could break the ball mount, or bend the hitch or trailer itself, but most likely you will load the car’s rear down so much your lights point straight up blinding oncoming traffic. Also a very real danger is that your front wheels will not have enough traction to steer or stop properly, this is especially dangerous on a gravel or wet road. If you insist on extreme tongue weight you must slow way down and increase your stopping distance tenfold. With extreme tongue weight you must have good trailer brakes or your heading for a crash, you just don't know where or when. (btw Surge brakes and heavy tongues are a bad combination)

  • What’s a Load leveling hitch? This type of hitch incorporates a set of torsion bars that very effectively transfer excess tongue weight forward on the tow vehicle. I highly recommend them for long heavy tongue trailers being towed by soft squishy vehicles.

  • Do trailers drag in and out of gas stations? Yes,  you will learn right away to watch out, but there are some things you can do. Don’t drive into places that look bad in the first place, just drive on to the next one. Drive across entry driveways at an angle, try entering from an adjoining parking lot or business.  If you suspect you’re going to drag, slow way down, you may want to stop and back out.  You can get stuck.  Make sure the rub spot you drag is bullet proof, one thing I have seen people do is to not fully retract their jack and then ruin it by dragging across a driveway. Now they can’t unhook their trailer without using an auxiliary jack. (BTW, I carry a spare bottle jack and lug wrench for my trailer, so should you)

  • Turning corners!  Long trailers pulled by short cars cut corners, it’s just a fact you have to learn to drive with.  Swing wide and learn where your trailer wheels are going, if you don’t you will pay the price.  And for this reason you may not want to drive your mega rig into just any old back woods campground just to find out you can’t pull through and have to back out. (walk it first) Fifth wheels of course are immune to this problem, not true, they're worse, or so I've been told.

  • Are backing trailers hard? No, but you may need some practice and adopt some rules to follow. Long trailers pulled by short rigs are much easier to back then short trailers pulled by monster long trucks.  Here are just a few pointers.  When backing most drivers will over steer at some point and need to pull forward to correct, this is normal.  An experienced driver will correct many times.  Always back slow, don’t let some helper tell you which way to turn the steering wheel.  Simply ask them to guide the trailer and you can figure out the rest.  Stop and get out for a better look, it’s your responsibility and your fault when you break something.  When your helper or wife  goes out of view stop and wait, or get out and pull her from under trailer. Explain to helpers what you need and expect them to do before you start. Apologize for yelling.  Learn to use mirrors for backing, and not looking over seat. 

  • Here’s a little trick my dad told me a long time ago and I use it today.  When you back up without a trailer your hand is normally resting on the top middle of the steering wheel and when you turn you simply rotate or push your hand the direction you want to go.  Listen up… when backing a trailer, just drop your hand to the bottom of the wheel and still push or rotate in the direction you want trailer to go. Don’t even think about what the wheels are doing or where your pointed, just know that the trailer will go the way your hand pushes the wheel.  You will still need to pull forward to make corrections.  Learning this little trick will forever make backing a trailer as simple as parallel parking.

  • Why are my tires so hot? Because you don’t have enough air pressure for the amount of weight. Trailer tires can carry more weight and run higher pressures than passenger tires,  65 - 85 pounds is not unusual, all tires are marked on sidewall with maximum pressures and a T or P designation of some sort. If you run extreme heavy loads you might pop passenger tires when you roll over coarse gravel. (you will get the point so to speak)

  • Is it normal to tense up and hate driving a trailer? In my opinion, yes, but it may be the trailer, and not you.  I currently haul four trailers on a regular basis.  Sometimes my family will forget I’m pulling the flatbed and say they forgot it was back there, I must admit I don’t even think about heavy traffic or parallel parking it, even with the excavator chained down on the deck.  Another trailer I haul is just a little longer and  wider at 104” and I am constantly on my guard just barely making corners, avoiding or hitting curbs and traffic.  My boat trailer follows me like a tail and I have driven 1,000 mile days as if it was a trip across town.  My camp trailer exhausts me, the stress gives me headaches and after dark, it gets even worse, I must be a real menace. So yes, it may be the trailer and not you.


  • This post gets  lots of views, makes me wonder why.

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