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5 Common Towing Mistakes

Don't make common towing mistakes or it could spell trouble – or even disaster – on the road.

Making mistakes while towing can be costly, especially when you consider the safety of not just the people in your rig, but other drivers and pedestrians around you. Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid disaster by being prepared and following a few simple guidelines each and every time you hitch a trailer up to your truck, car or SUV. Check out these five common towing mistakes.

1. Not Maintaining Trailer Brakes

It’s great that your trailer has brakes, but when was the last time you had them serviced? One of the towing mistakes made time and again is to neglect the shoes or pads of a trailer’s braking system, only to find out on a long, downhill grade that the brakes are smoking, faded or on fire. At least twice a season, it’s worth examining not just the friction components of your brakes — the pads and shoes — but also the actuating mechanism inside the drum to make sure everything is within spec.

2. Towing More Than the Max

TowingA towing mistake that’s easy to make is overloading your vehicle. This doesn’t just apply to the weight of whatever is on your trailer; you also need to consider the weight of the load you’re carrying inside your vehicle. The mass of your passengers and cargo has to also be subtracted from your tow rig’s gross vehicle weight rating to determine whether you are still within the manufacturer’s safety limits. Don’t overload unless you want to risk damage to your truck and trailer, and potentially create a dangerous situation out on the road.

3. Not Using Tow or Haul Mode

Most modern vehicles have a tow/haul mode that locks out overdrive and forces the automatic transmission to stay within the engine’s power band. Not only does this offer up as much grunt as necessary to move a trailer, but it also significantly reduces heat inside the gearbox and prolongs its lifespan. If your truck or car doesn’t have a tow/haul mode, you can almost always manually move the gear shifter out of overdrive to achieve the same result.

4. Forgetting to Check Tire Pressures and Lug Nut Tightness

Losing a wheel or blowing a tire while driving is a nightmare. Having the same thing happen while towing can be a catastrophe. Don’t make one of the common towing mistakes of forgetting to verify the tire pressures of your rig and your trailer before setting out on the road. It’s also worth checking each of the trailer and truck lug nuts with a torque wrench at the beginning and end of each tow, to make sure everything is tightened to factory specifications.

5. Not Inspecting the State of Your Harness

Your trailer’s wiring harness takes a lot of abuse. It’s exposed to rocks, salt and other road grime that can chip away at its connections and wear down the insulation on its wires. Make sure that the harness is functioning properly before you leave the driveway, and that all lights, brakes and turn signals are operating as expected.

Mistakes happen, but a little advance preparation can go a long way toward preventing them from ruining your trip.

Check out all the body & accessory products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on towing mistakes, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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