Tips for Towing & Trailering
The Pull of the Open Road
The weather is warm, the sun is shining and you’re ready to hitch a trailer to your new Ram 1500 Classic to hit the open road. Whether it’s transporting horses to a show, pulling earthmoving equipment to a job site, or just towing your beloved RV to your favorite camping spot, towing is a unique experience that is well worth the financial investment.
There’s just one problem—where to start building your secure connection! If you’re like many first timers, the idea of towing a trailer can feel intimidating. But, with the right kind of equipment, the best tools and some top tips from the NAPA experts, you can tackle trailering confidently and safely this summer!
What is a Tow Hitch Anyway?
A trailer connects to the tow vehicle using a system of interlocking components known as a tow hitch or a trailer hitch. The receiver hitch is the sturdy metal bracket that bolts to the rear undercarriage of your vehicle. It features a standardized receiver tube, which should work with a variety of hitch classes. The hitch slides into the receiver tube, and it is secured using an L-shaped steel shaft known as a hitch pin.
The trailer ball, also known as the ball mount or hitch ball, is often mistaken for the actual tow hitch. The trailer ball is the easy-to-spot, shiny metal ball mount that acts as the hitch point between your trailer and your vehicle. Though trailer ball sizes can vary, they are usually standardized so you can easily fit the correct coupler to them. The trailer coupler sits at the front end of a trailer to securely fit over the trailer ball, which allows the trailer to articulate through turns. The coupler must match the size of the trailer ball. Otherwise, the trailer might separate and get out of your control.
The final two parts of your trailer hitch system are some of the most important: a safety chain and the wiring harness. You can attach the security chain or safety chain to the receiver hitch or the chassis of the towing vehicle. Always attach safety chains while towing a trailer. These chains can minimize danger in case your trailer becomes unhitched during transport. Know that chains dragging on the pavement can cause sparks. If your chains are too long, use chain cutters to shorten the length or wrap any excess chain around your hitch.
Your trailer wiring harness or tow hitch harness ensures the signaling mechanisms from your hauling vehicle work on the trailer you’re towing, so other drivers can see your brake lights and turn signal indicators. Before you set off, make sure to properly test your vehicle’s lighting system and the trailer wiring harness so you stay safe on the road.
Do Your Towing Homework
It’s easy to see that towing a trailer is rewarding if you do your research. Ask yourself a few questions before getting started, and use all the resources at your disposal to get answers. You can check your vehicle owner’s manual, as well as peruse online forums and social media posts. Here are a few useful questions to help you get started:
- Check your vehicle weight rating. What is the towing capacity of the vehicle you are using? Check online and in your vehicle owner’s manual for the towing capacity. Never tow any trailer that is too heavy for your vehicle.
- Use the proper hitch type for your weight rating. There are four typical hitch types: fixed, receiver, pintle hook and 5th-wheel. The NAPA experts can help you research tongue weights and classes so you can choose the best hitch type for your vehicle.
- Determine the drop or rise of your trailer. The height of the receiver hitch will differ depending on your vehicle, and the same goes for the height of the coupler on the trailer. Use a tape measure and determine any differences. You may need a tow hitch with a drop or rise to ensure the hitch and the coupler meet at the same height.
Towing Tips From the NAPA Experts
Getting set up for safety and success before you set off is easy when you follow these tips from the NAPA experts:
Tip #1: Maintain your braking system. Braking is a critical part of towing a trailer because added weight can impact your ability to slow and stop your vehicle and trailer. Make sure your vehicle braking system is in good condition with reliable pads, sound rotors and functional calipers.
Tip#2: Consider greasing your hitch ball. Once connected, the hitch ball and coupler function much like a human joint. As time passes, the interacting metals can wear down and cause squeaking or corrosion. Use a multi-purpose grease or a graphite lubricant to minimize damage.
Tip# 3: Invest in Rock Tamers. Rocks and road debris can do serious damage to the underside of a trailer or the boat or RV you’re towing. Rock Tamers Mud Flaps help deflect large stones and loose asphalt to prevent damage to your rig.
Tip# 4: Consider installing a weight-distributing hitch. The secret to successful towing is keeping your load level. A weight-distributing hitch lifts and levels the load evenly over all axles, ensuring a smooth ride and minimizing wear on your suspension and bearings.
Tip# 5: Prevent trailer theft. Thieves are inclined to unhitch and steal an unsecured trailer with a valuable payload. A coupler lock will keep your trailer secure and prevent theft.
Whether you’re an experienced pro or a towing novice, embracing the exciting world of towing and trailering means making the best vacation memories and achieving successful construction projects. Reliably haul oversized and heavy loads to a worksite, or take all the comforts of home with you on your next adventure.
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Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.
More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.