First Time Towing Tips for New Drivers

Whether it is a holiday weekend, a vacation trip, or hauling a load for that next big project, there are several very common mistakes first time towers make that can wreak havoc with their vehicle and can lead to serious accidents. By understanding what these common mistakes are and how to avoid them, you can make the trip safer and more enjoyable for you and those on the road around you.

Understand Your Vehicle’s Ratings

Every vehicle has a maximum towing capacity as set by the vehicle’s manufacturer. If you choose to ignore this rating, you can easily end up in trouble as doing so can cause your brakes to fail, suspension to break, transmission to overheat, and your tires to blow out. There are several figures you need to be aware of:

GVWR: Your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, this is the total weight limit for both your vehicle and trailer combined, including everything you have loaded in them.

GCWR: Gross Combination Weight Rating, this is the maximum weight of your tow vehicle, passengers, fuel, the loads you are carrying, and any other equipment.

GAWR: Gross Axle Weight Rating, this is the weight a single axle on your vehicle can handle. You need to know this figure for your tow vehicle and your trailer.

Towing Capacity: This is the maximum weight your tow vehicle can safely tow.

Tongue Weight: This is amount of weight measured at the tow hitch of your trailer, it should be no more than 10 percent of the total weight of the trailer. If this weight is too high, it will reduce the weight on your steering tires causing an unsafe driving condition. Too light and the trailer may sway all over the road.

Brakes and Lighting

One thing most first time towers fail to realize is that thanks to the extra weight of the trailer they are towing, it is going to take longer to slow down or come to a complete stop. Depending on the weight, it could take significantly longer. This is why most states require trailers over a specified weight (typically over 1,500 lbs.) have their own brakes.

Not only will you find that having your trailer equipped with brakes can help overall control, but most trailer brakes are designed to apply immediately if your tow vehicle and the trailer become separated. There are two types of acceptable trailer brakes, the first is the hydraulic (surge) braking system that are applied when you start to slow down by a mechanism incorporated into the hitch. However, not all states allow this type of braking system.

The second is the electric brake system that uses an electronic controller mounted to your vehicles hydraulic brakes. This system applies the brakes any time you press on the brake pedal and is considered much safer.

Since anyone behind your trailer will not be able to see your vehicle’s taillights, brake lights, or turn signals, federal laws say you must have these same lights on your trailer. Your vehicle should be wired with a special connector that mates to the one on your trailer. Be sure to check the operation of all lights every time you get ready to take off. Your trailer should also have ample safety reflectors on the back for added safety.

Don’t Forget You Are Towing a Trailer

It is easy to forget you have a trailer hooked to the back of your vehicle. While under normal driving conditions your vehicle might have great acceleration and be quite nimble on the road, this will not be the case with a trailer attached to it. Allow for this to affect steering, acceleration, and stopping distances and give yourself plenty of time to make any necessary adjustments. If you are new to towing, go for a few short test drives before setting out on that long vacation trip just to be sure you know what to expect.

Categories: News, Toyota News

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