Whether you’re interested in towing a trailer for your bikes and ATVs, you’ve got a camper that hooks up to your truck, or you’re keen to hit the lake with your new speed boat, you should know that towing something behind your car is an entirely different experience than regular driving. While you might normally zip around town and pull into tight parking spots, towing a camper or boat behind you adds a lot of weight and length to your vehicle, not to mention some extra wheels. And there’s surprisingly little connecting you to whatever you’ve got rigged up to the back of your truck. In short, towing can be dangerous, for you and other drivers, if you fail to follow proper safety precautions. So here are just a few tips that should help you to reach your destination in one piece when you’re towing.
- Practice. Remember when you first learned to drive? You had to take the car out and practice everything from acceleration and breaking to turning and parking. When you add several feet to the back of your vehicle with only a tow hitch to connect it, you need to reteach yourself how to drive your new setup. So head to an empty parking lot with your tow attached and learn how to drive it in a safe and consistent manner before you actually take it out on the road. And don’t forget to practice on the highway and in a variety of weather conditions. You might be surprised by how much a strong wind or a slippery surface can compromise your ability to stay in your lane and control your tow.
- Know your tow capacity. Before you start hooking things up to your car willy-nilly you need to know how much weight you can reasonably tow. You can often find this information in your owner’s manual, especially if you happen to have a car that comes set up for towing. But you might also have to look for specs online or talk to the automaker to find out. Your car has a limited capacity for weight, including passengers, cargo, and even fluids, and all factor in to the amount you can safely tow.
- Check and double check connections. You’ll no doubt go through a step-by-step process when it comes to hooking up whatever you’ll plan to tow, but it’s important to check and double check connections to make sure everything is done correctly. You want to make sure every strap and snap is secure, that the brake lights are functioning properly, and that nothing looks loose, damaged, or otherwise amiss.
- Stop regularly. Since you can’t exactly see what’s going on behind your truck, it’s not a bad idea to make regular stops to check your load and make sure that everything is functioning properly and that nothing has come loose.
- Outfit your rig with the right equipment. There are certain upgrades you’ll probably have to make if you’re going to do some towing. For one thing, you’ll need bigger mirrors to see to the back of your vehicle. And you can’t do much without a tow-hitch, not to mention extras like sway controllers and weight distribution systems, depending on what you’re towing. You can easily find what you’re looking for on websites like Westcott Towbars or through your dealership (although the latter is likely to be more expensive), and it’s important that you do so. Without the right equipment to get you started you’re flirting with disaster.