As a part of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) fourth annual National Trailer Safety Week (TSW) running this week, June 6-12, Kenda Americana Tire and Wheel provided its top five driving tips for towing safely.
1. Inspect before you go with the pre-departure safety checklist.
• Check and correct tire pressure on the tow vehicle and trailer, including the spare tire.
• Make sure wheel lug nuts/bolts on the tow vehicle are tightened to the correct torque.
• Check that all items are securely fastened on and in the trailer.
• Make sure all running lights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights are working.
2. Maintain your tires after use.
• Visually inspect your tires after use. Look for signs of irregularities, cracking or stress. This can mean you’ve outlived the life of your tires and it’s time to replace them.
• Store your trailer properly, for example, if it sits in the hot sun, that could cause sun damage which could make your tires crack. Storing your trailer in the shade or covering the tires will help combat environmental damage to your tires.
3. Know the load capacity of your tires.
• Make sure the tires on your trailer meet or exceed load capacity. Check owner’s manuals or placards for maximum limits.
• Load your trailer properly – weight distribution matters, a tail-heavy trailer could cause instability. At least 60% of your load should be toward the front.
4. Know the proper stopping distance.
• On trailer models with brakes installed, the combination will require a greater stopping distance with a trailer in tow than the tow vehicle requires while operating by itself.
• Even smaller trailers that do not require brakes will require longer stopping distances for the combination than the tow vehicle requires while operating by itself. Even with adequate trailer brakes, if applicable, the tow vehicle will still have a greater stopping distance with a trailer attached.
• It takes experience for drivers to become comfortable with the difference between the way their vehicle handles by itself, versus the way the vehicle handles while towing a trailer loaded with cargo.
For following distances, a general rule of thumb is at least a 325-foot gap (about 5 seconds) between your vehicle and the vehicle or obstacle in front of you. Prolonged use of brakes can cause overheating and loss of brake effectiveness. Giving yourself ample space to respond should help prevent frequent and/or hard braking.
5. Respond to sway the right way.
• Gas off, brake off, steer straight and wait.
• Do not attempt to control sway by turning the steering wheel as it will only make the issue worse. If you have a brake controller, gently apply only the trailer brakes.
• As warm weather brings more trailers out, following these tips are as essential for drivers as always maintaining focus while operating a motor vehicle to eliminate distractions. By taking the right measures, you can reduce any problems that could arise on the road.