Trailer Hitch Do’s and Don’ts to Prevent Accident
Using a trailer hitch the right way can cause fatal accidents. Because of this risk, it is critical that every driver planning to pull a trailer learn to secure it correctly. You don’t have to be a professional to attach a truck and trailer hitch the right way. You do need to learn the proper steps and gain some experience with hitching a trailer through practice.
Hitching Failure Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) documented over 50,000 accidents caused by the improper use of a trailer hitch just in one year. Many of these accidents were preventable and caused by human error.
Towing a trailer requires two things: being knowledgeable and equipped for safety. If you can’t answer the following questions, then you might need to read the NHTSA’s step by step towing guide.
- How does the size/weight of a trailer effect which towing vehicle I should choose?
- Are there proper loading and weight distribution procedures that I should follow?
- Why are the trailer manufacturers’ tow ratings important?
- How do I calculate the weight of a trailer?
- How do the hitching, braking, and wiring systems that connect a vehicle to a trailer function?
- Does my state or local government have specific requirements for towing a trailer?
Knowing the answer to each of the questions above ensures that you understand the proper procedures for hitching a trailer.
Steps for Hitching a Trailer Correctly
Although the purpose of this article is to provide basic information about the hitching process, your owner’s manual or manufacturer guide should be the first ‘go to’ documents from which you seek towing info. Believe it or not, some vehicle manufacturers even provide specially designed towing packages. This allows owners to attach and tow a trailer much more easily.
To do it yourself:
1 – Use the hand crank to raise the trailer’s hitch up several inches higher than the ball hitch on the back of the truck. 2 – Back your truck up toward the trailer. Having someone guide you can make this process a lot easier. 3 –Make sure that the trailer hitch is directly over your truck’s ball hitch. 4 – Check to be sure that the trailer hitch is unlocked. 5 – Using the hand crank, lower the trailer hitch until it is over the ball hitch. The trailer hitch should fit securely around the other piece. 6 – Secure the trailer’s wheel—make it parallel to the trailer’s neck. The handle should be parallel to the trailer’s neck as well. 7 – Make sure the handle is in the locked position and place the pin inside. This is an important part of hitching a trailer correctly to prevent accidents. 8 – Your trailer may have safety chains with hooks attached to the ends. If so, cross them over each other. Then, attach them to the bottom of the vehicle’s trailer hitch. (Tip: if the chains are too long, you can twist them to shorten them). 9 – Test the trailer’s lights and turn signals before driving hitting it to your truck and driving off.
Follow Steps or Hire Someone
If you follow the steps above, your trailer should be securely hitched and ready to go. If you still feel uncomfortable towing or think that what you are trying to tow with your trailer could be better handled by a professional, consider hiring someone instead.