5 of the Most Common Trailer Safety Concerns
Friday, October 2, 2020

Trailers are very useful tools that can make our work much easier, but they can also be very dangerous if not used correctly. In honor of Trailer Safety Week, let's consider some of the most common safety concerns when using a trailer. Paying attention to these 5 things will make your trailering experience safer and more effective.

Some of the most common potential dangers when using a trailer include:

Not Matching Your Trailer Weight to Your Tow Vehicle

This may seem obvious, but towing a trailer that weighs too much for your vehicle can not only cause serious maintenance problems by over-stressing your engine and drive-train, but can also lead to major stability problems that can result in serious injury or even death.

Never exceed the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle. The towing capacity of your vehicle - in terms of maximum Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) and maximum Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) - can be found in the tow vehicle's Owner's Manual.

Driving Too Fast for the Conditions

Under ideal road conditions, the maximum recommended speed for safely towing a trailer is 55 mph. On wet, icy, or uneven roads, you will want to drive slower. Excessive speed can cause your trailer to sway and lead to loss of control. Your tires can also overheat and potentially blowout.

Always maintain a safe driving speed when towing a trailer.

Overloading or Improperly Distributing Weight

An overloaded trailer can result in failure or loss of control, and can lead to serious injury or death. Never exceed your trailer's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), which includes the total weight of the load you put on the trailer plus the empty weight of the trailer itself. If you do not know the empty weight of your trailer plus the cargo weight, you can weigh the loaded trailer at a commercial scale.

Also be certain that your load is distributed in a way so that the load on any individual axle does not exceed the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR).

If your trailer is equipped with a Tire & Loading Information Placard, the cargo capacity weight stated on that placard is only a close estimate. The GVWR and GAWR are listed on the Certification/VIN label normally located on the front left side of the trailer.

Not Maintaining Correct Tire Pressure

Be sure to always check the tire pressure before towing your trailer. Improper tire pressure can cause an unstable trailer and lead to loss of control or tire blowout.

Always inflate tires to the pressure stated on the Certification/VIN label. Allow 3 hours cool-down after driving as much as 1 mile at 40 mph before checking tire pressure.

Improper or Mis-Coupling of the Trailer to the Hitch

Improperly coupling your trailer to the hitch can lead to some hilarious YouTube videos, but it is actually very dangerous. Sudden uncoupling can be disastrous for both you and any others who may be nearby - not to mention the potential for serious property damage as well.

It is critical that the trailer be securely coupled to the hitch and that the safety chains and emergency breakaway brake lanyard are correctly attached. Always be sure that your hitch size matches your coupler size, and be sure your hitch components are tight before coupling the trailer to the tow vehicle.

Observe the hitch for wear, corrosion and cracks before coupling. Replace worn, corroded or cracked hitch components before coupling the trailer to your tow vehicle.

These and other safety considerations will go a long toward ensuring that you stay safe and that your trailer will continue to provide years of safe and reliable service. Remember that problems that happen on the road put not only you at risk, but any other drivers, bikers or pedestrians that share the road with you. Proper trailer safety protects you and others, and also protects your trailer from unnecessary damage or wear.