​Confused about Towing With a Trailer? Here's a Guide to Help

There comes a time in any outdoor enthusiast's life where they realize they are going to have to start towing things in order to maximize their camping/hiking/fishing/or water skiing adventure. How do you know what you need in order to do this effectively and without hurting yourself or your vehicle? 

Well, let us go over some things you should know, in general, before you run off looking for the right accessory for your trip. One of the first things you should learn is the lingo that people use when talking about tow equipment.  Here are some formulas you should get comfortable with because these formulas can literally save a life or at least make it safe for you to tow something effectively.

The Base Curb Weight + Cargo Weight + Passenger Weight = GVW or Gross Vehicle Weight. The GVW + Loaded Trailer Weight = GCW or Gross Combination Weight. 

You should know that GVW must not more than the GVWR. How do you find GVWR? You can find this number on the safety Compliance Certification label. It is one of the first things you should look at before you even think about buying an accessory.  But wait... What precisely is the GVWR you ask? GVWR is the unadulterated utmost weight permissible on a completely encumbered automobile (i.e. the maximum weight your vehicle can tow).The number not only includes what you are towing but also the people who are riding along for the adventure. Therefore, you and your friends count too, so don't forget to add them in your calculations.  Get accurate counts, or weights, for everything you will ask your vehicle to carry and then you can find out how big of a trailer you can bring with you on your adventure. 

Keep in mind that not all hitches are alike, in fact, there are two varieties of hitches you will find in the marketplace. A weight-carrying hitch is what you will likely find if your GWVR dictates that you should be in the market for a small or medium size trailer. A well developed/strong carrying hitch is what you need and what you should be using. The hitch should distribute the weight evenly and make your trip much more comfortable and stress-free.  How do you know if you have the right hitch? Hitches are supposed to have a label that tells you specifically what weight they can carry and how much weight it distributes. Common sense advice here but it would be remiss not to tell you that you should not go over whatever that label tells you.  

The weight distributing hitch utilizes a hitch platform that makes it possible for the hitch to allocate the tongue weight evenly amongst the wheels of the automobile towing the trailer and the wheels of the trailer itself.  If you have Class III or IV trailer then you find that this is the necessary style of hitch for you. A hitch of this design is either fastened with bolts or welded to the skeleton/framework of the automobile. It also arms that equalize the weight you are hauling that are attached from the hitch to the trailer's frame or construction.  

Another important consideration when you need to haul things from point A to B and back is your brakes. They should be in good repair and ready to make the trip.  Keep in mind that a load of over 1500 lbs necessitates a separate braking system by law. Interestingly enough, there are also two designs being sold for this purpose.  

One style of stopping mechanisms is electronically controlled. Commonly, these brakes make available the use of automatic and manual command for the brakes residing on the trailer.  The automobile doing the towing requires a device that controls the brakes and it will require the user to do some wiring to make sure that it works correctly. The other design of these stopping mechanisms is called "Surge Brakes". Surge brakes are brakes that operate autonomously and they are activated by a master cylinder. The cylinder is actually not in the automobile but is actually found inside the intersection of the trailer tongue and hitch.  The common sense thing to do here is to make sure that your braking system is up to par with the code of the law to avoid any kind of problems. 

The trailer not only needs a brake system but it needs its own lights. The lights have to meet the requirements set forth by the government. Keep in mind that you should not attach the trailer lights with the automobile's lighting system.  The trailer lights need their own proper wiring harness.  The best place to find this is by contacting your dealer to make sure you are getting the right harness for your rig. 

You will also have to use safety chains when you intend to bring things with you on your adventure. What do these chains do? The chains enable you to have an attachment as a fail safe in case the hitch fails to do its job.  The proper procedure for using safety chains is to cross the chains underneath the trailer tongue. The previous action prevents the tongue from touching the ground should you experience a failure from the hitch. The chains should include an adequate amount of slack for the automobile to make a full turn. 

If utilize the information contained in this article, then you should find that your trailer will be a great investment for your adventures.  The trailer will be a steady partner in your expeditions to the mountains, rivers, and anywhere else you have your heart set on visiting. If you still feel overwhelmed, don't worry. It is very natural for you to feel that way. A trailer can be an exciting but stressful purpose at times. However, this guide should help you tremendously in feeling more prepared to make a good choice.  Enjoy your trip and, hopefully, this guide will help you find the right hitch for you.

Here's a quick way to shortcut figuring out what you need. Check out our Weigh-Safe trailer hitches that automatically reads tongue weight for you with a scale to tell you if you are safe or not.