Trailer Towing Safety


Interested in a comprehensive resource for trailer towing safety, here are a couple websites that are excellent resources and cover almost all of the common concerns and questions:

These websites have a wealth of updated comprehensive information.

Towing Ratings

Having the correct two vehicle and understanding it’s capabilities is essential in being able to safely tow your vintage trailer.

Trailer Life Towing guides can be found here too:

You don’t want to fall in love with an vintage trailer only to find out it is too heavy for your vehicle to safely tow. Camping World offers a database of tow ratings that will also help. Trailer Weight Ratings – also known as tow ratings or tow limits – are available here for new tow vehicles sold in North America. Some results also include additional tow-related notes specific to that particular make and model. –

Towing Checklist

Before driving, make sure your vehicle maintenance and trailer maintenance are current. This is very important because towing puts additional stress on the tow vehicle.

  • Check and correct tire pressure on the tow vehicle and trailer, including the spare tire.
  • Make sure the wheel lug nuts/bolts on the tow vehicle and trailer are tightened to the correct torque.
  • Be sure the hitch, coupler, draw bar and other equipment that connect the trailer and the tow vehicle are properly secured and adjusted.
  • Make sure the safety chains are properly criss-crossed and connected, not touching the road but with enough slack to make turns.
  • Check that the wiring is properly connected; not touching the road, but loose enough to make turns without disconnecting or damaging the wires.
  • Make sure all running lights, brake lights, turn signals and hazard lights are working.
  • Verify that the brakes on the tow vehicle and trailer are operating correctly.
  • Ensure the breakaway system lanyard is connected to the tow vehicle but not to the safety chains or ball mount.
  • Check that all items are securely fastened on and in the trailer.
  • Be sure the trailer jack, tongue support and any attached stabilizers are raised and locked in place.
  • Check load distribution to make sure the tow vehicle and trailer are properly balanced front to back and side to side.
  • Check side- and rear-view mirrors to make sure you have good visibility.
  • Check routes and restrictions on bridges and tunnels.
  • Make sure you have wheel chocks and jack stands.

Trailer Tires

To safely tow your trailer, you need the right tires, right tire pressure and drive them at a safe speed. Trailer tires are different then a passenger car tire. Here is a good article explaining the differences:

Carlisle has a playlist of great videos – they good into when to replace trailer tires, how to store them, the difference between specialty trailer, light truck and passenger tires, etc.

Trailer Sway

Want to understand trailer sway and tongue weight – watch this video to educate yourself:

Facebook Concerns

I have seen a lot of posts on the TCT Group on Facebook over the last few months asking questions like “Will my 1977 Chevette pull at 16ft Avion. “Will my new Fiat 500 pull that cute little 17ft trailer”. This is a great hobby and we have all been there and have had our heads spinning over our first vintage trailer. I too am a newbie and have had my trailer for just over a year and have restored it top to bottom. Some things to consider about your tow vehicle are.

  1. Can I get the proper class hitch for my vehicle?
  2. Does my vehicle come with or can I get a transmission cooler installed?
  3. Will my wiring harness handle a brake controller?
  4. Will your trailer “wag the dog” because it is light and has a short wheel base?

Just because your car “can” pull that trailer does not mean it should pull it. If you are in doubt, go to a local RV store, trailer hitch shop or vintage trailer meet and ask for their opinion. Since we are on to safety lets talk about that dream trailer and things to think about.

  1. Are the tires old or worn out? Good trailer tires are not cheap but they are a must or again you may wag the dog because of no side wall.
  2. Brakes. Most states and provinces have laws on how much you can tow before you need brakes. This is another must. Without brakes your “cute little trailer” will cause your breaking distance to double or triple depending on speed, driving conditions etc. With a proper electric brake setup your vehicle should stop just as quick as with no trailer.
  3. Sway/load level bars. Another must IMHO as a 3000lb trailer swaying in a cross wind at 55mph will scare the crap out of you. With sway bars and proper trailer tires you minimize this issue.
  4. Condition of frame and hitch. Depending on where and how your trailer was stored it may not be safe to pull it at all. If in doubt don’t until checked out by an expert.
  5. Lights. Make sure they all work including running lights.
  6. Bearings. Make sure they are packed and turn freely. Again you may have to seek help for your first time.

Do not let this scare you off. If money is an issue for a tow vehicle you can always find older Suburbans and pickups that will tow great. You can get that dream trailer and spend the next year fixing it up while you look for a tow vehicle. Remember you will probably keep the trailer a lot longer than that Fiat anyways. If you want good mileage and money is no issue look into a Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel. I myself use a Grand Cherokee (non diesel) and we are looking for our next tow vehicle as the Jeep has issues in the mountains. Our trailer weighs around #3500 lbs and is 15 ft. long. Our Jeep has a full tow package, electric brake controller and sway bars. It is rated to tow up to #5000 lbs but it struggles. Luckily for me the PO spent $1500 on a new axle, electric brakes and new tires before dry storage for 15 years. I installed new trailer tires (10 ply), greased the bearings and installed the brake controller. Bottom line, be safe and have fun finding your dream trailer. It is a blast!