Do you know anyone who regularly pulls some kind of utility or recreational trailer who hasn't "lost" the trailer or had a near catastrophe while pulling a trailer? I don't. Every single person I know who pulls a trailer has at least one story about the trailer breaking loose, taking off with a mind of its own, flipping across the fields, or repeatedly slamming into the tow vehicle, just seemingly for the fun of it.
Most of these stories have a humorous side and an uneventful ending. However, last summer I learned of an accident where a trailer broke free and killed two bicyclists. It reminded me of the times I've been out riding my motorcycle and I encountered trailers looking like they had all the potential of an unguided missile.
Here are a few things to consider when equipping and hooking up your trailer for your next cross country adventure.
I'm not going to tell you to avoid overloading your trailer (the rule of thumb: maximum weight is reached when the wheels are hitting the inside of the fendersócapacity can be increased by removing the fenders), to check and lube the wheel bearings (there are whole communities supported by replacing wheel bearings and tires on boat trailers and I'm not about to suggest we destroy local economies just to avoid a little inconvenience) or that you should always make sure you securely tie your loads down (I found a pretty nice cooler and half a case of motor oil that must have blown out of someone's boat last summer) because you know all this stuff already, from excruciatingly miserable personal experience.
- It may seem obvious, but make sure the trailer ball is the right size for your trailer tongue. A two-inch trailer receiver will fit very nicely on a 1 7/8" ball. It will also pop off when you hit a good bump.
- Remember to load your trailer with more weight in front of the trailer axle than behind it. A trailer with too much weight on the back end can put it and the tow vehicle into a violent and uncontrollable "wag" that can literally flip the tow vehicle.
- Safety chains should be heavy enough to support the weight of the filled trailer. They should also be crossed UNDER the trailer tongue. This will keep the tongue from dropping down and digging into the roadway, breaking the safety chains, and flipping over, possibly into the tow vehicle or other vehicles.
- Make sure the safety chain connectors are up to the task at hand. "S" hooks will work, but they're not as positive as the other alternatives that positively close and stay that way.
- If you have a trailer ball that receives a threaded bolt from the bottom side, throw it away or give it to your ex-wife's new boyfriend. The bolt can work loose without being very noticeable. If it falls out, the ball stays in the receiver tongue and the trailer just goes away. A ball with its own threaded shaft will corrode such that the nut cannot easily back off. If it's loose, it's readily apparent.
- Do not wrap the safety chains around the ball. Fasten them to a stout piece of framework or the part of the auto hitch designed for that purpose.
Source: July/Augest 1996 NMA News