Towing a Trailer: 9 Tips for Towing Safely
Follow these tips to keep your family safe all summer.
- Consult your car’s owner’s manual for the towing capacity (the maximum weight the vehicle can safely tow) and the gross combined weight rating (the maximum weight of the vehicle and trailer, fully loaded, that your vehicle can handle). Do not exceed these numbers.
- Watch the tongue weight. This is the trailer weight pressing on the hitch. Typically, recommended tongue weight is 10 to 15 percent of a trailer’s loaded weight.
- Inspect the hitch system to be sure it’s compatible with the trailer and can handle its weight. Follow the vehicle and trailer manufacturers’ hitch recommendations.
- Connect safety chains between the vehicle and trailer. The chains should have slack, and crisscross under the trailer tongue.
- Pack carefully to secure cargo and balance weight in the trailer. As a general rule, distribute 60 percent of the weight at the front and 40 percent at the rear.
- Check the integrity of the tires on your vehicle and trailer. Replace tires that are worn, inappropriate for the weather (snow tires in summer, for example) or more than 10 years old. Before leaving home, verify that you have spare vehicle and trailer tires.
- Review local towing regulations during trip planning. States may require towing permits, have trailer size restrictions and/or require separate brake systems on larger trailers.
- Follow a pre-trip checklist:
- Check the tire pressure on all vehicle and trailer tires.
- Make sure the hitch is secure and the safety pin is in place.
- Test the trailer’s taillights, brake lights and turn signals.
- Raise and lock the trailer jack, tongue support and stabilizers.
- Check your visibility; if you can’t see around the trailer, install extension mirrors.
- Drive carefully:
- Don’t transport passengers in the trailer.
- Slow down, and brake early.
- Make wide turns.
- Allow for extra space between vehicles when passing and merging.
- Exercise caution during severe weather and high winds.
Learn more about protecting other items you may tow, including your RV, from MetLife Auto & Home®.