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Chapin police officers remind motorists to use extra caution when towing a load behind your vehicle

Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – Officers with the Chapin Police Department are reminding motorists that towing a load behind your vehicle requires extra caution. From the time you back up to the trailer, until you reach your destination, towing a trailer adds a whole new level of danger if the vehicle's operator isn’t skilled or taking the proper safety precautions. As proof of what can go wrong, Chapin officers use a recent accident as an example. A heavy-duty work truck was seriously damaged after a trailer came loose from a tow vehicle and struck the truck driver’s side. There were thousands of dollars in damages done to the truck, and its driver could have been seriously injured.

Towing experts say often, people use the wrong size ball for the coupler on the trailer. The two most common sizes of trailer balls are 1 7/8th inch and 2”. The weight of the load is normally the determining factor as to which a trailer ball and hitch you will have. These numbers are normally stamped into the coupler and on top of the ball that’s attached to the vehicle’s hitch. If you are unable to find these numbers, don’t tow the load until you’ve determined that the two match.

Make sure your vehicle will handle the load you’re pulling. Your owner’s manual should have that information. If it’s missing, call a dealership of the brand vehicle you’re towing with. The trailer hitch on the vehicle is also determined by weight ratings. Pulling too heavy a load can break a hitch. A load that’s too heavy can also make it hard or impossible to stop once you get the load going.

Use the coupler’s latch pin on the trailer end. Also use the safety chains that are on the trailer. The pin keeps the coupler’s lever from coming undone when towing. The chains are supposed to be attached to the vehicle’s hitch as an added measure of safety if the trailer does break loose. If at some point these have dragged on the pavement, been damaged, or are missing, replace them before towing.

Make sure all your trailer’s lights are working. This is especially important if the load obscures the tow vehicle’s brake and turn lights. Older boat trailers with incandescent lights were notorious for blowing bulbs. You can now buy LED light sets relatively cheaply and have a qualified mechanic switch them out. If at some point the pigtail connector on the trailer has dragged the road or been damaged, have it replaced. Again, use a mechanic that can properly seal the splices.

When towing, slow down. The weight of your load can push you and you may not be ready for this. Start slowly and try your brakes to get a feel for how the load will handle in a spot close to where you started towing. If the trailer has trailer brakes and your tow vehicle has no brakes controller, that’s a clue you need to check the load rating of the vehicle against the weight of the load. What you’re towing is probably too heavy for your vehicle.

If hauling a load like dirt, rock, or heavy items, don’t overload your trailer. The trailer’s axles and tires have a special load rating. Often, you’ll see trailers alongside the road with shredded tires or broken axles as proof that people didn’t follow this rule. Inspect the trailer’s tires and check the air pressure before you tow. Also carry a spare.

Adjust your side mirrors and know how to use them. You should constantly be glancing at the load to make sure it’s okay. Watch closely when turning, especially with a long trailer. If it looks as if your load may hit something at a turn, stop! It’s better to be embarrassed and hold up traffic than it is to drag across something you may need to pay for.

Last, but certainly not least, it’s not really a good idea to tow a trailer if you can’t back a trailer. This is tricky until you’ve learned it. If you tow enough, you’re eventually going to get in a spot where you’re going to have to back up. That’s not the time to try and learn this skill. A riding lawnmower with a small trailer is a great way to learn backing. You can also use your trailer and an empty parking lot like a school. If you do that, take someone to watch and have your windows down so you can hear your spotter if they yell, “Stop.” Practicing in your yard or an empty parking lot makes it hard to damage anything more than your pride until you master backing.

Remember there are laws that govern towing. Make yourself familiar with these before hooking up to a load and driving away. You may save yourself some bucks and reduce the possibility that someone may be hurt.

There are many good websites with towing safety rules. Review these if towing for the first time. This LINK will take you to one from GMC.com. There are also a number of trailer backing websites. You might try YouTube, sometime seeing is easier than reading the directions.

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