Many small business owners choose to buy a truck to haul things to their job sites. If you’re thinking about upgrading your current work vehicles, and you want to get the most out of them, here’s how to tow loads safely and efficiently.
Tow The Right Tongue Weight
Start with the right vehicle. For example, a RAM truck 3500 should be a good base and give you plenty of power to tow. Still, you will want to check and set the hitch properly.
Set the tongue weight to between 10% to 15% of the trailer’s total weight. Going over this reduces stability. If the tow vehicle doesn’t have enough rear suspension spring rate to accept this, then get yourself an equalizing hitch. The hitch will transfer some of the weight forward to the front axle.
Cross the safety chains underneath the hitch, in an x-pattern. If the hitch does come off or comes adrift, then the tongue will drop onto the chains instead of onto the ground. And, it will maximize your control and minimize damage. And, with the chains crossed, you can turn a tighter circle without binding them.
Tire Pressure Considerations
Check your tire pressure. It’s such a simple thing, but it can make a huge difference in performance. Always keep them at the maximum recommended pressure. They’ll run cooler and you’ll use less gas, too.
Inspect The Rig
This is one of the most important things you can do. Every time you pull over and stop on a long towing trip, do a walk around and inspect the hitch, tires, and wiring. Make sure the harness connector and breakaway cable are still connected. If something looks off, fix it before you get back on the road. Check the nut on the bottom of the hitch ball. Then, check the tire and brake drum, along with wheel bearings. A non-contact infrared thermometer will tell you where you stand. If everything is cool, you’re good to go. If one tire or bearing is noticeably hotter, there’s a problem.
Regardless of how well you do, they’ll loosen up as the suspension jiggles everything around. You should stop after 10 miles and then retighten.
You can save a bunch of time by walking back and forth between your trailer and cab when hooking up. Connect your trailer plug and turn on the parking lamps. All you need to do is walk to the back of the trailer and see if the running lamps are on. Then, check the brake and turn signal lamps.
When you start your tow trip, check the electric brake function by sliding the brake control lever over an inch. You will also be able to feel the trailer brakes actuate. Hold the brakes partway for about 10 seconds, then pull over and check they’re all heating up equally with an IR thermometer.
Towing takes a lot of power. Trailers with electrically-operated brakes have a breakaway switch. They also have a small 12-volt battery to actuate the trailer brakes if your hitch comes apart. Many trailers don’t have a provision for charging the battery, so it needs to be done manually.
If you want to increase the safety and security of your setup, use a diode to charge it from the trailer’s plus 12-volt circuit.
Maisie Joyce is a tom boy at heart who works in the family run truck repair center. She is happiest with her head under a bonnet with grease in her fingernails!! She writes about trucks and auto repair, and hopes to show women that they can easily carry out things which are usually left to the guys to do.