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In Tow

Trailer Toys

We see it daily while driving the highways -- vehicles of speed strapped down to a trailer in tow behind a mighty heavy hauler. Many of us transform into true weekend warriors escaping the stress and responsibilities of work en route to our personal place of paradise, whether it's wet or dry. Just as important as the vehicle of recreation or competition is the means of transporting it. Towing is an activity that takes two vehicles to complete the standard tow vehicle and trailer. A trailer is a true necessity when it comes to getting your means of speed out of your garage or shop to your destination of adrenaline and excitement.

Towing doesn't just mean loading everything you can on or in a trailer, hitching it up to your truck, and taking off down the highway. Towing is the sensitive art of organization, ballast, and location. Properly loading a trailer and a boat, jet skis, race car, street rod, or custom truck is all about location and weight distribution. Where the load is located on the trailer will predict how much weight is placed on the trailer ball (tongue weight), which will greatly affect the handling of the trailer and tow vehicle. Most trailers handle better with more tongue weight because not having enough tongue weight will cause the trailer to wander back and forth behind the tow vehicle (wag the tail). When the trailer wanders, it tends to push the truck in the opposite direction, which can cause the driver to over-correct. Applying more tongue weight causes the trailer to settle.

The amount of axles will also affect the trailer's handling characteristics. A single-axle trailer will react quicker than a double- or triple-axle trailer. Having more axles creates a greater payload capacity and tend to make the trailer ride straighter behind the tow vehicle. Due to scrubbing the inside or pivoting tires, during cornering and turning, a single-axle trailer will turn easier compared to a multi-axle trailer.

Towing forward and backward is not similar by any means. While backing a trailer, the driver needs to coordinate the steering wheel with the opposite turning direction of the trailer. When directing the trailer to the right while backing up, the driver needs to turn the truck in the opposite direction by rotating the steering wheel counter clockwise. To direct the trailer to the left, rotate the steering wheel clockwise, turning the truck to the right and the trailer to the left. The tow vehicle needs to turn opposite of the trailer. The more steering input left or right will direct the severity of the truck and trailer direction. While straightening a trailer out while backing up, always remember to turn the truck into the trailer's present direction. Also remember to make wide turns because you have a trailer behind you. Use your mirrors religiously. You need to always think ahead when turning into a gas station as to which side your fuel filler is on. Make sure the trailer has trailer tires with the proper load rating. Prior to towing, check the trailer tire's air pressure. You will also want to pull the wheel-bearing dust caps and check the wheel-bearing grease. Use proper wheel-bearing grease because there is a difference between automotive and marine grease. There is nothing worse than seizing a wheel bearing on a trailer. The electric and surge brake systems also need to be regularly inspected.

Preventive trailer maintenance will always pay off. The reward is getting you and your trailer queen to the show, sand, dirt, shore, or track, and back home without any trailer misfortunes along the way.

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