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Lessons from the Road – Safe Trailering

Posted by on Monday, June 1, 2015 in Articles

Sooner or later, you’ll probably embark on a trip that involves hauling a classic car, motorcycle or 4 wheeler on a trailer. Until I became a collector car insurance agent, I never really gave the complexities of long-distance trailering much thought. After all, I grew up around tractors, trucks, and trailers doing everything from loading hay to cutting firewood. Driver’s Ed at the local high school even included driving a tractor and backing up a trailer way back when, so I’d never found it to be much of a problem. But after raising the stakes by hauling a high-value, original collector car cross-country, I soon realized that the cargo, the speeds, and the distance meant many more things could go wrong.

Trailer 5 row

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Safety while towing a trailer begins with the hitch. First, make sure the ball and hitch are sized properly for the load you plan to haul and make sure you’re not dropping a two inch diameter hitch onto a 1⅞” ball. Always make sure the hitch locks on securely by pulling up on it vigorously. Use a padlock on the hitch and make sure two safety chains are secured so they don’t drag on the pavement, and before moving, verify that all locking pins are in place. If the trailer is one that is equipped with electric or inertia brakes, be sure to check them out and make sure they work properly and evenly.

Trailer 3 hitch

SECURITY

Your primary first defense against someone stealing your trailer is a lock, and speaking as an insurance agent, using a padlock on both the doors and the latch of the hitch is not only a good security idea, but a good safety idea, too. When parked, use the best hitch lock you can find as well. An unlocked trailer is a gift wrapped with a bow to a thief, and a trailer with 2 locks on it is just as big a deterrent.

Trailer 4 wheels

HERE’S A BRIGHT IDEA

Keep the connector for the lights clean and covered with a film of dielectric grease. This helps to prevent corrosion and it also provides a good connection. As soon as you hook up, always check all the light functions before every trip – taillights, turn signals, brake lights and side marker lights all must be in working order.

BEARING THE LOAD

Trailer wheel bearings are easy to forget…until you fry them on a country road in 110-degree heat. We’ve probably all seen it—the sad situation of a trailer sitting on one side of its frame after a wheel bearing failed and destroyed an axle shaft. They are not hard to check – jack the trailer up so the wheel just clears the ground and spin it. If the bearings are in good shape, there should be very little sound – no grinding, and no lateral play along the axle. Greasing the bearings that have a zerk fitting each morning was part of my routine when using the older utility trailer on long-haul trips. For bearings that don’t have the fittings, packing them as often as recommended by the trailer manufacturer is essential. Checking the hubs for excess heat at every fuel stop is my habit – if one side is far warmer than the other, there may be a problem.

Trailer 1 big rig

DON’T GET TIRED

This is the biggie – Good tires properly inflated are as important at the tires on the tow vehicle, and remember, trailers with small (9”) wheels are really is not made for long-haul, high-speed trips. The smaller the tire diameter, the faster they have to rotate to keep up with the speed of the tow vehicle. That increases the heat and stress in the wheel bearings and tires. Carrying a properly inflated, pre-mounted/balanced new spare is highly recommended.

GET A LOAD OF THIS

It’s vital to load the trailer as evenly as possible, within its designed load capacity and according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Loading with a slight weight bias toward the front of the trailer makes it easier to hitch up, unhitch, and move the trailer by hand, should that become a necessity. The larger the capacity of the trailer, the more important balancing the load becomes.

Trailer 2 flat open

ALL THE EXTRAS

A tongue jack really makes things a lot easier every time you hitch or unhitch. Get one with adequate load capacity and before getting underway, always make sure it’s locked in the raised position.  The tie-downs that hold the car or bike in position are crucial. Make sure they are in good condition and properly anchored. Always check your tie downs at every pit stop.

If you use ramps, get the type that secure to the trailer so the ramp won’t slip off the trailer bed during loading/unloading. Always load and unload while still hitched up to keep things stable. Never travel without an extra jack, wheel chocks for every wheel, a few 2×6 scraps, and at least one mounted spare, and a few extra bulbs, fuses, bungees, and tie downs never hurt, either.

WALK AROUND

Always check out the trailer, the load, the tie downs, the hitch, the tires, hub temperatures, safety chains, lights, doors (where applicable), tongue jack, and everything else related to securing the trailer at every fuel stop when underway, before heading out, and at the end of each day of travel.

Trailer 6 staff

GET GOOD INSURANCE

Make sure to cover your trailer for its full value with Agreed Value protection from your friends and agents at Heacock Classic.  Good equipment, a little planning, and some common sense habits can make the difference between a safe journey and a painful lesson.  Safe Travel, everyone!

If you have a collectible and trailer you’d like to insure with us, let us show you how we are more than just another collector vehicle insurance company. We want to protect your passion! Click below for an online quote, or give us a call at 800.678.5173.

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