There's a trailer sitting on your driveway, and you're the guy who has to hitch it up. Eye twitching, you prepare yourself for long hours of torture, angst, and the sudden disappearance of anyone in your vicinity who could be a spotter. Images of a runaway trailer careening across the interstate flash through your mind, and you start to sweat. Never fear! Here are several key tips to ensure you know what you're doing when you're hitching a trailer.
Proper Hitch Size
A key starting point is making sure you have the proper sized vehicle hitch. This may seem simple, but different trailers and equipment will require different sized hitches, and you need to make sure yours is the right one for the job. In this case, the hitch is referring to the mounting system attached to your vehicle. Different sized cars and trucks can have different hitches, which can range from holding a few hundred pounds up to tens of thousands of pounds. If you're unsure, it might be good to check your trailer's and vehicle's weight requirements. You can also talk with a trailer professional or read the specifications and figure out what you will require.
Proper Hitch Ball Size
While certain immature readers will be sure to snicker, the truth is that the ball size on your hitch is very important. All jokes aside, you need to make sure you have the proper ball size for your trailer. If your ball is too small, your trailer will fit loosely, if it even fits at all, and may rattle around or even pop off. Likewise, if your ball is too large, the trailer won't be able to fit all the way over it, meaning gravity and friction are the only things keeping catastrophe at bay.
It is a scientific fact that you will always have the wrong sized ball the first time you try to hook up a trailer. It is best to get that uncomfortable occurrence out of the way as soon as possible. If you measure beforehand and get the properly sized ball, you will not only save yourself time and frustration but will go down in history as one of the best-prepared trailer hitcher-uppers ever known.
Raise Your Trailer
Now that you're certain you have the proper hitch size, it's time to actually hook up your trailer! The first thing you'll want to do is to raise your trailer. A trailer will often have a hand crank that raises or lowers the front end of the trailer. You should crank this quite high, particularly if you've never hitched to this trailer before so that you have room to maneuver and line it up. If you're unsure how high you should go, give yourself plenty of leeway and go several inches higher. It's better to have a lot of extra room than to crunch your bumper!
Back Up Slowly (Hopefully With a Spotter!)
Now comes the fun part. A trail of ruined friendships and broken marriages stretches through history because of this very topic. Backing up to hitch up to a trailer has caused more strife than camping, hunting, and fishing combined. How do you avoid this drama in your own life? Make sure you have a clear, straight shot towards your trailer, and begin backing up slowly. Trying to back up at an angle makes this task all but impossible, so reorient your vehicle as necessary to come in straight.
Your goal is to position the ball directly under your trailer hitch. If you have a spotter, they can steer you in the right direction and give clear guidance for how far to go. Make sure they stand in a visible spot where they can see both you and the hitch and keep your window down in case they shout. Listen to their instructions! They can see what you cannot. If you don't have a spotter, back up slowly, getting out as needed to check your distance and direction. Take your time if necessary, and make sure you get this right! It's a lot better to take a few extra minutes than to crunch your bumper or fail to hitch up your trailer.
Lower the Trailer
Once your vehicle is positioned, you can lower your trailer onto your ball hitch. Crank the handle, and make sure that the hitch fits over the ball completely. This is important! If you don't have your trailer fitted correctly over the ball, your trailer can pop off when you try to drive it. Generally, this is a bad idea unless you are trying to scare away your in-laws or ensure there is no second date. Once you have lowered your trailer all the way and the ball is secure in its socket, you can raise the trailer's wheel. Continue cranking as if to lower your trailer, and the wheel will raise up. Once it's high enough, you should be able to rotate it after removing a cotter pin and secure it in place alongside your trailer.
What's Left For Hitching a Trailer
You're almost done connecting the trailer! There is almost always a latch on the hitch, and you will want to make sure this is locked, holding your hitch in place. Sometimes the latch has a cotter pin or lock, and you will want to make sure this is secured properly. Additionally, you should have chains and electrical hookups. Take your chains and cross them, attaching them to the hooks or slots in your hitch. Make sure you attach them in a manner where they won't fall off if you hit a bump and cross them more to prevent dragging as needed.
Your electrical wiring is trickier. It is a law of nature that a wire or bulb will short out at least once per trip, so you should factor this into your planning. Make sure you have the proper electrical connector on your car that fits your trailer. If they are different, you will need to buy an electrical adapter. Make sure you check your brake lights and blinkers to see if anything needs to be fixed or replaced. Since people don't drive their trailers very often, maintenance is often required before you go anywhere.
Now that you've finished the difficult part, actually hitching a trailer, it's time for you to leave your driveway! If you're certain that everything is attached and connected, you can drive off to your day of fun or work, secure in the knowledge that you have everything squared away. (Be certain to drive carefully and leave more room for stopping while towing a trailer!)
If you have any questions about trailers or want to purchase some equipment to get your setup ready, contact us, and we'll be happy to help!