How To Tow A Trailer

By Cliff's Welding on Jan 25 in Towing.

How to tow a trailer Mesa

If you are searching for How to Tow a Trailer in Arizona this post can definitely help! Read on for some tips and tricks to make towing your trailer easier and safer.

Don’t ever confuse towing a trailer with driving your car, the only thing the same is the looks. If you are getting ready to haul a trailer, then you should brush up on the basics.

The trailer is doing some sort of samba behind your SUV while driving down the highway, swaying far enough into the other lanes and tug at the rear end of your SUV. It really feels spooky and is very unsafe. It was stable like alpacas on the mountainside whenever you began to drive. Since then the only thing that has been changed was filling your campers water tanks and you loaded the rear with your luggage and camping gear.

Towing trailers can be a real trial. Although they seem like really small details such as adding a few hundred pounds to the rear of the trailer can actually make big changes to the stability of the trailer. Following a few simple guidelines, you are able to stay on track and you can tow with safety and ease.

Having The Right Gear

All hitches are not the same. The weight that your vehicle is able to tow will be stated by the manufacturer and it is listed in your owner’s manual. You will need to find 2 main numbers: your maximum tongue weight or TW and gross trailer weight or GTW. These numbers can help to get the right hitch and they are split into 5 different classes based on their weight.

  • Class 1: 200lbs TW/ 2000lbs GTW
  • Class 2: 350lbs TW/ 3500lbs GTW
  • Class 3: 500lbs TW/ 5000lbs GTW
  • Class 4: 750lbs TW/ 7500lbs GTW
  • Class 5:1000lbs TW/ 10,000lbs GTW

The best advice is to install a hitch receiver that is heavy enough to match the TW and GTW specifications, even if you plan on towing a small trailer. DO NOT forget to think about the weight of the contents on the trailer including the capacity of gray, black, or fresh water tanks when you are picking a hitch out.

Many hitches will have removable drawbars which will hold the hitch ball. The bars will be in 2 sizes: the 2 inch for those heavy loads and the 1.25 inch for bike rakes and lightweight pop up trailers.

The hitch balls will come in 3 sizes: the 25/16 inch, 17/8 inch and 2 inch. Normally the larger the ball, the more weight it can support. If you have more than 2 trailers that need different ball sizes, it is recommended that you purchase different drawbars with the right ball on it that has been permanently attached.

You can install the ball onto the drawbar to the right torque which is normally several hundred ft-lbs. You will need to use a lot of muscle and some pretty big tools, as well as some threadlockers which willhelp to keep any type of moisture from getting into the threads and freezing them, which allows them to be removed easier.

  1. Cross Chains for Safety

Chains will serve as the last resort for your hitch such as if the tongue happens to lose the grip that it has on the ball, then the chains that you have will keep the trailer from going into traffic or something that is super inconvenient. Cross your chains under the tongue and if it slips free, it will hit the chains and not the road. Plus, using the cross configuration, your chains won’t come up short during those really tight turns.

  1. Check Your Trailer Wiring Harness

The standard socket and plug wiring as well as color coding system will make it really easy for you to be able to install the connecter correctly to your tow harness. Spray your contacts with dielectric grease to keep corrosion from happening.

  1. Check Your Brake Battery

Trailers that have electric brakes will rely on some small gel-cell batteries to start stopping when the breakaway lanyard is pulled. Usually, the battery will charge when the truck engine is running, but it is still quite smart to check it before you ever leave for the road. Faulty wiring or long-term storage can cause the battery to go dead. You can use a voltmeter or test light to see if the battery is charged, if not take time to hook it up to an external charger to make sure that the brakes will be in working order.

  1. Setting The Tongue Weight

A swaying trailer is most likely the result of not having enough tongue weight, because when youadd more tongue weight, it will add stability.

If it’s a tongue weight of 0, then the CG or center of gravity will be centered between the contact patches of the tires. This provides no stability and it will cause the trailer to sway and roll. When you add tongue weight, by putting cargo in the trailer towards the font, it will pull the CG towards the contact patches for the tires. The tire drag will start to pull the center of gravity back onto the trailer’s center. The heavier that the tongue weight is, the further the CG will go and more stability when it comes to sway, until you add too much weight to the rear suspension of the trailer. The best tongue weight will be between 10-12% of the total trailer weight. You can check your tongue weight if your bathroom scale doesn’t read high enough. Rest the tongue on a beam about a third of the distance between the scale and pivot. So a 140 lb reading will mean that your tongue weight is 420lbs, which is right for a 4,000lb trailer.

  1. Setting Up Equalizing Hitches

Once you have plenty of tongue weight which helps your stability, there may be too much pressure on your trailer hitch. Equalizing bars will help to provide rotational forces for your hitch and pivots horizontally which transfers a bit of tongue weight to the front axle of your truck. The bar stiffness needs to be right for your trailer, so check your manual or speak to a trailer specialist. Normally some people will adjust them so that the equalizer bars are installed and the trailer hitch will then rise back to 1-inch of the empty ride height.

Setting The Right Hitch Height

It is vital that your loaded trailer be level to the ground when it is attached to your truck, and that the flatness is trimmed with an adjustable drawbar or by finding one that has the right offset. If you decide to use an offset drawbar, then ensure that it has been rated to handle the trailer weight.

Find the height of the tongue of the trailer whenever it is level. Set the trailer on flat pavement and run a tongue jack up and down or simply prop it up with scrap lumber until it is level. You can find this by placing a leveler on the tongue or just eyeballing it from about 50 feet away. Measure from the top of the ball socket to the ground. Park your truck on level ground and then measure the top of the hitch and add 3 inches to add ball height.

Normally, the ball will be higher than your trailer tongue, so the difference is the amount that the drawbar has to be lowered. This is because the trailer weight will compress the springs on the vehicle. Hook everything up and load the trailer and then measure the trailer again. You may need to adjust the drawbar height over again. It is best to keep a variety drawbars handy, but having an adjustable drawbar is a really great investment.

Loading The Trailer Up

So you know how much your trailer weighs because it is on the registration. Don’t believe it as the listed weight doesn’t include any cargo or camper furniture. Accessories that are added at your dealership such as tie down rails, auxiliary battery, ramps and other stuff can change the weight dramatically. Don’t complain to your trailer manufacturer and if you state happens to charge by weight for registration, you are saving some money. The only true way to know the weight is to weigh it, and you can do so for a small fee at a gravel and stone yard, truck stops and feed stores.

Before you decide to head over to the scales, load your items up that are going to hauled, fill your propane and water tanks. When you arrive, get your trailer weight by disconnecting the trailer and putting everything on the scale. Next find your tongue weight by hitching the trailer and leaving only tires on the scale. The difference between the 2 weights will be your tongue weight. You want 10% of the trailers weight on the tongue. Shift your cargo and do so until you get the right weight distribution. Make a note of the position of your load, this is where your camera phone will come in handy. If you change the cargo, but don’t have any time to visit the scales, use the method under set your tongue weight to get a good measurement.

Do not trust things to stay put once you are on the road. Bungee or clip cabinet doors and drawers. You can also use ratchet tie downs to keep your stuff in place.


Inflate your tires to the maximum cold pressure recommendation. Heat will be your tires enemy and can correctly inflated tire will be much cooler. Be more careful for small tires on your trailers. The tiny diameter means it spins much faster. Doing high speed runs during a hot day with tons of heavy items could overheat your tires and even the wheel bearings.

Hooking Up

When you finally hook up the trailer, make sure that all your lights are working. You can do this without making several trips to the cab and turning signals and brake lights on. Turn your parking lights on and turn on the hazard light flashers. Walk to the back of your trailer and see if your flashers and parking lights are on. If they are, then you have brake lights and turn signals because they work on the same type of filaments as your hazard lights. This is assuming that your brake lights on the truck are working.

On The Road

It doesn’t matter just how tightly you have cranked your tie downs on the ATV, car or bike, road vibrations can loosen the straps. About 20 miles after you leave, stop and check the tension of the straps. After a few hours, check the straps and do this each time that you stop somewhere. Inspect your trailer and make sure that your wiring and hitch are secure. Kick your tires to see if their still inflated properly. Proper functioning wheel bearings and tire pressure are important. Heat is a big sign. You don’t want any wheel bearing or tire to be warmer than the others. Use your palm or infrared thermometer to check the temperature. A tire will become hotter if there is less air pressure than the others, so start checking for leaks. A hot wheel bearing is on the edge of failing. Pop off your bearing cap to see if there is plenty of grease in the cavity.

Each morning, check your trailer and truck tire pressure, as well as brakes and trailer lights. Do this for tie downs as well. Don’t forget to shut off the propane at your tanks as well as the electric water pump at your breaker. If you have an auxiliary battery, then make sure that it’s turned off and connected to your vehicle to charge while you are traveling.

Last Tip: If you are traveling to a campground, you can leave your freshwater tank empty until you get there. There isn’t a point in towing hundreds of pounds of water to where you are going. The same goes for breaking camp. Empty your water tanks at the campground instead of towing the extra weight around.

For Tow Bars, Truck Accessories, and More, Visit Cliff’s Welding, Inc.

If you are in need of tow bars, hitches, or truck accessories in Mesa, Arizona, give Cliff’s Welding, Inc. a call today at (480) 832-0570 or use our contact form and send a us a quick message.

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