Hooking Up A Trailer
Daily Dirt Education How-to & Tech Tips

Hooking Up A Trailer

LON-Daily-Dirt-TrailerThere are a few steps to review and remember when hooking up a trailer that are very important to a successful and safe tow.  I have even had a habit of checking the trailer hook-up when I didn't do it personally to make sure that everything is ok. None of it is difficult, but none of the steps can be missed.

Line Up The Trailer

The first job is to make sure you have the right size ball for the trailer.  There are generally three sizes: 1 7/8", 2", 2 5/16".  You will also want to make sure that you have the right ball mount for the vehicle.  You can have a ball mount that raises the ball, or one that drops the ball.  The goal is to have the trailer sit on the vehicle as level as possible.  There are multiple reasons for this, including tire and axle wear.  You will also need to make sure that the ball is "pinned" into the hitch receiver on the vehicle.  There are dowel pins or locking pins.  I have a locking pin so no one can steal the ball out of my truck while around town.

As you line the vehicle up to the trailer, you can have someone guide you, or if you are by yourself I use my mirrors and equally set a portion of the trailer on each side.  I then get close to the trailer, jump out and check and adjust knowing my distance back and side-to-side movement. While I'm out on this first check I notice the height of the trailer and jack up the trailer to be able to allow the ball to clear.  Inch back to have the trailer ball sitting directly under the trailer coupler. 

Connect the Trailer to Vehicle

hitch lockRaise the locking lever on the receiver, some slide back and some flip up.  Make sure this stays open/up while you crank the handle on the trailer jack lowering the receiver onto the ball.  Once the weight is on the vehicle, make sure the tow ball is firmly set into the trailer hitch coupler.  Sometimes I put the vehicle in drive with my foot on the brake which creates a little bump to make sure that it is set in the front.  Once secure, close the locking lever and install the locking pin.  This pin keeps the lever from moving while driving.  I have a key locking pin that also acts as added security while traveling or parked in the yard.  The trailer is now officially connected!

Next, attach the safety chains in a criss-cross X pattern to the vehicle.  We never want to think about this, but if the hitch comes loose, the trailer tongue will only drop the length of the chains instead of onto the ground, which will maximize your control and minimize the damage to you and your vehicle.  The X is important for strength.

Last, connect the lights and brake wires to the vehicle.  Before committing to using a trailer, be sure that the vehicle and trailer have the same pigtail connectors.  There are adaptors that you can buy at the autoparts store, or online ahead of time.  Once inserted, check your brake lights and turn signals to verify that the pigtails are connected properly.  On a trailer with batteries, like a toyhauler, you are now transferring power from your vehicle too.  If you go on a multi-day trip and decide to not unhook your trailer, at minimum unhook the power from your vehicle so you don't drain the batteries and can't start your vehicle when you go to leave.

Triple Check 

Yes I do it.  Go down your mental list to make sure everything is attached properly.  Then pull out slowly and make sure the trailer brakes are working.  Not all trailers have brakes, or vehicles have remotes inside the vehicle, but if yours does, be sure to test before you need it.

Whats Next

Try it... why not?  You have a truck and trailer?  Ok, go find the ball, back it up, hook it up, un-chock it, pull forward 1 ft (careful to go straight) then backup the 1 ft straight, chock it, and drop the trailer. You CAN do it!

Hate to say this, but it is the truth and reality.  Most ladies don't think about having to deal with a trailer or towing a trailer until the guy has a challenge on the camping trip.  This is another one of those moments where knowing how to do these "simple" tasks in an environment when there is limited stress will help set you up for success in a more challenging time.  Do it, try it, what do you have to loose?


Author:  Charlene Bower         P 2/1/2017

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