How to select and hook up a trailer

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Shannon Papa, U-Haul Trailer Program Manager together with Joe Cook and others explain how to select a trailer and hook it up so that you will be able to tow it safely to your destination. This video is part one of a two-part series on safe trailering. Watch part two.

Matching your tow vehicle to a trailer

It is necessary to follow these guidelines closely when setting up your car-trailer combo in order to avoid dangerous situations on the road.

  • Fully-loaded unbraked trailers cannot exceed the empty weight (also known as the curb weight) of the tow vehicle.
  • Loaded braked trailers may safely exceed the empty weight of the tow vehicle in some cases, but be sure to follow the recommendations of your vehicle's and the trailer's manufacturers.
  • Make sure your hitch system components each have ratings that exceed the weight of the loaded trailer and that the hitch ball is compatible with the coupler.

Proper hook up procedure

  • Don't get distracted. Always complete the hook up procedure from beginning to end.
  • Make sure your ball size (stamped on the top of the hitch ball) matches the size of your coupler.
  • When placing a ball clamp coupler onto your hitch, tighten it down well, and then give the trailer a good shake. After that, tighten the clamp down again.
  • To hook up a trailer with a latch style coupler, double check to make sure your ball is the same size as the coupler. Then, release the latch and place the coupler on the ball. Finally, close the latch and place a pin or lock on it to fasten it safely.
  • Lastly, hook up the safety chains by crisscrossing them and looping them through the loops on your hitch. Then cross them again and secure the hooks to the chains.
  • Be sure that the safety chains have enough slack to turn, but won't drag on the ground.
  • Always hook up running lights, brake lights and turn signals to your trailer. Check all lights before you drive away.

Safety practices

  • When you stop to gas up, check your coupler and lights again to make sure everything is still connected properly.
  • Check the tire pressure on your vehicle and trailer often
  • If you hear a strange noise, pull off the road and stop at a safe place to inspect everything for safety.
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