Trailering a car to a show is becoming more and more common. So are the horror stories that go along with pulling a trailer. It once took us eight hours to make a two-hour drive, as anything and everything that could go wrong went wrong. We’ve heard stories about blown-out tires, broken tie-down straps, and, even worse, people occasionally losing a trailer. Your show car’s important, but even so, you can always replace a car; you can never replace a human life.
We made some calls and hooked up with the people at Summit Racing, who have just expanded their business and are now carrying almost anything to satisfy your automotive needs. They expanded their catalog, especially the tool section, and now carry equipment to help you haul your car around on your trailer.
Summit Racing now carries winches, tie-down straps, tire changers, come-alongs, etc., along with many other items. You just need to pick up Summit’s handy catalog and you’ll most likely find what you need, at a competitive price, and have it delivered straight to your door. Now follow along as we show you some of the dos and don’ts when hauling your vehicle.
Towing Your Trailer SafelyPerform a safety inspection before each trip. Make sure that:* The pin securing the ball mount to the receiver is intact.* The hitch coupler is secured.* Spring bar hinges are tight with the safety clips in place (load equalizer or weight distributing hitches).* Safety chains are properly attached.* The electrical plug is properly installed.
Trailer Lighting And ConnectionsAll of your lights must work to be legal and safe. The weakest link is the connector. They corrode easily and need constant attention to keep the system working. (Be careful when cleaning connectors so not to short them out.) The wiring to the connector should be carefully routed so that it can’t come apart in tight turns or chafe through and short out. Remember, electric brakes also run through this connector. Have an observer confirm that your brake lights, turn signals and running lights are working properly each time that you hook up.
TiresTires have to be checked frequently with a trailer because a flat can go unnoticed on multiple axle trailers while it’s being towed. Running with a flat can cause it to catch fire and burn up your rig. With multiple axles or tandem wheels, it’s sometimes hard to see a flat tire as the other tires are supporting the weight of the rig and the flat spot is less noticeable. A quick check can be made by “thumping” each tire with a tire iron or rod to make sure that they all sound the same. Each time that you gas up, walk around the trailer and give a quick check by feeling each tire with your hand. A tire thats getting low will be hotter than the rest.
There is no substitute, however, for actually measuring tire pressures to make sure that they’re all within safe limits. This should definitely be done before each trip. The most common causes of tire failure are overloading and under-inflation. Both result in excess flexing of the sidewall, which causes heat buildup, excessive uneven wear and eventual failure. Continuing to run with a flat can cause it to catch fire.
Wheels And Lug NutsTrailers have higher wheel loading than passenger cars or trucks. Tandem axles do not steer, and wheels are subjected to high twisting side loads in tight, slow turns. This causes the wheel to flex, which tends to loosen wheel lug nuts over time. Always check lug nut torque before each trip. A suitable torque wrench only costs about $30 and is a worthwhile investment considering the value of your trailer. Aluminum wheels are more likely to have the lug nuts loosen than steel wheels, especially after the initial installation.
Wheel lug nut torque is usually much higher than that specified for passenger car wheels. Check your particular trailer’s recommended specifications. Most are in the 90-95 ft.-lb. range. On a new trailer, check the torque on all wheels after the first 25-50 miles of towing. Also recheck any wheel that has been removed and replaced after towing 25 to 50 miles. Do not drive a loaded trailer with a missing lug nut or damaged lug bolt.
Wheel lug nuts are usually torqued in a “star pattern” pattern for five- and 10-bolt wheels, crossing over to opposite sides as you work around the wheel. A “cross” pattern is used for four-, six- and eight-bolt wheels. Shown above are some suggested orders for tightening nuts on various bolt patterns. Using the numbers on the above diagram, a popular alternative for the five-bolt pattern would be a 1-2-5-4-3 “star pattern.”
Wheel BearingsAxle wheel bearings also occasionally need attention. Feel with your hand at the hub to check for one that may be running hotter than the rest. (Be careful. If the bearing is adjusted too tight or is running without grease it can get very hot!) A hot bearing needs immediate attention. Most often, either more grease or proper adjustment will ease the problem, but replacement may be necessary. Boat trailers are a particular source of wheel bearing problems as they are often put in and out of the water. A warm bearing that’s suddenly cooled by being immersed in water tends to suck water into the inside as the air cools and shrinks. The water causes the bearings to rust and fail.
Driving In Windy ConditionsWind can create havoc when towing a trailer, causing oscillations or sudden pulling to one side. Thirty mile an hour crosswinds can blow you off the road if there’s a sudden gust. For example, say a hard gust of wind hits your rig from the left. Your rig pitches to the right and moves towards the right. In order to stay on the road you turn left. With the rig leaning to the right, the centrifugal force generated by the left turn can be the added ingredient that puts you on your side, or worse yet, down the side of a ravine.
The only way to help lower the risk traveling in these conditions is to slow down. This eliminates the centrifugal force that happens when you correct, and if the wind did blow you over it wouldn’t be such a violent crash. The safest way is not to drive in extremely windy conditions. That’s what the professional haulers do, and so should you. Park it until it’s safe to continue. Wind can also have a dramatic effect on your fuel mileage when towing a heavy load. Plan your fuel stops accordingly.
Note: Several types of trailer sway control braces are available that can minimize the effects of wind gusts and passing trucks.
Wind From Passing TrucksAn interesting thing happens when being passed by faster moving buses or large trucks. Large vehicles develop a high-pressure wave of air in front of them and low pressure area to their rear as they go down the highway. This is variable and dependent on the shape of the truck and the existing wind conditions.
The effect is such that as the truck comes up to pass on your left, first your trailer and then your tow vehicle will be pushed to your right by the truck’s “bow wave.” As the truck passes, the low pressure zone will then pull you back to the left. You must steer first left and then right to counter the effect. It’s not particularly dangerous, but it does keep you on your toes.