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Monday, July 13, 2009

Towing Safety Redux

I am all about safety as most of you are painfully aware. You can never be “too safe” and mitigating against risk is always high on my priority list. One thing I was very persistent with was towing my pop up safely. When I purchased the pop up I was given a primer on towing it safely and I was really disappointed with what I was told.

I had them install a Class III hitch on my truck along with wiring, I was told by a lady at the place where I bought the pop up, “you can just tow this on the bumper!” I quickly said no thanks please order and install a hitch. The pop up is close to 1800 lbs dry weight, technically I could tow it with a bumper hitch but I don’t believe that would be safe.

I also told them to install a brake controller in my truck because the pop up I bought had electric brakes and they said, “Well you really don’t need that because the trailer limit for brakes in South Carolina is 2000 lbs.” I said no thank you; please install the controller and the wiring so I can use the electronic brakes.

I told them to install a deep cycle battery on the pop up, they said “why, that only powers the 12 volt lighting and refrigerator?”, I said because I want to have the breakaway switch on the pop up actually work should the trailer become detached. A breakaway switch will not function without a battery; once the trailer is detached from the tow vehicle power is lost, electronic brakes need power. A breakaway switch for those that don’t know is a device that applies the trailer brakes to the trailer should it accidentally become separated from the tow vehicle while traveling. This will protect your trailer and the people traveling around you from a runaway trailer with a mind hell bent on destruction.

I was shocked honestly, how many people are out there towing pop ups with a bumper and no brakes? Are they crazy? Apparently I am the one that is crazy. There is a law in South Carolina that a trailer must have a breakaway switch but it mentions nothing about a battery. That is like saying well you need a flashlight when it gets dark but saying batteries are optional, kind of dumb don’t you think?

I know some of you will say jeez you are paranoid; it is a pop up camper for crying out loud! Yes but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Do you care about your family? Do you want the kids in the vehicle that is bumper towing a 2000 lb trailer when you have to slam on the brakes because of some idiot cutting you off and you trailer having no trailer brakes? That is just an accident waiting to happen. Not to mention your tow vehicle; add 2000lbs to the weight your tow vehicles brakes need to stop now and tell me how long your brakes will last or what the minimum stopping distance you need now? It is just some common sense folks; spend a few hundred dollars more for peace of mind and you and your families’ safety.

Here are some recommendations that will help you tow your load, no matter what its size, safely:

1.) Use a bigger class size hitch than needed – if you only need a Class II hitch spend a few more bucks and just get a Class III hitch installed.

2.) Avoid bumper towing all but the smallest of trailers.

3.) Always use safety chains and always cross them when hooking them up.

4.) If you have electronic brakes use them! Get a brake controller and make sure you have it installed correctly! Hydraulic (surge) brakes are better than nothing. Brakes will save wear and tear on your tow vehicle and may save your life!

5.) Make sure your trailer has a breakaway switch and a battery (small trailers can skip this – follow your local laws). Make sure the switch is hooked up correctly, mine needs to be attached to one of the safety chains for example.

These are just a few simple ways to ensure your towing experience is safe and you get to your destination with your trailer intact. Towing is something everyone should know how to do and everyone should be comfortable with as you never know when you may need to do it.

Tip: Remember when backing up a trailer turn the steering wheel in the OPPOSITE direction you want the trailer to go.

...that is all.


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