If you’re new around here or around towing in general, you might not know how to hook up a trailer. And that’s ok. What might be intuitive for some, can be a source of uncertainty and anxiety for others (guilty).
All the more reason to be prepared, right?
In this article, we’ll go over all the steps to getting it done right so that you can confidently move forward to your destination.
Let’s get right to it!
How To Hook Up A Trailer
First I’d like to note that you can do this by yourself, especially if your vehicle has a backup camera. If not, it’s always easier if you have that second person standing by to help you. So grab a co-worker, spouse, or neighbor and ask them to be your spotter.
1. Match the ball size to the coupler.
Before you do anything, you need to know that the ball and coupler will fit together. The diameter of the ball is almost always stamped on top with the most common size being 2 inches. Likewise, the coupler on the tongue of your trailer will have the required ball sized stamped into it along with the trailer’s towing capacity.
If these two numbers don’t match, STOP. You cannot tow a trailer with a ball that doesn’t fit. Doing so is dangerous, illegal and downright irresponsible.
Before proceeding, you’ll need to head to your nearest auto parts store and get the right sized ball. If you’re located in West Michigan, stop by Grandville Trailer, where our guys will get you taken care of. They are always happy to answer any questions you may have about how to hook up a trailer.
2. Raise and Unlock the Coupler
Because you will be positioning your vehicle’s ball mount under the trailer hitch, you need to ensure that the trailer’s coupler is high enough for the ball to fit underneath. Also make sure that the lock on the trailer is flipped up in the unlock position.
3. Back Into Place
Thankfully, most vehicles now have the backup camera on them. If yours doesn’t, this is the part where it’s nice to have a helper. Have then stand next to your trailer hitch and back up slowly until they tell you to stop. You want to stop when your ball is directly under the coupler. Depending on your vehicle, sometimes you can lean out of your window far enough to actually see your hitch lining up.
If you don’t have a camera, spotter or the ability to see your hitch, you’ll have to perform the old stop and check routine until you have the right position.
4. Lower Coupler and Connect
This is when you’ll lower your trailer hitch until it’s secure over the ball. If it’s lined up correctly, you’ll be able to easily put the lock back down.
Once the coupler is locked onto the ball, there are two very important connections that need to be made.
- The Safety Pin: Never forget the safety pin! This will go right back into the lock on the coupler to keep it from coming undone on the road.
- Safety Chains: Cross the chains once under the hitch and then connect them to the receiver. This creates a safety net for your trailer hitch in the unlikely event that it does come undone. There needs to be some slack in the chains but not enough to come close to the ground. If your chains are too long, do not wrap them around the hitch. Shorten them to the proper length.
Lastly you need to ensure that your trailer’s electrical is hooked up to your tow vehicle. This is not optional, as it is a Michigan law that your trailer have at lease one working taillight. Before you hit the road, test your running lights, brake lights and turn signals to be sure they are working. The same rule of the safety chains applies to your trailer harness. Make sure there is enough slack to make the turns but do not let it drag on the ground. For a quick fix, you can use a zip tie to connect it to the hitch to hold it off the ground.
Is your tow vehicle wired for towing? Give us a call and we can do that for you!
Once everything is properly hooked up, you’re ready to go! Remember to drive a little slower, allow for longer stopping distances and give yourself more room for turns when possible. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and DON’T EXCEED YOUR WEIGHT LIMITS!
Loading Your Trailer
Proper loading is just as important as correctly hooking up your trailer. Weight distribution is key to having a safe drive to your destination. Take a look at this excerpt from an article on the topic:
“A quick YouTube search on improperly loaded trailers can have you cringing and second guessing your ability. With too much tongue weight or negative tongue weight, a trailer is prone to swaying until it loses control. This results in the trailer jackknifing or flipping, sometimes flipping the tow vehicle too.
Too much tongue weight will weigh down the back tires of your vehicle and push your vehicle around, making it harder to steer and brake. On the contrary, when the the load is placed too far back, the tongue weight will be too light. Then the trailer is likely to start swaying on the highway.”
If you have any questions about how to hook up a trailer, give us a call! Our guys are always happy to help. We also have a great selection of trailer parts and accessories, including weight distribution hitches, tongue weight scales and so much more. We hope to see you soon!
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At Grandville Trailer, we’re pullin’ for ya!