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Video: 5 Things to Know Before You Tow

CARS.COM — So you’ve gone and done it. You’ve either bought a boat, a cool side-by-side or some other toy that you want to tow to your favorite spot. Here are the five most important things you need to know before you tow.

Related: What’s the Best 2017 Compact SUV for Towing?

No. 1

Know the maximum trailer weight of your tow vehicle and know how much your trailer can carry. On the receiver hitch, it should show the maximum amount of trailer weight you can tow with that vehicle. If it’s not there, if it’s an aftermarket receiver hitch, then go ahead and check your owner’s manual.

With the trailer there should be a tag stamped right on the side to let you know exactly the maximum weight that trailer can carry, and what your maximum gross vehicle weight is for that trailer — meaning how much the trailer and its cargo weighs in total.  

No. 2

Make sure you have the right parts and pieces for the hookup. You’re going to need either a factory-installed or aftermarket receiver hitch, a ball mount, properly sized ball, safety chains, a pin to hold that unit together and, very important, the electricals.

No. 3

Make sure you properly and safely hook up those parts and pieces, as well.

No. 4

Check all electricals, signals and brakelights.

No. 5

Understand that this vehicle, trailer and tow vehicle are going to drive completely differently than when the vehicle is empty. Stopping distances are going to be longer.

You need to set your mirrors so that you can see the wheels of your trailer, and you need to make some wide arcs when you make your right- and left-hand turns. To do this safely, you’re going to have to be very careful and drive differently.

Photo of Mark Williams
Former Editor Mark Williams lives in Southern California with his wife and enjoys camping, hiking, skiing, big trucks and towing, and backcountry 4x4 driving. Email Mark Williams

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