How to Use Your Truck Hitch Properly

truck hitch by lucianvenutian on flickrYour truck is a handy tool for heavy duty hauling jobs, but the power of your truck is only as good as the security of your hitch. Failing to install and use it properly can cause dangerous or even fatal accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety bureau has reported that over 400 injuries and an average of 8 deaths per week take place due incidents and accidents involving towing trailers. To protect yourself and the drivers around you, follow these tips to safely and properly use your truck hitch.

  1. Proper attachment is a must but before you start, make sure that the springs, pin and hitch coupler are secure, and all attachments are tightened. Screws loosen over time and with bumpy travels, so it’s in your best interest to check every time you haul something heavy.
  2. Follow the user manual directions if it’s it’s been a while since you’ve hooked up your hitch or it’s not something you do regularly. If you’ve lost the instructions, contact the manufacturer or look online for directions that match your hitch.
  3. Use safety clips on your springs. Make sure that you use ones made for the task and not some homemade device. Even if you have the original clips, time can damage them, so make sure that the clips you have now are in top shape. If not, you should update with new parts.
  4. Know your local and federal laws. All trailers must have tail, brake, side and marker lights, as well as turn signals and side and rear reflectors. Other regulations, though, vary from state to state, so check your local department of motor vehicles or transportation for laws and restrictions governing the type of hitch you are using in your state, as well as any state you are driving through.
  5. Know your weights. The trailer and load weight can greatly affect your the balance of your vehicle. Is your hitch designed to bear the load of what you are transporting, including trailer? Is your weight distributed properly for best handling and safety? If you are uncertain about vehicle weights, Penske runs a Certified Public Scale Locator, where you can plug in your address and find the nearest one.
  6. Use safety chains to secure your hitch. Without them, you can be endangering lives. For best practices on how to attach them to keep your trailer safe, watch this demonstration from “Keep Other Drivers Safe: The Right Way to Hitch an ATV Trailer.
  7. Consider upgrading to a state-of-the-art hitch. The new Lock ‘N’ Roll latching system, developed by Gregory Russell, is an articulating hitch that reduces danger caused by bumps, potholes, and other road disturbances by allowing your trailer to ride more smoothly. Russell, a blacksmith has worked on solving this problem for years, and his new device looks promising for better hitch attachment safety.

Remember, a loosed trailer can cause a serious accident and life-threatening injuries or death. Before hauling that heavy load, make sure your hitch is road safe. For more information, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s downloadable guide, “Towing.”

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