What was it like the first time you hitched something to the back of a truck and hauled it away? If you are anything like most people, I'm sure you were pretty nervous that you did it right and pretty excited to be on the road headed to your next adventure. While it's really not that complicated to safely hitch a trailer to your truck, there are some basic things you should know to make sure you do it properly and safely.
No matter what the load size is (not including fifth wheel and commercial towing), the fundamentals of safely attaching the hitch to your trailer are generally the same. To learn more about this, Chevrolet invited us out to Houston for a BBQ tour and trailering demonstration at the famous Gator Pit. The guys here make some of the coolest custom BBQ pits around but they are also known for making tough, trailerable BBQ pits that are perfect for everything from a family get together or an ultimate tailgate party.
I really love the Chevy Colorado. It's a great truck that while not as big and powerful as it's big brother, the Silverado, it looks sharp, handles great on the highway, parks easily and yet still has a class leading towing capacity of 7,700 pounds with the Duramax 2.8L Turbo-Diesel. In comparison, the 2018 Toyota Tacoma has only a 6,400 pound max towing capacity.
In practical terms, 7,700 pound capacity is enough for a small camping trailer or a trailer with two 4-seater Polaris RZRs, so that's quite a bit of load!
While these BBQ pits were very light compared to other loads I've hauled in the past, the following steps are essential for ensuring a safe experience. Like almost every job involving big machines, the first step is to make sure you have a buddy available to help. At the end of the day, while technology such as backup cameras and guidelines can help, another human is essential. For instance, once the trailer is hitched, a standard backup camera becomes nearly pointless unless you get an aftermarket wireless backup cameras like those from our friends at TadiBrothers. Just mount it on the rear of the trailer and you can see the end of your load the same way you can see the end of your truck with the standard camera.
Raise The Trailer Tongue So it Is Above the Height of the Truck's Hitch
In the absence of being connected to a truck, a trailer's tongue is supported by a jack. To prepare it to be hitched to your truck, the first thing to do is make sure that the height of the coupling is above that of the hitch ball for the truck that will be towing it. It's MUCH easier to do this first, before you align the truck so that you can simply drop it down once everything is in place.
Align Your Truck With the Trailer and Backup Slowly
With the trailer ready to be hitched, it's time to back the truck up to the trailer. The ideal formation here is to be able to back it up straight and tow the load away without having to turn or angle the trailer.
Make sure to backup slowly so that your buddy can help tell you as you come within inches of the hitch to ensure perfect alignment. While some trailers will be light enough to move by hand, others will be too heavy to move easily.
Lower the Tongue Coupling Onto the Hitch Ball and Raise the Jack Stand
With the tongue and hitch ball aligned, now you can lower the trailer so that the weight of the trailer tongue is supported by the truck's hitch.
Lock The Latch on The Trailer To Secure the Hitch Connection
Now that the coupling and hitch are connected, it's time to secure the connection by latching them together. Typically there is a lever that you can pull down or slide across to ensure that the coupling doesn't pop off if you were to hit a bump or twist the trailer.
Attach Safety Chains
Machines can always fail and a trailer hitch is no exception. The Safety Chains on your trailer help ensure that if the hitch was to fail for some reason that you don't lose the trailer completely.
Connect Brake Cables and Trailer Lights
All trailers are different and smaller ones will have different electronics than larger ones. However, you need to make sure that all cables are connected to ensure safe operation of trailer brakes as well as lights.
Walk Around the Truck and Trailer to Do a Safety Check Before Going on The Road
During this safety check, you're going to look for things like variations in tire pressure, ensuring that the load is level in the trailer, and the that load is securely loaded on the trailer.
While you can never guarantee an uneventful journey, making sure that your trailer is probably hitched and mounted to your truck can help. Just remember to drive carefully and remember to take turns slower and wider and be attentive to your load throughout the trip. Those safety tips for towing will be part of another article though.