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9 Tips for Safe Trailer Towing

9 Tips for Safe Trailer Towing

9 Tips for Safe Trailer Towing

Friends of mine in Minneapolis were driving on Highway 35, talking about this and that, minding their own business, when – wham! A trailer carrying a boat slammed into their car.

The trailer had disconnected from the tow vehicle and darted across the median in a high-velocity trajectory that could have killed my friends had it not been a glancing blow. Though the shattering glass put them in the hospital, it could have been much worse.

It was an accident that shouldn’t have happened.

Safety tips for towing a trailer

One morning while driving to work I was thinking about this very topic and, right in front of me, I saw another towing accident. Someone towing his race car down Mesaba Ave. here in Duluth, Minn., caused a traffic jam when the stock car left the trailer and swept wildly into the midst of rush-hour traffic.

Again, it was an accident that shouldn’t have happened.

Whether it’s a boat, a house trailer or your trash to the dump, safely towing a trailer requires attention to detail.

Here are nine key points for safe trailer towing and long vehicle life

1) Know your weight limits

Make sure your trailer and whatever you’re hauling fall within the towing or hauling capacities of your vehicle. Check the owner’s manual to find the trailer types that your vehicle can haul and the maximum weight it can pull. Use the right trailer hitch and make sure it is hitched correctly.

2) Distribute weight evenly

If your trailer fishtails, back off the gas and see if it stops. If it continues when you accelerate again, check to see how the weight is distributed on the trailer. It may not be distributed evenly from side to side, or else it’s too far back to place sufficient load on the hitch ball.

Pro Tip: Try to carry 5-10 percent of the trailer load on the hitch. Redistribute the load as necessary before continuing.

3) Ensure the trailer lights work

Connect the brake and signal lights. Double check to make sure the trailer’s brakes, turn signals and tail lights are synchronized with the tow vehicle.

4) Properly inflate the tires

People I once knew suffered 17 tire blowouts while pulling a trailer from California to south Texas (true!). You’d think they would have figured out they had too much weight in the trailer.

In addition to staying within weight limits for your rig, be sure the tires are in good condition and properly inflated. Be sure to check your wheel bearings, too. An overheated bearing will sideline your rig as fast as a flat tire. Check out this video on bearing maintenance.

5) Know that your vehicle will handle differently

When towing, you’re operating a vehicle combination that’s longer and heavier than normal. Be sure to adjust your driving practices accordingly.

Backing up is tricky, but it’s a skill you can learn. Until you’re experienced, have someone direct you from outside in those tight spots or places where you have limited visibility.

Avoid sudden turns. I know – sounds obvious. But I was once the first person to an accident where someone decided at the last minute to take the exit instead of going straight. The car ended up upside down because the trailer had other ideas.

When it comes to towing accidents, don’t say, “It can’t happen to me.” Say instead, “It must not happen to me.”

6) Buckle your seat belt

In case your tow vehicle ends up upside down.

7) Trailer towing requires increased stopping distance

It’s a simple matter of physics. When towing, you have more momentum than you would without a trailer. Remember that stopping requires more time and distance. Avoid tailgating and pay attention to what’s happening a little farther down the road than you normally would.

8) Keep your head on a swivel

Maybe you forgot to fasten a chain, secure the hitch or tie down your payload properly. If you’re in a hurry to get home after a long trip, things like that can happen.

Once you’re on the road, frequently check your mirrors to make sure everything looks good back there. I know a boat owner whose yacht fell sideways on the highway halfway between Canada and Duluth, which is the middle of nowhere for those who’ve never been there. It turned out something wasn’t fastened properly.

9) Upgrade your transmission protection

Towing places enormous stress on a transmission. In fact, because of the intense heat, towing is probably the number-one killer of transmissions.

For this reason, the “towing package” on many trucks includes a transmission-oil cooler. It also helps to use a high-end synthetic lubricant. Synthetics reduce friction and provide better resistance to high heat, helping the tranny run cooler, shift confidently and last longer.

Shameless plug time: AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic ATF handles heat so well, you can confidently double your vehicle manufacturer’s severe-service drain interval in passenger cars and light trucks.

Shop AMSOIL Synthetic Transmission Fluid

Stay safe out there!

See How Rtech Fabrications Builds Trucks to do Truck Things

See How Rtech Fabrications Builds Trucks to do Truck Things

Rtech AMSOIL under the hood to ensure a solid-running build for years to come.

Around here we see all sorts of vehicles capable of turning heads, from showroom-shiny to rat-rod realism. No matter the project style, there’s a builder behind the scenes who carried the concept from start to finish while leaving his or her mark on the end result.

Trucks that do truck things

One such builder is Randall Robertson of Rtech Fabrications, who has been honing his craft since he was 17.

Robertson specializes in 1967-1972 GM trucks, and his motto is, “We Build Trucks to Do Truck Things.”

It’s a satisfying position to take when so much time, effort and passion are poured into each build. These builds are not only aesthetically pleasing, but capable of hauling, towing and working the way a good truck should. Keeping in line with his performance-minded process, he uses AMSOIL under the hood to ensure a solid-running build for years to come.

Shop AMSOIL products

Robertson’s talent has taken him from hobby to full-time status, and his work speaks for itself. His builds have won awards, landed magazine covers and features. He’s also secured real-estate in high-profile shows including SEMA.

We caught up with him for our 2019 Company of Enthusiasts campaign, where we learned how he came to be a dream-maker for those in search of a custom truck built to do truck things. Check out his story in the video below.

Why Did We Reformulate Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil?

Better oil more power

Why Did We Reformulate Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil?

Local Sioux Falls note: We are reposing this article from last fall as it is important to realize the changes coming and how these enhancements will only add to the performance on older vehicles too.

AMSOIL’s Signature Series likely already exceeds the future API specification which hasn’t rolled out yet and we know other larger competing lubricant companies are having issues with LSPI (read more below).

Simply put, we reformulated Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil to solve problems.

For all the derision heaped upon the internal-combustion engine, it remains our primary mode of propulsion. And, despite the gains of hybrids and electric vehicles, it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

One reason is the tremendous efficiency gains gas and diesel burners have made since the 1970s. The loud, proud cast-iron powerplants of yesteryear may still quicken your pulse when they roar past powering a hot rod or classic car, but they can’t match the fuel economy and reduced emissions of the engine likely powering the vehicle you drove to work today.

That’s due to the widespread use of turbochargers, direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and lightweight materials.

But, despite their many benefits, modern engines present several challenges, and it’s up to the motor oil to solve them.

Four little letters, one big problem

One of the biggest is low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI). If you read the AMSOIL blog, you’ve heard about LSPI by now. LSPI is such a big deal that it’s the driving force behind the next generation of motor oil performance specifications.

In a nutshell, LSPI is the spontaneous ignition of the fuel/air mixture prior to spark-triggered ignition. It occurs in modern turbocharged, gasoline-direct-injection (T-GDI) engines, and it’s another version of pre-ignition, which has been around since engines were invented. In this case, though, it occurs under low-speed, high-torque conditions and is much more destructive than typical pre-ignition.

Computers to the rescue

Automakers can program their vehicles to avoid operating conditions that invite LSPI. The problem, though, is that programming the engine to operate on that “ragged edge” that invites LSPI promises fuel economy gains of up to 10 percent.

With CAFÉ standards looming, automakers are eager to realize those efficiency gains.

But they can’t until motor oils hit the market that help prevent LSPI. Motor oil formulation plays a big role in fighting LSPI, so much so that the next generation of motor oil specifications requires oils to pass an LSPI test. The forthcoming API SP and ILSAC GF-6 specifications aren’t scheduled for introduction until fall 2019, however.

Some automakers have grown impatient and have requested that the API, which licenses ILSAC GF-5, supplement the current specification with an LSPI test requirement. That could happen as early as January, 2018.

General Motors is ahead of the game. Its proprietary dexos1® Gen 2 spec, introduced in August, includes an LSPI test.

An oil that solves problems

Which brings us back to Signature Series. We want our flagship motor oil to stand alone as the best motor oil in the world, and preventing LSPI is one prerequisite to achieving that goal.

So we subjected it to an LSPI engine test.

The result? Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil provided 100 percent protection against LSPI* in the engine test required by the GM dexos1 Gen 2 specification.

In short, the oil solves a major problem plaguing the industry right now.

But wait, there’s more…

What about the old standbys, like engine wear and extreme heat?

Here, too, Signature Series excels.

From the day your engine fires to life, friction tries to wear away bearing surfaces, cylinders, piston rings and other components. Left unchecked, it’ll render your pride and joy a gutless, wheezing shadow of its former self. Eventually, something can break completely.

We formulated Signature Series to deliver next-level wear protection. But we know you want proof, not promises.

In the API Sequence IV-A Engine Wear Test required for the API SN specification, Signature Series delivered 75 percent more wear protection than required**.

What does that mean for you?

An engine that lasts for years and delivers maximum horsepower long after you’ve made the final payment. To prove it, we installed Signature Series 5W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil in a Ford F-150 with a new 3.5L Ecoboost engine to test its ability to protect turbocharged direct-injection engines from torque and horsepower loss during extended drain intervals up to 25,000 miles. Power sweeps were done at the beginning and end of the test to evaluate horsepower and torque retention. As the graph shows, Signature Series helped maintain engine performance throughout the 100,000-mile test.

Fights engine deposits

Engine deposits, too, do their best to sideline your vehicle. High heat can breakdown motor oil, leading to piston ring, piston crown or valve deposits, which erode horsepower and efficiency. In severe cases, your engine can fail altogether.

Heat is more prevalent in T-GDI engines. Turbos run on exhaust gases that can exceed 1,000ºF and can spin more than 150,000 rpm. The turbo’s center section contains an oil-lubricated bearing. The tremendous heat and stress turbos create can cause some oils to break down and form harmful bearing deposits, known as turbo coking. Over time, turbos can suffer reduced performance, or fail completely.

Again, Signature Series solves the problem of extreme heat. We challenged Signature Series to the GM Turbo Coking Test, which consists of 2,000 cycles of extreme heat soaks. An oil must limit the temperature change within the turbocharger to 13 percent or less to pass the test. Signature Series limited the temperature increase to only 3.6 percent, protecting the turbocharger 72 percent better*** than required by the GM dexos1® Gen 2 specification.

Signature Series controlled heat and minimized performance-robbing deposits on the turbo bearing and shaft surfaces.

And, lest we forget, the performance of Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil lets you extend drain intervals to 25,000 miles/one year if you choose, even in turbocharged engines.

With challenges to engine protection and performance mounting – and new problems cropping up – it’s vital we stay one step ahead.

That’ll help you continue to get the best protection and most years out of your vehicles.

BUY SIGNATURE SERIES SYNTHETIC MOTOR OIL

* Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 motor oil, in the LSPI engine test as required for the GM dexos 1® Gen 2 specification.
** Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 0W-20, in ASTM D6891 as required by the API SN specification.
*** Based on independent testing of AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 in the GM turbo coking test.

Lubricant Viscosity Explained

viscosity - how to understand

Lubricant Viscosity Explained

A lubricant’s viscosity and how it changes under different temperatures and operating conditions is one of the most important properties that determines lubricant performance and protection.

Viscosity can be viewed in two ways:

• Kinematic viscosity
• Dynamic (or absolute) viscosity

Kinematic viscosity is defined by the lubricant’s resistance to flow and shear due to gravity. To illustrate, imagine pouring two containers, one filled with water and the other with honey. Each fluid’s Kinematic viscosity governs the rate at which it flows. Since the Kinematic viscosity of water is lower, it flows faster. Kinematic viscosity, measured using ASTM D445 methodology, determines an SAE oil’s high-temperature viscosity grade (the “30” in 5W-30).

Dynamic viscosity, measured by the Cold Crank Simulator (CCS) test (ASTM D5293), is defined as the lubricant’s resistance to flow as indicated by its measured resistance, best thought of as the amount of energy required to move an object, such as a metal rod, through the fluid. It takes less energy to stir water compared to honey because the Dynamic viscosity of water is lower. Dynamic viscosity determines an oil’s low-temperature grade (the “5W” in 5W-30).

What does it mean to motorists? The lubricant’s viscosity at 40ºC and 100ºC is used to calculate its viscosity index (VI) – a measure of how much the viscosity of the fluid changes due to temperature. As we said, viscosity change due to temperatures and operating conditions influences performance. A lubricant that undergoes little viscosity change will generally perform better. A high VI indicates the fluid undergoes little viscosity change due to temperature fluctuations, while a low VI indicates a relatively large viscosity change.

Synthetic fluids generally have much higher viscosity index numbers compared to conventional fluids, meaning they provide improved protection to critical components over a wide range of temperatures. VI is normally reported on the oil’s product data sheet, like this one.

AMSOIL synthetic lubricants boast high VI numbers, meaning they’re more stable than competitive lubricants, so you can count on them to deliver outstanding protection.

Why Jay Leno Is Angry About Ethanol In Gasoline

fight ethanol problems

Why Jay Leno Is Angry About Ethanol In Gasoline

Change is the one constant in life. It’s also difficult, because when there is a change – whether in technology or how we do things – there are often unforeseen consequences.  One of the changes that has been taking place is that since 2005, the U.S. government has mandated that gasoline contain ethanol, most of it derived from corn.  The aim of this policy, among other things, has purportedly been to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, though it may also be a way to utilize the excess corn of our megafarm corn growers. What this change has done is to set in motion a number of unintended consequences, from its impact on food prices to mechanical issues in our cars and other equipment with engines.

And this latter is what prompted comedian and car collector Jay Leno to write a somewhat impassioned column in Autoweek this month titled, “Can’t We Just Get Rid Of Ethanol?”

Leno argues that this change to ethanol in gasoline has damaging consequences for older cars. The piece begins with a paragraph about the rise in the number of old-car fires lately, stating that the cause is related to the corrosive nature of ethanol when in contact with fuel-pump diaphragms or old rubber hose lines.

Change is a challenge in any field of endeavor, which is why we depend on others to help make us aware of the consequences of change so that worst case scenarios can be avoided. When fuel injectors became the standard in modern engines it was soon learned that deposits on the injector tips needed to be managed. AMSOIL introduced P.i Performance Improver at that time to address this, a much cheaper solution than replacing injectors every time they fouled.

So it is that ethanol in gasoline is now recognized to be a serious issue due to a phenomenon called phase separation. Ethanol is susceptible to water intrusion; when water collects in the gas tank through condensation or other means, the bond between ethanol and gasoline can break because ethanol is hygroscopic (it likes water more than it likes gasoline).

When the ethanol bonds with moisture it sinks to the bottom of the fuel tank, which can create a whole host of problems, including the formation of gums, varnish and other insoluble debris that can plug fuel flow passages and negatively affect engine performance. When this ethanol/water mixture is pulled into the engine, it creates a lean-burn situation that increases combustion chamber temperatures and can lead to engine damage.

Four years ago AMSOIL earned a SEMA New Products award for Quickshot, a gasoline additive developed specifically to address this issue of phase separation. Though initially introduced in a smaller package size for small engines, AMSOIL more recently introduced a quart-sized bottle for automobiles that sitt idle for any length of time.

The more you know, the more you discover how important it is to stay current with the changes occurring all around us, especially when it involves something you’re passionate about like your cars.