Skip to main content

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!

How Often Should I Change Front or Rear Differential Fluid?

When to change differential fluids

 

It depends on your vehicle, driving conditions and differential fluid quality.

That’s a pretty vague answer, but it’s true.

If you drive your truck primarily on the highway in temperate conditions and rarely tow or haul, you likely don’t need to change front or rear differential fluid very often. But, if you tow a work trailer or haul supplies frequently and the temperature fluctuates as wildly as your health insurance premium, then you need to change the fluid more often. The only way to know the exact mileage interval is to check your owner’s manual or visit the dealership.

Bigger, faster, stronger

Why the varying fluid change intervals? Because severe operating conditions break down differential fluid more quickly and place greater stress on the gears and bearings, inviting wear.

The truck manufacturer’s ongoing arms race for the highest towing capacity has resulted in trucks that place far more stress on differentials than their predecessors. Meanwhile, differential fluid capacities have largely decreased or remained the same.

For example, compare a 1996 Ford F-250 Crew Cab to the 2017 version. Back in 1996, maximum towing capacity was 10,500 lbs. using a rear differential that held 3.75 quarts of gear lube. The 2017 model offers a 15,000-lb. towing capacity using a rear differential that holds 3.5 quarts of fluid.

Greater towing capacity, less gear lube

What does that mean for your truck? It means less fluid is responsible for guarding against increased heat and stress. In this environment, inferior lubricants can shear and permanently lose viscosity. Once sheared, the fluid film weakens, ruptures and allows metal-to-metal contact, eventually causing gear and bearing failure.
And in Sioux Falls looking out over 12th St every day, I see a lot of people overloading their light duty pickups!

Increased temperatures are also a challenge. As temperatures climb, gear lubricants tend to lose viscosity, while extreme loads and pressures can break the lubricant film, causing increased metal-to-metal contact and heat. The increased friction and heat, in turn, cause the lubricant to lose further viscosity, which further increases friction and heat. Friction and heat continue to spiral upward, creating a vicious cycle known as thermal runaway that eventually leads to greatly increased wear and irreparable equipment damage.

That’s why you need to change differential fluid more often in severe operating conditions.

In our example above, Ford recommends changing differential fluid every 150,000 miles in normal service. But they drop the change interval significantly – to every 30,000 miles if using non-synthetic fluid – when towing frequently at wide-open throttle and driving at temps above 70ºF. Those restrictions apply to just about anyone who’s pulled a camper/boat/trailer anywhere in North America during most of the year.

Bottom line…

Use a high-quality synthetic gear lube to maximize your truck’s ability to tow and haul.

AMSOIL Severe Gear 75W-110 ® Synthetic Gear Lube, Severe Gear 75W-90 (Best seller) and Severe Gear 75W-140 are specifically designed for severe service. It maintains viscosity better than other conventional and synthetic gear lubes despite rigorous use and it contains advanced anti-wear additives for further protection. It also costs less than most OEM-branded gear lubes.

FIND AMSOIL SYNTHETIC GEAR LUBE FOR MY TRUCK

Stay safe out there and visit our Sioux Falls AMSOIL Store at 4610 W. 12th St. (Just west of I29 about 1-block)  605-274-2580

 

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, safe towing requires attention to detail.

Here are nine key points for safe towing and longer 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 load weight it can pull. Use the right trailer hitch and make sure it is hitched correctly.

2) Distribute weight evenly

If your trailer fishtails (sways while accelerating), 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.

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.

5) 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) Stopping requires more 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. Something wasn’t fastened properly. Bummer.

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.

Check out our Las Vegas Taxi Cab field study for all the technical details if you’re so inclined.

Stay safe out there and visit our Sioux Falls AMSOIL Store at 4610 W. 12th St. (Just west of I29 about 1-block)  605-274-2580

Sioux Falls's Towing Package – Save your Drivetrain

Don’t worry about the extra weight

Many people overstress their vehicles in the summer, pulling trailers, campers or fifth-wheels with boats, sometimes exceeding their rated towing limits. Severe-service conditions and hot summer temperatures place extreme pressure on transmissions and differentials.

Modern turbo diesel trucks and vehicles with V-10 engines boast more horsepower and torque than their predecessors, subjecting their differentials to increased levels of stress and heat. Gear oils must provide adequate wear protection, while also providing maximum fuel efficiency.

Towing made Easy with the best synthetic

Thermal Runaway

The extreme pressures and temperatures generated by modern vehicles can lead to a serious condition known as thermal runaway. As temperatures in the differential climb upward, gear lubricants lose viscosity and load-carrying capacity. When extreme loads break the lubricant film, metal-to-metal contact occurs, increasing friction and heat. This increased friction and heat, in turn, results in further viscosity loss, which further increases friction and heat. As heat spirals upward, viscosity spirals downward. Thermal runaway is a vicious cycle that leads to irreparable equipment damage and ultimately catastrophic gear and bearing failure.

The AMSOIL “Tow Package”

AMSOIL Severe Gear® Synthetic Gear Lube (SVG, SVT, SVO) and Signature Series Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF, ATL) provide maximum protection in demanding environments such as towing, hauling and commercial use, providing increased lubricant film protection and reduced wear at elevated temperatures.

Field Proven

Signature Series Synthetic Fuel-Efficient ATF was submitted for a field trial at an independent test facility to prove its ability to protect transmissions in the severe, high-heat environment generated in real-world towing scenarios.

A loaded trailer was towed on real highways and city streets throughout the trial. Signature Series ATF handled the punishment with ease. Throughout 115,000 miles in severe service – nearly 4x the manufacturer recommended severe-service drain interval – Signature Series ATF delivered outstanding protection for gears and clutches and maintained smooth shifts.

Severe Gear Synthetic Gear Lube (SVG, SVT, SVO)

  • Controls thermal runaway
  • Features superior film strength
  • Provides rust and corrosion protection
  • Helps reduce operating temperatures

Signature Series Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF, ATL)

  • Specifically formulated for severe-service towing and heavy hauling
  • Delivers reserve protection against extreme heat
  • Maintains cold-temperature fluidity
  • Superior friction durability for smooth, reliable shifts

Portland Longshoreman

On a side note Sioux Falls drivers will want to know, Lubes & Greases magazine years ago published an article about how over 100 pieces of equipment were having transmission failures in the Portland Longshoreman fleet. In particular were the Allison equipped trucks and they tried several transmission fluids and additives to see if they could improve the transmission life-span and a common downtime issue of failures under warranty. As written in the article, AMSOIL was the last one on the list (Automatic Transmission fluid – Signature Series) and since using they haven’t had a single failure since!

Be sure to ask for our Las Vegas Taxi Cab Endurance Study on the Automatic Transmission Fluids. It will amaze you or just try AMSOIL in your vehicles and start reducing downtime and save on fuel now.  If you are making payments on that truck or don’t want to have to buy the next years technology surprise, AMSOIL earns customers directly because of this knowledge of preserving the life of your drive train beyond typical ownership. And that can mean significant money saved.

Differential Stress – No Metal to Metal contact any longer!

The Severe gear in RV’s and Fifth wheel hauling trucks is known for actually netting more miles per hour on mountain roads. One customer of fame (Bobby Unser) quoted, “I switched to the Severe Gear 75W-90 and I could actually get about 7 more miles per hour out of the RV in the mountain road to our house than previously achieved.”

This is what you should expect with AMSOIL products and why our products sell!

AMSOIL Dealer
Synthetic Warehouse

4610 W. 12th St
Sioux Falls, SD 57107
402-933-3902