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CAA's full guide to buying and owning a trailer.

Jordan October 23, 2013
Close up of a light blue car pulling a silver trailer.
Pulling a trailer requires extra care and attention due to the extra weight on your vehicle and the increased space required to drive and stop safely. A trailer must be registered and licensed before it can be used on the road, and its safety involves some simple and important rules. Here are some quick, easy-to-follow tips:

Buying a trailer.

Thinking of buying a trailer? Consider the size, power and condition of your vehicle. Trailer dealers can help match your vehicle with the right type of trailer and the proper hitch system.

Inspect your trailer before each use.

Before using your trailer, make sure it is in safe operating condition. Things to inspect include:

  • Lights
  • Tires
  • Brakes (if equipped)
  • Bearings
  • Safety chains
  • Hitch

The law requires brakes on trailers that weigh 1360 kg (3000 lb) or more.

Use the correct class of hitch.

Be sure you are using the correct class of trailer hitch on your vehicle:

  • Class I – up to 2,000 lb
  • Class II – up to 3,500 lb
  • Class III – up to 5,000 lb
  • Class IV – 5,000 to 10,000 lb

Repair or replace broken or worn out hitches. Contact a trailer hitch retailer for more information.

Attaching your trailer.

You must have two separate means of attachment between your vehicle and the trailer. Safety chains should be crossed under the tongue to prevent the tongue from dropping to the road should the primary hitch accidentally disconnect. It is recommended that chain hooks have latches or devices that prevent accidental disconnect. The breaking strength of each chain should equal the gross weight of the towed trailer. Chains are required for gooseneck-type trailers that use a ball and socket type hitch. Fifth-wheel type hitches that have safety latches do not require safety chains.

When attaching the trailer to a vehicle, make sure it is hitched securely. The trailer tongue should be snug on the ball when locked. Never overload the trailer. Overloading or poor load distribution can cause serious swaying and separation when driving and possible tire, wheel bearing and axle failure. Also, the law requires that loose objects be covered with a tarp and everything be strapped down so nothing can bounce or fly off.

Adjust vehicle mirrors to clearly see traffic approaching from behind. Keep the load low. Use extension mirrors if necessary.

It is against the law to tow more than one trailer behind your vehicle, unless it’s a commercial vehicle. Also, you cannot carry people in a house or boat trailer.

Driving with a trailer.

When towing a trailer, you cannot accelerate as fast, or stop as quickly. Maintain a speed that avoids sudden stops and slow-downs. Be alert, increase your following distance, keep out of fast lanes of traffic and always use your signals when passing or turning.