Two friends fishing the lakes

Boat Towing Tips

Much is written for anglers on what to do to catch fish when they reach the water. We’ve certainly added our share to that library of information over the years.

But, little is written on a topic that can literally wreck a fishing trip before it gets started. Towing problems lead to many deaths and injuries each year.

The main reason — motorists lack knowledge or the proper equipment. The trend for accidents related to towing is moving upward as more people invest in boats and trailers, the study found.

Most Need Towing Knowledge
An online survey on the subject revealed 71 percent, admitted to being only “somewhat” to “not knowledgeable.” And, incredibly, about one third said they had no knowledge on the topic at all!

“Too many people are inexperienced with towing, shifting loads, and the knowledge you need,” said Dan Williams, truck field manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., based in Chicago. “You run into safety issues with that.”

The research revealed many people don’t know even the most basic information. For example, more than half did not know, or were unsure of, their trailer’s gross weight, which is critical to know what kind of vehicle and hitch you need.

More than half the people questioned didn’t know, or were unsure of, the class of hitch already on their vehicle, a rating that determines how much weight can be towed without problems.

Only 1-in-10 were given towing information from their boat or trailer dealer. In some cases, the fault rested with the drivers themselves. Less than 1-in-4 bothered to open the owner’s manual for directions. Three out of four said they learned by doing through trial and error — a dangerous classroom at best.

A recent study showed half of the people who tow boats or trailers didn’t know, or were unsure of, the class of hitch already on their vehicle.

Towing Ineptitude
Ignorance apparently is bliss. Nearly two thirds said they didn’t think they needed more information on safe towing procedures. More specifically, only 1-in-10 cared to know more about weight distribution. One-in-20 wanted to know more about leveling a trailer, a key safety issue since an improperly leveled trailer can lead to fishtailing and loss of control.

Williams said Toyota hopes potential customers research what they need before they arrive at a dealership. When they don’t, Toyota sales representatives are prepared to walk people through the selection process so they wind up with the vehicle they need. In Toyota’s case, that’s the new, full-sized Tundra.

Apparently, the company is doing it right. Toyota claimed the status of No. 1 in vehicle sales worldwide earlier this year. To meet growing demand for Tundras, a second truck plant was opened recently in San Antonio, Texas. That adds to the plant in Princeton, Ind., where Tundras — the most “American-built in the USA” pickup on the market — have been assembled for several years.

Williams said that too often, people are only concerned with horsepower, payload, and towing capacity. While important, he said people should also consider factors such as spring ratings, stopping power, and handling.

Many pickups have heavy-duty shocks to do the job when loaded. But, take away the boat or travel trailer and they ride, “like a rock,” Williams said.

Tongue weight is a measure of what the back bumper or hitch can handle. A good rule of thumb is to have 10 percent of what the total trailer weight is, he said.

“Four-wheel drive is great to have and makes a difference even on dry pavement when pulling a heavy load or a boat out of water on a slippery ramp,” Williams said.

And, ask about brakes.

“It’s great to brag about towing capacity and horsepower, but if you can’t stop it, you’re going to have issues,” said Williams.

Towing Safety Checklist
The National Highway Traffic Safety Institute offers a checklist of safety issues regarding tow vehicles. Many of the points echo Williams’.

* Before buying a vehicle, check the owner’s manual to be sure the vehicle can tow your trailer and boat;

* Make sure you have the right hitch, especially if you have one installed after-market;

* A towing package should include a heavy duty radiator, battery, flasher system, alternator, suspension, brakes, as well as an engine-oil cooler, transmission-oil cooler, and wiring harness.

* Towing packages rarely include the draw bar, an assembly on which the hitch ball is mounted; the ball mount; or the hitch ball. Make sure you buy the right ones for the job.

A recent study shows more than half of people who tow a boat or trailer did not know, or were unsure of, their trailer’s gross weight.

* Before leaving home, make certain your vehicle and trailer are well maintained. Tires should be inflated to the proper pressure. Take wheel chocks and jack stands along just in case. The wheel lug nuts should be tightened. Be sure the hitch, coupler, draw bar, and other equipment that connect the trailer and the tow vehicle are correct. Check all lights, including running lights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights. Check the brakes. Use all available safety gear, including the breakaway switch to stop the trailer in the event it comes loose. Cross safety chains below the hitch to help keep the tongue elevated off the road if it slips free.

Make Sure Bearings Are Greased
* Once underway, use the right driving gear. Also, feel trailer hubs after going a short distance. If hot, bearings need to be greased in a hurry. Drive at moderate speeds to avoid stressing your vehicle or trailer. Trailers are more likely to sway at higher speeds or if the tongue weight is incorrectly balanced. Tandem axle trailers follow the truck more smoothly and are less apt to sway. Don’t stop or swerve suddenly in either case.

* Here’s a good trick when backing. Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel so when you want to go left, you can move your hand left. Turn right by moving your hand right. Go slowly. Have someone at the rear to help guide you.

* Avoid parking on grades if you can. Block your wheels.

* Before unhitching, put blocks at the front and rear of the trailer tires.

Take care when choosing a tow vehicle and towing your boat. These simple decisions and suggestions can mean the difference between having fun day on the water or a disaster.

Shop Sportsman’s Guide now for a fine assortment of Towing Accessories!

Shop Sportman’s Guide now for a fine selection of Boat Trailer Accessories!


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