December 4, 2009, Newsletter Issue #162: Hitching up 101

Tip of the Week

Hooking your vehicle up to a trailer (or vice versa) gives the term “getting hitched” a fresh new meaning. Unlike marriage, however, you can do it on your own, though it can be easier if you have a helpmate.

Here's what you do:
1. Back your tow vehicle as close as possible to the trailer rather than pull the trailer to your car or truck. It's easier and safer.
2. Release the coupler locking device.
3. Lift up the front end of the trailer coupler directly over the hitch ball; then lower it until the coupler is seated on the hitch ball completely.
4. Look under the coupling to make sure the ball clamp is below the ball, not riding on top of it.
5. Latch the coupler to the hitch ball. Be sure it's locked in place by lifting up the trailer tongue. If the coupler comes loose from the ball, unlatch it and go back to Step 3.
6. Make sure your jack is up all the way.
7. For a weight-distributing hitch with spring bars, follow the above procedure, then attach the spring bar chain to the trailer and tighten it until your trailer and car are in a normal level position.
8. For trailers with a surge brake, breakaway cable, or chain, attach the cable or chain to your tow vehicle, leaving enough slack to allow tight turns.
9. Attach the safety chains and criss-cross them under the ball mount so that they do not hang down or drag.
10. Connect the trailer wiring harness to the lighting system of your tow vehicle and check its operation.

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