Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Top 10 Towing Risks to Keep in Mind

Mismatched Equipment
Make sure your equipment is in good working condition before you take a trip.
Make sure your equipment is in good working condition before you take a trip.

Whenever you tow anything, it's important to use the right equipment. If the equipment you use doesn't match up correctly, you could have serious problems on the road. Here are a few tips to make sure you're in good shape:

  1. Consult the owner's manual for your vehicle and see how much weight it can tow safely. Don't exceed this weight. Remember to take into account the weight of the towing rig itself. Pulling a heavier load can increase your risk of accidents as well as cause damage to your vehicle.
  2. When using a trailer hitch and coupler, be sure the parts fit together correctly. If you use a coupler that doesn't fit the ball on the end of your trailer hitch, the trailer won't remain stable during towing. Also check that your equipment is in good working order.
  3. Make sure the trailer is level. When using a tow bar to tow another vehicle, check to see if the tow bar is parallel to the ground. If the tow bar or trailer is at an angle, you could have problems when braking. Braking suddenly can result in jackknifing or other accidents.
  4. Be sure that your vehicle's trailer braking system is compatible with the trailer you're using. Trailer brakes are very important and can help reduce the risk of trailer sway.
  5. Never use a tow rope or tow strap for extended towing. Tow ropes are good for emergency use, such as pulling a vehicle out of a ditch, but they aren't appropriate for extensive towing. You can use a tow strap to pull a vehicle a few miles -- such as to a nearby mechanic -- but you shouldn't rely on one for a longer drive. Straps and ropes can fray and snap if you use them inappropriately.

Next, we'll learn about how visibility plays a role in towing safety.