Top 10 Towing Risks to Keep in Mind



Be careful driving on bumpy roads.
Be careful driving on bumpy roads.
Marcus Lindström/iStockphoto

Because towing a load means your vehicle has more inertia and momentum, your vehicle's brakes have to work harder to bring you to a stop. Some trailers come equipped with their own brakes. These brake systems connect to your vehicle, which should have a trailer brake control on the driver's console. Using a trailer's brake system in conjunction with your own vehicle's brakes will mean less wear and tear for your vehicle.

Whether the towed load has its own brake system or not, it's important to remember that the added mass means you'll need more space to come to a stop than normal. Give yourself plenty of space when slowing or stopping -- don't assume you can stop in the same amount of time and distance as you can when you're not towing anything.

When applying your brakes, it's best to use light, gradual pressure. Otherwise, you could risk jackknifing or skidding. Because your brakes have to work harder to slow down the heavy load, you can wear through them quickly or overheat them by using too much pressure. By giving yourself more time to slow down, you reduce the amount of work your brakes have to do.

You should also use your brakes periodically when traveling down hills. This will help keep your speed at the appropriate level. It's better to apply your brakes in short, light intervals than to wait until you get to the bottom of the hill. Downshifting to a lower gear will help you control your speed, too.

A critical element of towing safety is making sure your equipment is up to the task. Learn more about towing and tire pressure in the next section.