One thing you may need if you're going to tow a racing trailer is a special driver's license. States categorize commercial driver's licenses into classes based upon the weight of the towing vehicle and trailer. You should check state laws to see what the requirements are for your state. For example, in Georgia you would need a:
- Class A License to drive a semitruck and trailer combination weighing more than 26,001 pounds (11,794 kilograms) towing a trailer weighing more than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms).
- Class B License to drive a vehicle weighing more than 26,001 pounds (11,794 kilograms) but towing a trailer weighing less than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms).
- Class C License to drive a vehicle weighing less than 26,000 pounds (11,794 kilograms), but towing a trailer weighing less than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) or a lighter tow vehicle towing a trailer exceeding 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) as long as the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer doesn't exceed 26,000 pounds (11,794 kilograms) [source: Georgia Department of Driver Services].
As you can see, the requirements for licenses can be complex. Check your local laws and regulations to figure out which license you'll need to drive your vehicle and tow the trailer.
Check your turn signals, brake lights and backup lights before hooking up the trailer. Make sure all connections are secure and that you've also hooked up all safety equipment and wiring. Check the trailer's wiring. Make sure the lights are responding correctly.
It's a good idea to get some experience towing your trailer in a large open area such as an empty parking lot before you do a lot of driving. You'll need to practice:
- Making turns - You'll need to learn how to take turns without hitting the curb or crossing too far over the edge or center of the road. If you aren't careful, your vehicle or trailer could clip objects on the side of the road. Remember that you'll be making wider turns than you would in a normal vehicle and take your time.
- Accelerating and braking - Towing a trailer increases the mass of your overall vehicle. As the mass of an object increases, so does momentum and inertia. That's not just an interesting lesson in physics -- it also means that you'll need to allow yourself extra time and room when slowing or coming to a stop. Don't expect to be able to stop on a dime.
- Backing up - The most difficult maneuver is backing up while towing a trailer. If possible, work with another person who can direct you while you're backing up. Use hand signals to communicate with one another. When backing up, put one hand on the six o'clock position on your steering wheel. To back up in a certain direction, just move your hand in that direction. Take your time and pay attention to your surroundings.
If you're using a vehicle like a pickup truck to tow your trailer, you may need to invest in towing mirrors. These mirrors either replace or extend your existing side view mirrors and give you a wider view behind you. Without these, you may not be able to detect cars approaching you from the side or the rear. Many states require these mirrors on any vehicle towing a trailer.
The most dangerous condition you can encounter when towing is trailer sway. That's when a trailer begins to move left and right as you tow it. Applying the tow vehicle's brakes or trying to steer out of the sway often makes it worse. The best way to handle trailer sway is to let up off the gas and use the brake system to gradually come to a stop.
Now you know how racing teams get their vehicles to the track -- they do it in style. To learn more about racing and other topics, put the pedal to the metal and take a look at the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- How Backing Up Towed Vehicles Works
- How Car Steering Works
- How Champ Cars Work
- How Fifth Wheel Hitches Work
- How Force, Power, Torque and Energy Work
- How Formula One Works
- How Gooseneck Hitches Work
- How NASCAR Race Cars Work
- How NASCAR Safety Works
- How NASCAR Works
- How Repo Trucks Work
- How RV Hitches Work
- How Speedometers Work
- How the Daytona 500 Works
- How Trailer Towing Safety Works
- What if my brakes stopped working?
- Trailer Towing Quiz
More Great Links
- Advantage Custom Trailers. "Stacker Car Trailers." (Oct. 15, 2008) http://www.advantagetrailer.com/s.1/stacker-car-trailers.aspx
- bNet. "NASCAR Extends Partnership with Featherlite Trailers and Featherlite Coaches Through 2012." Business Wire. April 25, 2007. (Oct. 15, 2008) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2007_April_25/ai_n27214971
- Danny's Trailer Sales. "Towing Guidelines." (Oct. 14, 2008) http://www.dannystrailersales.com/guidelines.php
- NASCAR.com. "Trailer towing." Feb. 19, 2004. (Oct. 15, 2008) http://www.nascar.com/2004/auto/cct/02/19/trailer_towing/
- Potter, Steve. "Auto Racing; Porsche Team Enjoys Luxury." The New York Times. Jan. 31, 1988. (Oct. 15, 2008) http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE3D8133DF932A05752C0A96E948260
- Race Trailer Sales. (Oct. 15, 2008) http://www.racetrailersales.com/
- UShip Vehicles. "Car Transport Trailer and Truck Types." (Oct. 15, 2008) http://www.uship.com/vehicles/articles/car-transport-trucks-and-trailers/