- Helping you drive happy

Towing can be rewarding, but be properly equipped.

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Justin Pritchard
Every summer, thousands and thousands of Canadians hit the highways, towing a makeshift living or storage space behind their vehicles. On any
given long weekend, you probably notice huge flocks of trucks, trailers and toys headed down the highway bound for cottages, camps and other weekend escapes with family and friends.

Trailering is ideal for families who occasionally require added space to transport a few days worth of camping gear, food and firewood without having to use a larger vehicle year round that would otherwise consume more fuel. Most new cars can tow at least a small trailer, while some full sized trucks can haul 10,000 pounds or more.

If you're thinking of investing in a new trailer for your vehicle, there are some key things you've got to know. Your best bet for advice is to visit a local trailer shop and assess your needs before deciding on a trailer and hitch combination, but the basics listed below are a good start.

The Basics:
The first and most important part of towing is determining the capacity of your vehicle. A range of factors contribute to the weight your car or truck
can pull, and the owner's manual will list the towing capacity of a vehicle in question. The total capacity is called the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. You may also find your vehicles GVWR printed onto a sticker in one of the door jams. It indicates how much weight the vehicle can handle safely- including a loaded trailer and passengers.

You'll need a hitch to attach a trailer to your vehicle. There are varieties available, placed into classes in order to indicate the weight they are able to support. Hitches have a specified maximum GTW, or Gross Tow Weight assigned to them: this is the total weight of the fully loaded trailer they will have attached. Tongue Weight capacity is also important, and represents the total amount of weight that can rest on the tongue of the trailer where it meets the hitch. Don't ever exceed these weights, in fact it's a safe bet to always stay under them just to be sure. Safety is important- especially when your family and their possessions are all on board.

Balance and Driving:
Part of making sure the tongue weight is not exceeded has to do with how you pack your trailer. As a guideline, about 60 percent of the weight
should be in the front of the trailer and about 40 percent in the rear. Be sure to strap or tie down loose items securely so that they don't move around and upset the balance of your load. This is important, as attaching a trailer to your vehicle creates a whole new dimension of driving challenges.

Loaded vehicles require considerably longer distances to stop and accelerate, with handling also affected. Larger trailers may be fitted with their own brake systems, ensuring maximum stopping power. It is important to be very aware of the added need for space when passing and stopping while towing. Steering, throttle and brake input needs to be as smooth and soft as possible. A vehicle with a manual mode transmission or an overdrive-cancel function can help to ensure power is available when climbing hills at highway speeds, thus reducing the tendency of the vehicle to loose velocity.
Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert