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Tips for Towing Your Rig to the Trail

Posted in Features on May 27, 2015
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Photographers: Brian Sumner

They say that getting there is half the fun, but if you end up in a ditch you probably are not having much fun. That is why it is important to tow your rig safely to the trail. Breaking at slow speeds when you’re rockcrawling or in the local mud pit is expected, but you don’t want to be on the side of the road with your tow rig or trailer broken down. Trust us—we know from experience. The upside is that you can learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them. That means more time wheeling and less time whining.

We prefer to have one person hook up the trailer to the truck. While it may seem quicker to have someone help, splitting the job raises the possibility that something gets overlooked. We have left the foot on the jack down when we thought someone else was securing it, only to have the jack tear off the trailer when we left the driveway. Not a good way to start your trip.

Trailers take specific tires that are typically bias-ply construction and are made to withstand the unique loads that trailers are subjected to. They are not the same as passenger or light truck tires.

Trailer tires spend the bulk of their life sitting, so they often dry rot or become unusable long before they wear out. Covering your tires, and even lifting them off the ground, is a low-cost investment that will help your tires last much longer.

If you have full-width axles, adding box tubing inside the fenders will allow you to drive over them without bending the fenders. There is no need to replace the entire fender. An alternative we have seen used is railroad ties or other sturdy wood that is cut to match the profile of the fenders.

This is what can happen if you drive over your fenders without reinforcing them. The fender bent into this tire. Fortunately it was caught before a blowout, but it still had to be replaced when it was discovered.

Note how we did not place the straps over the brake lines and risk kinking them. We also attached the straps to the axles and not the chassis, allowing the suspension to function on the vehicle being towed. If you attach straps to the chassis, you risk them coming loose or breaking as the suspension cycles.

Wood decks tend to be less expensive than metal decks and are much quieter when loading and unloading, particularly when using chains and binders. They do require more maintenance than metal decks though, and you cannot weld attachment points to the deck of the trailer.

Chains are less prone to being cut than straps, and graded chain can be stronger than straps. But chains and binders can be more expensive than straps and more difficult to get in the precise length you need. Some people use a chain on the rear of the trailered vehicle and then tighten the load down with a strap on the front for a balance between convenience and strength.

These straps were affixed in a cross pattern to stabilize the vehicle both lengthwise and side to side. Typically we will cross the straps at one end of the trailer and run them straight from the trailer to the vehicle on the other end.

We prefer D-rings to stake pockets when using straps, as they allow the hook to completely seat and the latch to close. Stake pockets have bent and damaged the latch mechanisms on our straps in the past. The D-rings are inexpensive and easy to add around the perimeter of your trailer.

When you stop for fuel check that the straps are still tight. When the strap is tightened the handle must be closed in order for the latch mechanism to be secured. Wrapping the excess strap over the handle adds even more security.

Additional jacks at the rear of your trailer are useful to load or unload a vehicle without the trailer hooked up to a tow rig, and they can also be used to keep the trailer tires off the ground when the trailer is not in use or you need to service the axles.

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