Bits And Pieces That Can Make Towing Easier And Safer
Right or wrong, we're going to assume that you already know about the basics of what's involved in towing, and instead concentrate on some new products that simplify and/or make the towing experience safer.
However, should you be a complete newbie, perhaps with a square-peg-in-the-round-hole attitude, we strongly recommend you do little homework at first. Valley Industries' website has a handy guide to the rudimentary rules of towing and trailering; when you've finished your studies, get back to this story for dessert.
There is a lot more to successful towing than picking the correct-sized trailer ball for the task at hand. You must consider the weight of the tow vehicle and that of the trailer, ensure that all hardware involved is rated for at least the weight of the towed load, and confirm that the entire setup is legal. Safety chains, weight distributing hitches and the like are frequently overlooked--but should something happen, rest assured that the insurance companies will go over your tow vehicle and trailer with a magnifying glass in an effort to find something that wasn't perfect. And once they find a flaw, a costly trial might be next, meaning that it can really pay off to do it right and by the book. Alright, this was exactly what we were not going to cover this time around, but felt should be mentioned anyway.
And Now For Something Completely Different
This collection of electronic gizmos may not even look towing-related, but it's a brand-new and very innovative setup from Valley called the Smart Trailer Wireless Lighting Monitor. It allows instant detection of any light on the trailer that is malfunctioning - and even tells which one. In the foreground is the receiver, which goes in the tow vehicle and uses LEDs to show the status of the trailer's lights; behind it is the trailer-mounted transmitter unit. This particular model is for flat-four connections, but both six- and seven-way connector versions are available, as well as for either incandescent (regular) bulbs or LED lights. With the transmitter plugged in (in series with the trailer wiring), calibration is a simple task done with the in-cab receiver. After that, the Smart Trailer Wireless Lighting Monitor continuously monitors the trailer lights, which could keep you from getting pulled over. Aside from the potential ticket, this device could literally save your butt, and the trailer's. Also, it's infinitely easier to tell at a glance if all the lights are working before departing on a trip. Checking the lights alone can be a pain--especially the brake lights--but at least we can't run fast enough to see if they work after letting the pedal up.
Yearning to pull doubles without the hassle of getting a Class A license with a doubles/triples endorsement? The Valley Multi-Use Ball Mount is the answer--but the "first" trailer must be short and low enough to fit under the other one . . . Just kidding. Obviously, the 5,000-pound-rated Multi-Use is meant to enable towing a trailer while also utilizing a receiver-mounted rack, bicycle carrier, or similar popular accessories weighing up to 500 pounds by plugging them into the upper receiver.
Let There Be Light, The Way It Should Be Lit
Tow vehicles with separate brake and turn signals (usually amber) can't just be wired to a typical trailer with combined turn and brake lights. Valley's Powered Tail Light Converter solves the problem by electronically converting the signals to work with single-bulb lights. Acting as a relay box, it also powers the trailer lights from the battery rather than through the tow vehicle's wiring. On many late-model vehicles, this is essential to prevent cooked switches and finicky sensors. For situations where the tow vehicle has combined brake and turn signals, and the trailer is equipped with separate blinkers, a 10-amp circuit-protected Powered Tail Light Converter (top) fixes the problem. With the same advantages as the three-way to two-way converter, it is a superior solution compared to simply leaving the trailer's separate blinkers out of the equation, which does work, but isn't as safe as having the separate blinkers functional.
Keep What's Yours
It's unfortunate that we even have to lock the doors on enclosed trailers, but in a world full of druggies and other dishonest people, it's becoming a must. Not only to lock the doors, but to lock them securely. It'd be pretty darn hard for someone to pilfer your stuff if using Valley's Cargo Door Lock, made from heavy-duty aircraft aluminum. While the "shell" prevents access to the locking mechanism, the inside view shows how the lock pin is secured in place by the lock itself. It unlocks with a key, but locking it is as easy as pushing the lock inward, where it automatically latches. Consequently, the Cargo Door Lock is almost as simple to operate as a basic padlock, yet is far more resistant to thievery.
Flat Towing Made Easier
For those who flat tow their four-by and don't want to deal with separate lights, or draping wires over the towed vehicle, this Isolation Diode Kit from Valley makes it possible to utilize the stock taillights. By wiring in a set of diodes in the circuits, feedback from the towed vehicle is eliminated. This can save a fair amount of hassle, especially when using late-model vehicles with sensitive computers.
Let There Be Mo' Better Light
Melting the factory switches and wiring is much less of an issue with LED lights on the trailer, since they use only a fraction of the energy required compared to incandescent bulbs. Add to that the much better visibility, far longer life, and sealed construction of good LED lights such as this sampling of Valley units, and it really doesn't make sense to settle for inferior trailer lighting.
Non-Tow Receiver Use
No, this item doesn't belong in a towing story, but since it is receiver mounted we couldn't resist. Mac's Custom Tie Downs makes this trick vise that is perfect for repairs in camp, or on the trail. Or anywhere you need a vise and there's a receiver. Whether for holding parts when welding and grinding, or to have a solid surface for banging on parts with a hammer, this tool makes the job much easier. Needless to say, it also makes changing U-joints a heck of a lot simpler. We'll show you more of this great vise in an upcoming issue.
Whether covered or open, some folks are bent on taking your entire trailer. Just like with any vehicle, it pays off to make the villains go for an easier target, and using Valley's Keyed Alike Trailer Lock Set should make them look elsewhere. With the ball mount locked to the receiver and the coupler locked in closed position, separating the trailer from the tow vehicle won't be easy. When leaving the trailer detached, the Universal Coupler Lock is a great deterrent, both visually and functionally. Since all three locks are keyed alike, there's no need for a whole pile of keys, which helps prevent exceeding the GCWR.
Running the trailer in a level position can really help handling and stability, but you might need a slew of ball mounts to achieve that goal, depending on loads in both the trailer and tow vehicle--or, you could use one of Valley's Adjustable Height Zero Tilt Ball Mounts. This innovative setup functions somewhat like a jack, and the height is adjusted by using either a 3/8-inch drive ratchet, a 7/8-inch socket, or a wrench. We're lazy and use a cordless drill, eliminating the need to mess with the trailer's tongue jack. Nothing against Valley's new electric jack, but this is a more versatile setup. Able to be used as either a drop or a rise, this 5,000-pound-rated ball mount should accommodate most tow vehicle/trailer combinations. Used with adaptable trailer balls, there's not much that couldn't be towed--as long as the trailers are light enough. We'd love to see a 10,000-pound-rated version of this ball mount.
For When Stuff Happens
A breakaway setup such as this complete system from Valley shouldn't really be needed. Yet it's not all that unusual to see trailers that have become separated from the tow vehicle, despite relatively idiot-proof couplers and the required safety chains, which is probably why it's usually a legal requirement on trailers above certain weights. With the breakaway properly installed, a pull-apart switch (lower left) is attached to the trailer with the lanyard secured to the tow vehicle. Should the trailer come loose, the switch activates the trailer brakes, now powered by the separate battery of the breakaway system. While the trailer will still suffer some damage, with the trailer brakes applied it's far less likely to careen into other vehicles, or go sailing off a cliff. The breakaway's battery is charged by the tow vehicle, but for infrequently used trailers, it's a good idea to charge it separately every now and then, even though it's a sealed unit, much like an Optima.