People like to cut corners. It’s just a fact of life. But what may sometimes appear to be the easier route is made all the more hazardous by not following simple procedures. In this video, we see a new Ford F-350 truck enjoying a moment in the disaster spotlight. Whether or not the driver fully initiated the brakes on the trailer and his own vehicle is debatable, but there was definitely some bad technique involved. This video does a great job of highlighting, “what you don’t know can hurt you.” And to help with that, we’re going to discuss the three major styles of automobile trailers and what you need to know about them.
This is generally the most convenient. Simply slide the trailer hitch onto the back of any equipped car or truck and away you go! With one important exception – max weight allowance. Many cars and trucks are rated for a certain amount. This takes into account what the engine, chassis, and brakes can handle on a normally graded (± 5º) road. The very second you deviate or attempt to overload max capacity – you’re putting your vehicle and your health in jeopardy. Bumper pull trailers are extremely popular because they can be made to fit a variety of makes and models. As long as your back hitch has the same clearance as the resting bumper hitch, you can probably pull it. A different matter altogether is whether your vehicle is rated to pull it plus cargo.
Important features to look for in bumper pull trailers:
• Axles & Brakes
• Many bumper pull trailers will come with independent braking systems that allow you to lock them down when stationary. This is very advantageous when loading and offloading cargo.
• Trailer hitch connection
• Tongue Weight (TW) determines how much weight a trailer can apply on the tongue of the hitch before the structural integrity is threatened. Basically, if you try to put too much force – whereby it exceeds the TW specification – your trailer and your vehicle may be damaged.
• Weight Distributing Hitches
• This can help evenly distribute weight across the axles and reduce “trailer sag”.
• Wiring Harness
• Federal law and the DOT require a working harness to connect, at the minimum, indicator lights.
There’s more than just these factors at play but certainly all are worthy of checking out before you either load someone else’s cargo onto your trailer or conversely find yourself being loaded onto the back of one.
This class of automobile trailer generally comes with a fifth wheel coupler – aka a kingpin hitch. This is mounted in the back of the bed of a truck and more evenly distributes the weight of the trailer across the axles. An added bonus is it has a greater turn radius than a bumper pull. The advantage of this trailer is it easily locks into place with its fifth wheel ball bearing. A disadvantage is that it requires a truck with that coupler already installed – making it less ideal for the unprepared. More trucks and SUVs come with a trailer hitch than they do a kingpin hitch. This style of trailer is seen in the second half of this video. Unfortunately, while it would likely have been rated for the weight of that Ford 350 Super Cab, its loading ramp was positioned horribly.
The traditional semi trailer is coupled onto the exposed bed of a tractor trailer. It doesn’t have a front axle so the weight is distributed nearly evenly across its rear axle and those of its conjoined vehicle. This makes it extremely stable and capable of supporting a great deal of weight.