With the release of the new 2011 Sierra heavy-duty truck, a GMC engineer has suggested five common mistakes people make when preparing for a trip involving a trailer attached to a tow vehicle.
In a few years, the towing capacities of most trucks may be rerated and standardized thanks to the Society of Automotive Engineers' new regulations. For now, here are the guidelines from GMC's Robert Krouse.
#1: Know the actual weight of the trailer
Underestimating the weight of various items placed on the trailer is something Krouse sees often. The solution is to find a truck stop, moving company, or other location with a scale open to the public.
"Always check the total trailer weight and the trailer tongue weight before you tow anything," says Krouse.
#2: Know the actual capacity of the tow vehicle as equipped
Drivers sometimes mismatch a vehicle to the trailer load. Here, the solution can be as simple as going to a dealer for weight information on the vehicle equipped just like yours.
Krouse notes that it's important to think about the amount of people and gear aboard the tow vehicle and add that to the weight being towed.
#3: Don't overload the trailer or tow vehicle
No one wants a broken axle or excessive tire wear, so don't exceed the gross vehicle weight rating.
"By putting too much weight on a trailer it can not only damage the trailer, but also the tow vehicle," Krouse says.
#4: Properly Install Combination Setup
So now you've completed steps one through three, it's still important to set up the hitch ball, brake controller, and sway controls properly.
If all else fails, RTFM applies here. Or in other words, read the owner's manual and follow instructions to install any trailering feature.
#5: Drive Safely
Always remember that your vehicle has a trailer attached: it won't accelerate or brake as quickly as it did without the trailer!
Try to avoid low overhangs if you've got a tall trailer, and make wider turns, keeping the trailer in mind.