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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The Beginner’s Guide to Towing

Need to know how to tow? We’ll help you out. You’ll be ready to go after you read this page and purchase the equipment you need. We’ll also give you some towing tips so that you can make the most of your time.


Your trailer probably comes with everything you need to get on the road. However, the following section, “Local Regulations,” is worth a look because your state may have extra requirements. The essentials for towing are as follows.

Mount, Receiver and Ball

Some vehicles come with standard towing equipment but the rating of this standard equipment may be for light-duty jobs. In other words, you might need to add some parts in order to tow what you want to tow. Many pickups come with a rear bumper than accepts a ball (without a mount). It’s important to check your vehicle’s specifications to find out how much weight can be pulled using this built-in bumper hitch. Many trucks are damaged due to overuse.

If you need to tow more than your truck’s stock components can handle, you can purchase a hitch receiver like this one. You’ll need a ball mount to go along with it. Sometimes the ball comes with the mount and sometimes you’ll need to buy it separately. If you want a receiver, you’ll need one that is for your specific vehicle. Likewise, the ball must be the correct size for the trailer you want to pull.


There are many kinds of trailers, from custom boat trailers to basic utility trailers. Make sure you get the right one. Each one has a weight limit and each one adds to the weight of the things you’re towing, which applies to the vehicle’s towing capacity. You should also consider the “tongue weight,” which is the weight that is applied directly onto the hitch (at the ball). It should equal about 10%-15% of the total trailer and cargo weight. There’s a method for measuring it here. You can adjust the positioning of the items you’re towing until the tongue weight is just right.


In most cases, you’ll need some tie-downs (click link for photos) to secure the things you’re towing. Make sure your tie-downs are rated for the weight of the cargo they will secure. There are straps for securing specific kinds of cargo. It might be worthwhile to look into these specific-purpose products if they can be used with your cargo.

Local Regulations

Before you buy a trailer with the idea of hauling something around, you should make sure it’s allowed where you live. Every state has weight limits for trailers. You must also make sure your trailer has the correct lighting and safety equipment. Most states require safety chains, for example. Safety chains keep your trailer attached to your vehicle in the case that the trailer’s tongue comes off of the ball.

Your Vehicle’s Specs

Knowing how to tow requires knowing a little bit about your vehicle. As we briefly mentioned before, your vehicle has a towing capacity. This is the maximum weight it can safely tow. Some vehicles can be modified to tow more. Some have optional towing packages that can be purchased from the dealership. Don’t try to tow too much.

Another consideration is your vehicle’s drive train. All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles are best for towing, especially if you’re planning to tow in the show or on a wet boat ramp. If you answer “yes” to all of the following questions, you should be extra careful when you tow. Answering “yes” to 1 or 2 questions means you should take care as well.

Are you towing on a slippery surface?
Are you towing on an incline or decline?
Are you towing a weight near your vehicle’s towing capacity?

Always err on the side of caution. Reduce weight or increase the vehicle’s capabilities. Anybody who knows how to tow would agree.

By the way, even compact cars can tow trailers. They are all limited to a towing capacity, though. As you would expect, smaller cars are usually limited to lower capacities than pickups and other vehicles.

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