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home articles Production |

Know to tow

published: September 30th 2022
by: Steve Boyles
source: Ohio State University Extension

Some trailers are attached to a tow vehicle’s receiver hitch or via a bumper hitch. A gooseneck is different from traditional enclosed trailers both in its namesake shape and because of the gooseneck hitch attachment within the vehicle’s bed. This allows a gooseneck trailer to be attached to the tow vehicle over the rear axle, which is different from a hitch receiver, located at the rear of the vehicle. Also, because of the closer proximity of the trailer to the tow vehicle, a gooseneck trailer will typically have a tighter turn radius over other enclosed trailers.

Know your numbers

            Your tow vehicle needs to have the capability to tow the combined weight of the vehicle and the trailer. Manufacturers will specify the exact numbers for each of the four weight limits.

  1. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): The max weight of your vehicle’s empty weight and all of the passengers, cargo, fuel, etc. that the vehicle can safely carry.
  2. Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): The maximum weight that the fully-loaded tow vehicle and trailer can be. It can also just be referred to as GVW and refers to the weight of the empty trailer plus the cargo inside. For example, a trailer that is 36’ has an empty weight of 6,000 pounds and a max cargo weight of 8,000 pounds for a total GVW of 14,000 pounds.
  3. Payload/Cargo Capacity: The maximum weight of cargo that your enclosed cargo trailer can carry.
  4. Towing Capacity: The maximum weight that your tow vehicle can safely tow.

The tow vehicle

            Have a full tank of gas.

The trailer

            Inspect the trailer floor to make sure it is sturdy and clean. If more traction is needed, install rubber matting. Consider replacing floor boards that are showing signs of wear or rot.  Wood floors will rot out sooner if not regularly cleaned/remove moisture.  Inspect the trailer for broken or sharp objects protruding into the trailer.


            Improperly inflated tires can cause uneven tread wear, affect gas mileage, engine wear, and can result in a blowout.  If you happen to jackknife your trailer, such as when reversing, you can put a lot of pressure on the sides of the tire which can also add to premature wear.

            Examine the tires for signs of dry rot, wear, or damage, and make sure that all tires, including the spare and inside dual tires, have the correct air pressure. Consider replacing tires at least every five years, regardless of use. There is a four-digit code on most tires. For example, as code of 1121 would mean the tire was produced on the eleventh week of 2021.

            Bearings will also require grease from time to time.

Lug nuts

            Inspect the lug nuts regularly to ensure they are properly tightened. Use a torque wrench to make sure lugs meet the manufacture’s recommendations for tension.

The hitch

            Have the correct ball size and the connection is secure before departure.

            The safety chains should be crisscrossed and connected with enough slack to make turns.

Electric wiring and connection

            Trailer connectors should match the truck connectors.  Check your connectors for wear and tear and test out the connection.


            Check all the lights (brake light, turn signals, and taillights) on both the truck and the trailer are working.

            If you use battery-powered accessories, ensure that your emergency battery is charged and ready for use.


            Inspect the breakaway cable or brake system. Manufacturers recommend that any trailer exceeding 1,000 lb. have its own brake system, but you should also check state regulations regarding brake system requirements.

            Test your brake controllers and adjust as needed depending on the weight of your trailer. The controller has an adjustment button (+ or -) and sliding lever. You may need to use the controller to increase braking power (+) for heavier loads or decrease braking power (-) for lighter loads.

            Slowly move forward on a level surface and shift the tow vehicle transmission to neutral. Use the slide lever on the brake controller to bring the load to a stop using the trailer brakes.

            If the trailer brakes cause the truck to jerk, your trailer brakes are adjusted too high. Lower the braking power until the trailer comes to a smooth stop. Remember, an empty trailer will have a different gain than a full trailer.

Non livestock cargo

            If using the trailer for other than livestock, secure cargo Inside the trailer: any kind of big and/or heavy cargo should be tied and secured in place before towing.

The  load

            Do your best to balance the load over the axles. The majority of the weight (85% to 90%) should be carried over the axles so that only 10% to 15% of the weight is carried on the tongue.  When using a bumper pull trailer, place the heaviest animals in the front of the axles. Load older and larger animals first, followed by younger and smaller animals.

            When tying animals in the trailer, use slip knots and tie securely at head height in the trailer.


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