Towing & Hitches

Trailer hitches, goosenecks, 5th wheel hitches, trailer wiring, hitch accessories, over-sized fuel tanks, transfer tanks, towing mirrors and more
 
 
 

Increasing Your Truck?s Towing Capacity

Apr 14 2015

Know Your Towing Limits

So you got a truck and now you want to pull some stuff around with it. Do you know your truck’s towing capacity? If not, you need to find out. It’s kind of like the first thing you need to know before attaching anything to your hitch.

If your truck is rated to tow 8,000lbs. and you decide to sell your house, buy the biggest 5th wheel you can find and travel around the US with it, you may want to rethink that plan. That 5th wheel is going to be too heavy for your truck to tow. Yeah, it might physically pull the trailer down the road, but you’ll end up killing your engine and transmission, not to mention saying goodbye to any kind of decent gas mileage.

You just can’t increase the towing capacity on your truck more than what the manufacturer rated it for. There’s just no way to do that. From the engine and transmission to the frame and axles, these parts are there for a reason and are rated what they are to keep you safe. Half ton, three quarter ton and 1-ton trucks are all built differently. Different frames, suspensions, brakes, transmissions and a lot more critical components that are built with specifics in mind.

There are parts out there for towing that’ll help your truck out when pulling a load. There are beefy leaf springs you can add, air bag systems that’ll keep your rear end from squatting, heavy axles to hold the load better and big brakes to help you stop better. But these only make your truck’s job easier, they don’t make it possible to tow heavier loads than what it’s rated for.

What Could Happen?

So what could really happen if you pulled that too-heavy load? Well, nothing fun if that’s what you’re thinking. Pulling a giant boat with your half-ton truck? Yeah, may want to wear a life jacket when you back up into the water at the boat launch. Driving over 20mph pulling a too-heavy load? Hope you don’t need to stop in a hurry. You could literally kill someone.

There are only two solutions to towing a trailer or load that is heavier than what your truck is rated for: Get a bigger truck or pull a smaller load. Sorry to break it to you that way, but that’s the only safe way to do it. If you’ve got smart friends, ask the one with a degree in automotive engineering and physics and he’ll tell you. Don’t do it.

Ask you beer-drinking buddies (not automotive engineers) and they may tell you differently. The conversation would go something like, “Here’s what I did to my truck and I never had a problem”. Well, all we can say is, “just because it fits, doesn’t make is safe”. There are tons of ways to accessorize almost any aspect of a truck; whether it’s towing, lift kits or whatever category you choose. But are you willing to bet your life on taking advice from a non-professional?

If you do decide to take to life on the road with a big RV or camper, and your truck’s owner’s manual says it won’t pull that beast you want to haul, just go get a bigger truck.


 
 
 

Towing 110 - What Hitch is Right For My Truck?

Feb 10 2014

The old saying goes that you can never be too rich or have too many toys, we would add that you can never have too much towing capacity. If you know the total weight of your tow vehicle and fully loaded weight of your trailer, then you have all the information you need to select the right trailer hitch. 

Well, there might be just a little more to it than that but you get the idea. When you shop for a trailer hitch it’s a good idea to buy a little excess capacity. After all, the day might come when you’ll want that bigger boat or a larger camper. It doesn’t hurt anything now to tow a light trailer with the heavy duty trailer hitch you may need later.

Here’s a chart to show you the basic types of trailers that are most commonly in use today and the various tow vehicles. Follow the trailer column to where it meets the tow vehicle row and that’s the trailer hitch you will need.

Chart of trailer types and hitches needed

Once you know what trailer hitch you need a phone call to us here at Chux Trux is the next step. There are many options in hitches, from capacity, to 1 piece or multi piece hitches, options that make it easier to tow and much more.  We want you to get the hitch that meets all of your wants and needs. We will answer all of your questions and help you with recommendations to get you on the road quickly and safely.

And once you have the right hitch for the job you need a ball mount. The tow ball should match the size of the coupler on the trailer and should be the proper height so the trailer and tow vehicle are level. To compensate for a receiver tube on the tow vehicle that is higher or lower than the coupler on the trailer, ball mounts are made with a “drop”. That drop is measurement ‘C’ in this drawing:

Towing-ball-mount-receiver-diagram

In some cases your receiver hitch may be lower than the trailer coupler and for that you can get a “reversible” ball mount that will have a rise instead of a drop. You can also adjust the rise or drop by selecting a ball with a longer or shorter shank or neck.

If you have a trailer that weighs more than 3,500 pounds you might want to consider a weight distributing hitch. This hitch uses tension on spring bars to help keep everything level. And we don’t mean to sound like a broken record but call us or come in to see us at Chux Trux and we can help you decide on the best type of weight distributing hitch for your specific application.

Controlling sway is another consideration when pulling a trailer.  Trailers can catch a lot of wind and turbulence when going down the road, causing them to sway a little from side to side. This sway is transferred to the tow vehicle.  Sort of like the tail wagging the dog.   There are several different types of sway control, but for most people, adding a set of Hellwig sway bars (or anti-sway bars to be absolutely correct) can reduce trailer sway by a large amount.   The bonus is it makes your truck handle better even without the trailer.  And with no moving parts, they are worry free.  Many trucks and SUV’s come equipped with sway bars from the factory, but they are generally pretty wimpy, to say the least.  Typical of the OEM’s, they go for cost and weight savings over performance. 

In the case of large camper trailers and toy haulers, your trailer hitch decision is much easier. Your trailer will require either a 5th wheel hitch or a gooseneck hitch mounted in the bed of your ¾ or 1-ton pick-up truck.  A 5th wheel can handle up to 30,000 pounds and 5,000 pounds of pin weight (tongue weight) while a gooseneck can take 30,000 pounds and 6,000 pounds of pin weight.

Some of these trailer hitches can be folded down when not in use returning your truck’s bed to full function, but these typically have less weight capacity than the fixed type. Generally, 5th wheel trailers are more for recreational uses like toy haulers and campers while the gooseneck is more suited to working trailers like livestock haulers, hay trailers, etc.

So just remember, match the weight of your fully loaded trailer to the capacity of the trailer hitch and then add in a little margin for safety and you’ll be good to go. Call us at Chux Trux with any questions you have, or if you’re in the Kansas City area, stop and see us. We are the trailer hitch experts in Kansas City. We have more hitches in stock, ready to install, than any other dealer in town. We carry hitches made by Curt Manufacturing exclusively for one reason, they are the best. You might find a cheap trailer hitch but Curt’s hitches fit better, work better, and look better than any of the others.  And the difference in price between a cheap trailer hitch and the best trailer hitch is usually about $20, so give us a call.   We’re Kansas City’s experts in trailer hitches and towing.

All of the staff here at Chux are highly trained and have a lot of towing experience themselves so let us show you what we can do for you to make your towing experience not only safe, but fun too.

 

 

 


 
 
 

Towing 102 - Tow Vehicle Capacity and Trailer Hitch Options

Feb 5 2014

Towing a 5th wheel

Towing a trailer or towing a boat isn’t exactly rocket science. You don’t need a PHD in physics or a Masters in geometry or even a high school education. (Although a GED would be nice!) But you do need to know what you’re doing and what components you need to have in order to get the job done safely and efficiently.

So that’s what we’re all about this time; a little Towing 101 for you to cover the basics of towing and define some terms and give you the knowledge you need to make towing a pleasant experience.

There is a whole range of components and parts involved in setting up a towing package and you need to know the proper names and uses of these various components before you hit the road.

 

We’ll begin with the tow vehicle itself. This can be a car, truck, or SUV, but whatever it is, it’s important that you know and understand what its specific towing capabilities and limits are. You can find much of this information in the owner’s manual that came with the vehicle. That’s that little book that you thumbed through when you bought the car or truck, figured out how to fire up the stereo, then tossed it in the glove box never to see the light of day again. There’s some useful information in there so go dig it out and see what it has to say.

To get you started, here are a few random examples of some popular vehicles and their towing capacities.

Towing capacities


The next component to consider is the trailer itself. A trailer is defined as any wheeled object that is designed to be pulled by another vehicle. Pretty simple and straightforward isn’t it? Trailers range from those little box trailers you can rent up to huge cross country rigs. But what we’re concerned with mostly are travel trailers, boat trailers, race car haulers, flat bed trailers, 5
th wheel or gooseneck trailers, utility trailers, livestock trailers, etc. If it can be pulled down the road by another vehicle, it’s a trailer!Once again, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to be certain of your vehicle’s weight limits.

Next on the list is lighting. All trailers are required by law to have the same lights as the tow vehicle, working at the same time as the tow vehicles lights. Taillights, brake and turn signals are a minimum. Large enclosed car haulers, livestock trailers, and RV should also have marker lights at the top rear and front and along both sides.

You can’t have working lights without wires. The wiring harness you need to connect the front of the trailer to the back of the tow vehicle is available in several standard formats and if your vehicle came from the factory ready to tow, there’s already a connection at the back for the trailer lights.

You can’t tow anything if you don’t have a hitch. Basically the hitch is the point where the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle. There are as many types of hitches as there are tow vehicles and trailers so the subject of selecting the proper hitch will take up an entire section of its own.

There are a few components on the hitch such as the ball mount. This is also sometimes called a draw bar or stinger. It’s the component that slides into the hitch receiver and has a mounting pad for the tow ball.

The hitch pin and clip hold the ball mount in the receiver hitch and also is a convenient place to attach any breakaway cables, if your trailer is so equipped. The pin itself is usually shaped a little like a hockey stick and the clip is a hairpin design like the hood pins on a race car.

So naturally the next component is the ball itself. This is half of the flexible joint between the tow vehicle and the trailer that enables it to operate over bumps and dips in the road and navigate around corners. Tow balls come in different sizes, usually 1-7/8”, 2”, and 2-5/16” diameters depending on the weight of the trailer you plan to pull.

The other half of that all important flexible joint is the coupler. The coupler fits over the ball and rotates around it as the tow vehicle moves around curves and over dips and bumps. The size of the coupler must match the size of the ball for safe operation. NEVER tow with mismatched coupler and ball sizes.

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of the trailer breaking free from the tow vehicle but it can happen. That’s what safety chains are for. These are your backup plan. They should be attached between the trailer and the tow vehicle so they cross under the hitch. That prevents the hitch from digging into the roadway at speed.

Now that you have some definitions you can get more information from the experts down at Chux Trux. Give them a call today if you’re ready to start towing and they will get you on the road quickly and safely.

 


 
 
 

Towing 106 - Installing a Trailer Hitch

Feb 5 2014

 

If you’re the do-it-yourself type and your truck or RV doesn’t have a trailer hitch it really isn’t that big a deal to install one yourself. Most of the trailer hitches and receiver hitches on the market today are of the “no drill” type. In other words they are designed to fit into holes that are there in your tow vehicle’s frame from the factory so all you really need are a few basic hand tools that you probably already have and a couple of hours on a Saturday.  Even if your tow vehicle doesn’t have the holes required to install a trailer hitch you can still do the installation yourself. A typical heavy-duty ½-inch chuck handheld drill should handle the job.

You may have to move the tailpipe temporarily, or drop the spare tire, and possibly make cuts in the rear fascia, or fish bolts through the vehicle frame with a thin wire, depending on your application, but none of that is terribly difficult. You just need to take your time, read the instructions that came with the trailer hitch carefully, and work safely. 

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Hitch Guys TipHitch Installation Tools  "Go online and look at the installation instructions for your specific hitch and then decide if this is something you want to tackle on your own or leave to the experts.  Having the right tools is only part of the installation.  There is no substitute for knowledge and experience".

 

A typical trailer hitch installation begins with getting the tow vehicle high enough to comfortably work under it. Always use good quality jack stands with the appropriate weight rating any time you work under a vehicle.

Next locate all of the holes you need to mount the hitch. If you will be drilling new holes, check the hitch instructions for their locations and use the drilling template if the instructions include one.

If the application requires dropping bolts vertically down through the frame, go ahead and put those in place first. It’s a lot easier now than when trying to hold the hitch in place while you feel around for the hole in the frame.

Now you can move the trailer hitch into place. Some hitches can be very heavy, 50 pounds or more, so be sure to use a buddy or a jack of some sort, or both, to help you lift it into place and hold it there while you start the bolts and nuts.

Get at least one bolt on each side snugged up first before doing anything else. Once all of the bolts are in place tighten them all to the recommended specs with a torque wrench.

 

 Hitch Guys TipThread locking treatments such as Loc-Tite are a great idea. Even if your hardware kit includes lock washers or locking nuts, it never hurts to have a little extra security.

 

Once your new receiver hitch is installed you can turn your attention to the ball mount. The trailer and tow vehicle should both be level when connected and you can get an adjustable ball mount to compensate for any difference.

Trailer hitch ball mount rise or drop  

Installing this type of ball mount is no different than installing the hitch receiver. You want to use the hardware that came with the mount and you also want to make sure the ball mount extends out far enough from the tow vehicle for safety, but no so far that the increased leverage raises the tongue weight.

But hey, do you really want to go through all that? Or would you rather have the job done by a pro? Of course you would and that’s what we’re here for. Chux Trux is THE trailer hitch installation expert in the Kansas City area. We have trailer hitches for almost every vehicle on the road and we carry more of them in stock than any other place in town!

We primarily sell hitches made by Curt Manufacturing simply because it’s the best product on the market, period. We can install a Class 3 receiver hitch within 48 hours for around $219 ready to go out the door! Many of our Curt Class 3 trailer hitches can be custom ordered in lots of powder coated colors and no other manufacturer even offers that.

Yes, our trailer hitches might cost a couple of bucks more but they look better, fit better, most are round tube trailer hitches instead of square tube, and our tech guys that will handle your installation are the best in the business. Only Chux has the quality staff, best parts and experienced installation guys that love your vehicle as much as you do. 

So call Chux Trux today and get started on that trailer hitch installation for your car, truck, van, SUV, or whatever else you drive. We have three stores in the Kansas City area and our techs are just waiting to help you get that boat trailer, travel trailer, or toy hauler out on the road.

 


 
 
 

Towing 107 - Hooking up Your Trailer for Towing

Feb 5 2014


Want to see something hilarious? Watch someone who’s never towed a trailer try to direct somebody else trying to back up a trailer! Grab a chair and some popcorn and enjoy the show. Unless the driver and the spotter know exactly what each other needs to see and do, it can be a recipe for disaster or at the very least a pretty good argument.

But in reality backing up with a trailer really isn’t all that hard. It just requires a little practice and patience. It can even be done without having a spotter back there. But if you do have a spotter, he or she needs to know exactly where you want the trailer to go and the signals need to be worked out beforehand so that both of you are one the same page.

But before you can back a trailer you need to hook up to the coupler so you can hook up the trailer and that can sometimes be just as much of a challenge as backing the trailer itself. If you have a spotter, he or she should stand even with the trailer’s coupler, on the driver’s side and should be clearly visible in the driver’s rear view mirror. Its best if the spotter uses signals to tell you which way to move the tow ball, left or right, and not which way to turn the steering wheel.  

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Once you are lined up and getting close, the spotter should switch to showing you how far you still have to go. Leave a little margin for error in this to avoid the unintentional “spearing” of the tow vehicle’s license plate. Just take it very slowly and creep gently back the last inch or three.

If you have to hook up alone you can still get there, it’s just a little more challenging. One trick is that once you are close, open the door and look at the ground as you move the tow vehicle. It’s a lot easier to judge how far you have moved that way. Some people use a brightly colored tall stick attached to the coupler with a magnet to give them a good visual reference to where it is. (Chux sells these!)

Now that you are over the ball it’s time to hook up. After you lower the trailer jack and the coupler is securely on the ball, make sure the clamp release is completely closed. Inserting a pin or a trailer tongue lock through the clamp is good insurance. Now you can raise or remove the trailer jack and stow it away.

Trailer Tongue Lock

 

Now check the pin that holds the ball mount in the receiver and make sure the clip is inserted properly and is in good condition.

Next attach the safety chains. Make sure they cross under the trailer’s coupler. This insures the coupler will fall onto the chains in case of a breakaway and not dig into the ground. Also connect the breakaway switch cable if your trailer is so equipped.

Now you can hook up the electrical connector and perform a test to make sure all the trailer lights are working correctly.

If you have a weight distributing hitch there are a couple more steps involved, like using a jack to take some of the trailer weight off the hitch and adjusting the chains for proper tension. The instructions for this should have been included with your hitch and your hitch installer should also have gone over the procedure with you. Just remember that the goal is for the trailer and the tow vehicle to be level throughout when fully loaded.

If you have a gooseneck hitch or a fifth wheel hitch you also have some additional steps that are covered in your trailer’s owner’s manual and should have been explained to you by your dealer.

Here’s a handy checklist to help you through all the steps before you can safely hit the road with your trailer:

Trailer Hookup Checklist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now comes the really fun part; backing up. No matter what type of towing you do or where you go, sooner or later you’re going to have to back that rig up. Sometimes it can be pretty funny, until something goes wrong, then it’s hilarious! Okay, we’re kidding, but seriously folks, backing a trailer really isn’t difficult.

Here is the basic rule:

Backing up to a trailer 

Do this while you are watching what the trailer does. It only takes a little practice before this becomes second nature and you will amaze your friends and family with the places you can back your trailer into.

If you have a spotter make sure your spotter knows where you want to go beforehand. And its best if the spotter uses hand signals to tell you where the back of the trailer should go, NOT which way you should turn the wheel. The spotter should also make sure he or she is always visible in your mirror. 

It’s pretty simple really, but did you know that of you have questions about this or any other part of trailer towing you can always rely on us here at Chux Trux? We have the most highly trained staff in the Kansas City area and our guys are enthusiasts just like you and have towing experience that you can use. Call us today or stop in at any of our three stores and let us help you get on the road and have a safe and fun towing experience.

 


 
 
 

Towing 108 - Towing Safety

Feb 5 2014
  Download Towing eBook

Before you even pull out on the road, make sure the trailer hitch is in good shape, your wiring isn’t corroded or frayed, and your trailer is loaded correctly. You need about 60% of the load in front of the trailer axles. Not so far in front as to overload the tongue weight, but properly balanced front to rear and side to side.  It should go without saying to make sure all of your cargo inside the trailer should be securely tied down.  Plus, ALWAYS make sure you visually confirm that all trailer brake lights work, trailer turn signals, trailer hazard/flasher lights and any clearance or marker lights. 

Make sure you have the trailer hitch hooked up correctly and all of the electrical connections made. The safety chains should be attached so they cross under the coupler like this:

 

Towing anything with a trailer hitch makes your rig is longer, heavier, less maneuverable, and takes longer to stop than most of the other vehicles around you.

The running joke is that common sense isn’t very common any more, but when it comes to towing a trailer a little common sense is all you really need to make it a safe experience. And safety should be the number one thing on your mind when you’re towing anything.

In fact, overconfidence just might be the most dangerous thing you can have when towing trailer. Modern tow vehicles and quality trailers and hitches make towing these days an easy task and it doesn’t take much to get lulled into a false sense that towing a trailer is a no-brainer. But you should never drive the same way with a trailer that you would drive without a trailer hitched to your truck. So what follows here are a few tips on driving safely when towing a trailer and a few guidelines to keep you out of the ditches and right side up.Trailer Chain Hookup

Once out on the road don’t follow too closely and be sure to leave PLENTY of extra stopping distance between you and the car in front of you. It’s just basic physics that the increased weight of your rig means your brakes will take more time to bring everything to a halt. Because of this, many states have lowered their speed limits for trailers. This is for your safety so be sure to never exceed the posted limit.

After the first 50 to 100 miles, stop and check to make sure all of the hitch connections are still good and the load is still properly tied down and hasn’t shifted.

Be extra careful when changing lanes. Make sure you allow plenty of room for the extra length of your rig. Check your mirrors often and signal well in advance of the change.

Passing a slower vehicle should be a rare event when you’re towing but if you must pass, remember again about the extra length of your combination and don’t cut back into your lane too soon. When other cars are passing you be courteous and help them get the pass done quickly and safely by slowing just a bit until they are safely by. Most importantly be predictable and don’t make any sudden moves while being passed.

Always use care on long downgrades. Use lower gears and gentle, intermittent use of your brakes to keep them cool and that trailer under control.

Take in the big picture when you’re out on the road. Anticipation of the unexpected should become automatic. Look way ahead and notice what all the other vehicles are doing. Do the same thing behind you, check your mirrors often and always know what’s going on around you. Watch for drivers who could be a problem long before they get near you. Notice the guy who’s cutting in and out of lanes, talking on his cell phone, or going much faster than the rest of traffic and give those guys plenty of room.

No matter how good your tires are, the possibility of getting a flat on the road is always there. A flat front tire on the tow vehicle will make steering sluggish and heavy but you can still pull off the road and brake to a safe stop. A flat trailer tire will make your trailer sway and pull the tow vehicle around some, but you can still apply the trailer brakes and slowly get the rig off the road. A flat tire on the rear of the tow vehicle is probably the worst but if you just apply the brakes gently (never slam on the brakes) use the trailer brake controller and slowly pull the rig off to the side of the road you’ll be fine. In the case of any flat tire the basic rule is to not to panic or make any sudden or abrupt moves. Just be smooth and gently apply brake and steering input.

Bad weather requires even more common sense and good driving habits. We shouldn’t have to tell you that wet roads mean even slower speeds and longer stopping distance. High winds can cause your trailer to sway. But just like the flat tire example above, the best action is little action. Don’t make any abrupt movements but a slow and gentle reduction in speed and careful application of the trailer brake controller should bring that trailer right back in line where it belongs.

Finally, whenever you stop, whether for a rest, gas, or at your destination, make sure you have room to get out again. Don’t get stuck in a place where you have to make a lot of complicated backing moves just to get out. It would better to park across the street or on the side of the road as long as it doesn’t cause a safety issue.

Any time you have concerns or questions about safety while towing, the answer is just a phone call away to Chux Trux. We have the parts, equipment, and most importantly, the experience to help you make your next towing adventure a safe and fun one. If you’re in the Kansas City area, please stop in to any of our three stores and we’ll help you out. Whether you have a boat trailer, horse trailer, ATV / toy hauler, camper, or any kind of trailer, we’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt, and are more than happy to solve your problems and get you out on the road.

 

 


 
 
 

Towing 109 - Trailer Brake Controllers & Wiring

Feb 5 2014

We know you probably weren’t paying attention in high school physics when they covered Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. Newton wasn’t the guy who invented those fig cookies, although he was a pretty smart cookie himself. No, Newton was the first guy to figure out that; “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” And that, dear kiddies, is officially known as “Newton’s First Law of Motion”.

What Newton didn’t realize at the time however was that he was talking about us when we tow our trailers. You see, if you are towing a trailer with no brakes or one without a proper brake controller, and you try to stop at a traffic light or, worse, in an emergency, that trailer wants to keep moving. And you and your tow vehicle are in its way. And that’s bad news for you and anybody around you too.

Fortunately there are very few trailers with no brakes of any kind, (mostly just the light utility trailers, single axle trailers, etc.). Even those cheap rental trailers will usually have surge brakes. Surge brakes use the slowing of the tow vehicle to activate a hydraulic cylinder in the tongue to apply the trailer brakes. The disadvantage to surge brakes is that you, the driver, have no independent control over them. 

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The largest gooseneck and fifth wheel campers and car hauler trailers may have air brakes. But they are beyond the scope of this article so we won’t go into them here.

Just about all campers, travel trailers, car haulers, boat trailers, etc. sold on the market today, specifically most that have dual or triple axles, have electric brakes that are activated whenever the brakes in the tow vehicle are applied. In addition, just about all trucks, vans, SUVs, and RVs built since the early 1990’s also have the wiring for an electric brake controller installed from the factory for when you are towing a trailer. There is often a quick connect plug up under the dash somewhere that will connect to a standard electric brake controller. Even better is that many pick-ups built in the last five years with a towing package that includes the option of having an electric brake controller built right into the dash!

Trailer brake controllers, like this one from Curt Manufacturing, are easy to install and easy to use.

Trailer Brake Controller

They are adjustable for sensitivity and gain and usually have a button to activate the trailer brakes without using the tow vehicle brakes.

 

The sensitivity adjustment enables the brake controller to apply the trailer brakes anytime it senses the tow vehicle slowing down. This prevents your trailer from acting on Newton’s law and pushing your tow vehicle which could result in a jackknifing.

The gain or output adjustment modulates the electricty sent to the brakes which determines how hard the trailer brakes are applied. A heavily loaded trailer will require more braking than a light one. Too much braking will cause the trailer brakes to lock up before the tow vehicle brakes are fully applied.

If your trailer starts to sway due to high winds or the sudden passing of an 18-wheeler, you can bring it back under control with the gentle application of the trailer brake controller without using the tow vehicle brakes. Just a light touch of the slider or control button should bring the trailer right back in line.

As we mentioned above, if your tow vehicle was built after 1990, installing a trailer brake controller should only be a matter of locating the pig tail under the dash and plugging it into the controller. (If your truck didn’t come with the pigtail wiring harness for a trailer brake controller, Chux can get most of them). Then you just mount the controller within easy reach of the driver and you’re done. Depending upon the make and model of your vehicle, the brake controller plug should look like one of these:

Trailer brake controller Wiring Harness

 

If your tow vehicle is older than 1990 installing a trailer brake controller will be a little more involved but not that difficult. You will need to connect a wire to your brake light switch, a 12 volt power source, and a ground. Then one more wire needs to go to the trailer wiring connector at the back of the vehicle.

If you have confidence in your wiring skills you can tackle a job like this yourself. But if you’re unsure or just don’t want to take it on, give us a call at Chux Trux. We’re Kansas City’s trusted experts when it comes to all things towing. We have the training and expertise to do the job right. We can also help you choose the right trailer brake controller for your specific towing needs and get you set-up with all of the best parts and pieces. If you are anywhere in the Kansas City area just stop in at one of our three stores and let us show you what we can do to provide you with that “external force”  that old Newton was talking about to bring your trailer to a smooth, safe stop. Class dismissed.


 
 
 

Towing 105 - Trailer Wiring Harness Explained

Jul 26 2012

 

Let there be light. And there was wiring and connectors and bulbs and it was good. Yes kiddies, this time we’re going to talk all about trailer wiring and electrical stuff. I know some of you will go running screaming from the room at the mere mention of the word electrical, but trust us it really isn’t all that hard.

If for no other reason than not getting stopped by the cops, you must have working lights on your trailer just like you do on your tow vehicle. And for your safety, and the safety of the other vehicles on the road, all of those lights should work properly or you shouldn’t tow, even for a short trip across town.

Of course all new trailers come with lights and wiring already installed from the factory. But if you built your own trailer or you bought a used one that has lights missing or broken, any good trailer or RV dealer will have all of the parts and kits you need to get that trailer on the road safe and legal.

The wiring connector for most trailers has between 4 and 7 posts or blades, depending on how it’s equipped, to control basic lighting and brake functions. Smaller trailers use a four wire flat plug that controls taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. Larger trailers will have a connector with 5, 6, and 7 wires to control backup lights, electric trailer brake control, and auxiliary power.

Here’s a simple chart showing the standard color codes of the various trailer connectors:

 Trailer wire colors explained

If you stick to this format your trailer will be compatible with most trailers and tow vehicles out there. If you’re building a trailer you can buy a complete wiring kit for it and that will be the easiest and quickest way to get your trailer wired.

Once your trailer’s wiring is good to go the next thing to think about is the connection to the tow vehicle. Almost all trucks, vans, and SUVs built since the 1990’s have factory installed wiring and plugs for lighting and, in some cases, even a connector in the cab for a trailer brake controller. This makes hooking up your trailer simple as dirt.

But if you need to add some wiring and connectors it’s not that hard to splice into your vehicle’s existing wiring, IF, and that’s a HUGE “IF”, you take your time, read directions and understand basic electrical flow.  But if you aren’t absolutely confident in your wiring skills you can always take it to a professional and have the work done for you.

Here’s a chart showing the standard types of trailer connectors and the color codes:

Standard trailer connectors and position of colored wires

 

If you don’t have a factory installed towing connector, here’s a chart showing the most common locations for wiring plugs that will help you tap into the vehicle’s wiring:

Locations of where to tap in to find your brake light

 

And here are the most common types of trailer connectors:

 

7-way vehicle connector for trailer wiring7-way RV blade trailer connector wiring plug4-way flat wiring with both connectors

7-way vehicle connector       7-way RV blade trailer connector     4-way flat wiring with both connectors

 

If your trailer is equipped with electric brakes you should use the 7-way RV blade connector even if you don’t have back-up lights or auxiliary power. If you don’t have electric trailer brakes you should be okay with just the flat four-way connector.

If you’re equipping an older vehicle for towing most of the wiring you need is right there in the taillights. The exception will be the connection for electric trailer brakes. However, if you have a vehicle that is not factory equipped for towing you will need to change more than just lighting before towing a trailer that is large enough to have electric brakes.

You will most likely have to remove one taillight to gain access to the wiring and the color codes on the vehicle will probably be different than the trailer plug. The best thing to do is to get the wiring schematic for your vehicle. (These are sometimes available on line.) If you have a voltmeter that is also a good way to determine which wire is which.

Remember to carefully tag and label each wire so you can keep track of what you’re doing and use a good quality tap connector like these to make those splices.Tap connectors

 

Here’s a tip for you:

 

Tips on wiring for your trailer

 

We here at Chux Trux are ready and waiting to help you with any of your towing questions or problems. You can call us any time or stop in at any of our three Kansas City area stores and speak to our expertly trained staff. We already know how to solve most of your problems because we’ve already “been there and done that”! 

By: Chris Ripper


 
 
 

Towing 104 - Determining Towing Capacity Needed

Jul 26 2012

You wouldn’t try to tow a 24’ fully loaded camper trailer with a Smart car. (Well, one or two of you might.) But on the other hand you don’t need a 7.3L diesel F-250 dually to tow your 12’ aluminum boat down to the lake either. So how do you know just how much towing capacity you need? Well, that’s what we’re here for pal, to help you figure these things out. So just relax and read on.

No matter what you drive, you have to be sure that you completely understand what its towing capacity is. Exceeding the recommended capacity not only puts unnecessary strain on your engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, and cooling system but it can create some very dangerous situations for you out on the road. 

The best place to find out about a vehicle’s towing capacity is the owner’s manual. In it you will not only find out what the vehicle can tow, but also detailed instructions and limitations and, very often, some good safe towing tips. For example, the manual for a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria contains the following:

“Your vehicle is classified as a light duty towing vehicle. . . Towing a trailer places an additional load on your vehicle's engine, transmission, brakes, tires and suspension. Inspect these components carefully after towing. Your loaded trailer should weigh no more than 907 kg (2,000 lbs.).”

Here’s a chart from a 2005 Jeep Liberty manual:

Liberty towing weight

 

After you’ve checked the owner’s manual you should also look at the compliance certification plate. This is usually a sticker on the door jamb. It will contain several acronyms like "GVR," "GAW," and "GCWR”. Here’s what they mean;

GVW

Gross Vehicle Weight. This is your vehicle’s standard curb weight, plus an estimate of the typical load of passengers, fuel and stuff.

GVWR

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the maximum safe weight for your vehicle. Exceeding this weight will place stress on your engine, transmission, and brakes beyond what they are designed for.

GCW

Gross Combination Weight. This is the combined weight of your vehicle and the trailer (Not the tongue weight, but the total weight.) This number cannot exceed the GCWR.

GCWR

Gross Combination Weight Rating. This is the maximum safe weight of your vehicle and trailer when both are fully loaded with people, fuel, and all your stuff. And like the GVWR above; exceeding this weight will place stress on your engine, transmission, and brakes beyond what they are designed for.

GAW

Gross Axle Weight. This is the amount of weight that carried by each of the vehicle’s axles. They will be different based on engine weight and trailer tongue weight capacity.

GAWR

Gross Axle Weight Rating. This is the maximum safe weight you can place on the front and rear axles. And just like the other two weight ratings above, exceeding these numbers will damage your vehicle and create dangerous driving conditions.

 

  

Once you have determined your vehicle’s weight and towing capacities you should turn next to your trailer’s weight. A new trailer will have a VIN plate that has not only the trailer’s serial number but also lists the trailer’s weights and capacities. It should look like this:

Trailer VIN Tag - find trailer weight

 

Here’s another chart giving you the typical weights for the common types of utility trailers:

 

Typical weights for trailers

 

And this one is for typical travel trailer weights:

 

Travel Trailer Weight Chart

 

If you have a homebuilt trailer or you can’t find the VIN plate on your trailer the best thing to do is have your trailer weighed. You can do this at some RV dealers, state highway weigh stations, refuse transfer stations, and commercial truck stops. Be sure to call ahead first and check.

Finally you need to know the tongue weight of your trailer. You can buy special tongue weight scales for about $150, but unless you tow many different trailers with varied loads very often, this probably isn’t necessary.

If you think you have less than 300 pounds of tongue weight you can use a common bathroom scale. But for more than 300 pounds you will have to set up a rig like this:

 

Finding your trailers tongue weight

 

With this set-up, you take the reading off the bathroom scale and triple it to get your tongue weight.

If this isn’t practical for you, you can usually take your trailer to your local trailer dealer where he can determine the tongue weight for you.

You can change your tongue weight by changing the way your trailer is loaded. More weight in front of the axles will increase tongue weight, while moving the load to the rear will reduce it. You do not want so much of your load to the rear that you have negative tongue weight.

Tongue weight has a large affect on how your combined rig handles going down the road. Too much tongue weight will cause your vehicle to sag at the coupler putting more strain on the vehicle. Too much sag could even reduce the weight on the front wheels to the point that the ability to safely steer is reduced. Not enough tongue weight will cause the trailer to sway and wander and that also creates a dangerous driving condition. You want to shoot for a tongue weight that is about 10% of your total trailer weight. This is what most hitches are designed for to ensure safety.

If you still have questions or just want more information you can call us at Chux Trux or if you live in or around the Kansas City area stop in and see us. We have highly trained experts on staff that can help you get the most out your next towing experience.

By: Chris Ripper


 
 
 

Towing 103 - Types of Trailer Hitches - Which is Right for Me?

Jul 2 2012

If you watched a lot of movie or TV westerns you may have heard the term; “. . . hitch up the wagon.” Well these days, before we can hitch up our wagons, or trailers, we have to have the right hitch on our “horse” or tow vehicle. What do you mean the right kind of hitch? Isn’t a hitch a hitch? Uh, no, as a matter of fact there are as many different types of trailer hitches as there are trailers and ways to use them so let’s go over a few of them.

 

 

Types of Trailer Hitches

 

This diagram gives you a brief overview of a few hitch types and what they are used for. The "WC" in the chart stands for "Weight Carrying," when used with a basic ball mount and coupler. The "WD" ratings are higher and those are the limits if you use a Weight Distributing ball mount. "TW" stands for Tongue Weight, which is the most weight you can place on the coupler based on a fully loaded trailer. These are the most commonly used trailer hitches, you can also find both heavier and lighter duty options.

NOTE: Always keep in mind that just because the hitch is rated to haul a certain amount of weight, doesn’t mean your tow vehicle can handle the weight.  Hitches do NOT increase your capacity to tow extra weight.  Consult your owner’s manual for your vehicles capacity and never exceed that amount.  It’s a “weakest link” scenario.

 

 

Bumper Mount

 Drop Bumpers

Most trucks and SUVs today have some sort of hole in the center of the bumper that will accept a tow ball. This is the most basic, and lightest duty, form of trailer hitch. As long as you don’t exceed 100 pounds of tongue weight and 1,000 pounds of trailer weight, this is fine. A ball and a little wiring is all you need. You just have to be absolutely sure you don’t exceed the vehicle manufacturer’s capacity recommendations.

 

Bumper Hitch                                                             

Bumper mounted trailer hitch                                                           

If sooner or later you need to tow different trailers with different size couplers, a light duty solution is the bumper hitch like this one made by Curt. This hitch bolts to your vehicle's bumper and provides a standard 2” ball mount receiver and attachment points for the safety chains. Don’t confuse this, however, for a regular receiver style hitch. You are still limited to the weight bearing capacity of your tow vehicle’s bumper.  And not every vehicle can use this type of hitch.

 

Class 1-2 Receivers

Class I & Class 2 Receiver Hitch                                                    

This is a light duty receiver type trailer hitch that is generally only used on passenger cars and light weight, crossover SUVs. This type of hitch uses a smaller 1-¼” receiver tube for the ball mount. Class 1 hitches are rated to tow trailers up to a maximum of 2,000 pounds with 200 pounds of tongue weight, and Class 2 can handle 3,500 pound trailers with 350 pounds of tongue weight. These hitches do not increase the total weight that a given vehicle may be able to tow. 

 

Class 3 Receivers

  Class 3 Trailer Hitch                                                 

This is the most common trailer hitch found on full size pick-ups and SUVs. If yours came from the factory with a towing package installed, you probably have a Class 3 trailer hitch. Class 3 receivers can handle up to 8,000 pound trailers and 800 pounds of tongue weight with a weight carrying ball mount, or up to 12,000 pounds and 1,200 pounds of tongue weight with a weight distributing hitch. This most likely exceeds the towing capacities of your vehicle, so a Class 3 hitch will not be the limiting factor for just about anything you want to tow. 

 

Class 4-5 Receivers

Class IV Receiver Hitch                                                    

These are the Mac-Daddy, heaviest-duty trailer hitches that can be installed at the rear of a tow vehicle. A Class 4 weight carrying trailer hitch can carry 10,000 pounds and 1,000 pounds of tongue weight, or up to 12,000 and 1,200 pounds if you use a weight distributing trailer hitch. Class 5 receivers can handle up to 14,000 pounds and 1,400 pounds tongue weight. To tow anything larger than that will require an Xtra Duty, Industrial Duty receiver hitch, or, a 5th wheel or gooseneck hitch.

 

Fifth Wheel Hitch

Curt 5th Wheel Trailer Hitch                                                

You’ve all seen these mounted in the bed of pick-up trucks, usually duallies, and they are very similar in design to the hitches used by commercial 18-wheelers. Fifth wheel trailer hitches can handle trailers that range from 16,000 to 30,000 pounds and up to 5,000 pounds of pin weight (tongue weight), depending on the design of the hitch, and the rating by the manufacturer. You see 5th wheel hitches most commonly on large travel trailers and car haulers. This is because they are very stable and easy to maneuver. And this is the only type of hitch where the coupling device is part of the tow vehicle and not the trailer.

 

Gooseneck Hitch

 Curt Gooseneck Hitch                                              

Like a 5th wheel hitch, a gooseneck hitch mounts in the bed of your pick-up over the rear axle. This type of hitch is most commonly used for livestock trailers, car and toy haulers, and industrial or commercial trailers. A gooseneck hitch can handle up to about 30,000 pound trailers with 6,000 pounds of tongue weight. Some gooseneck hitches can be folded down out of the way when not in use to enable normal loading of the truck bed.

 

 

Weight Distributing Hitch

Weight Distributing Trailer Hitch                                                        

A weight distributing hitch increases the towing capacity and stability over a weight carrying trailer hitch. Sometimes called a “load equalizing hitch” a weight distributing trailer hitch spreads the tongue weight of the trailer over all four wheels of the tow vehicle.

 With & Without Weight Distributing Hitch

Any vehicle with a Class 3-5 receiver can use a weight distributing hitch. The key difference between weight distributing hitch and a weight carrying hitch is the long rods called "spring bars" that exert leverage on your tow vehicle's frame, transferring some of the tongue weight to the vehicle's forward wheels. This prevents heavy trailers with high tongue weights from lifting the front wheels and overloading the rear wheels. Weight distributing hitches can also accept the addition of sway control bars.

 

 

Front Mount Hitch

Front Mounted Trailer Hitch                                                      

Finally we come to the front mount trailer hitch. This hitch mounts, obviously, to the front of the vehicle. Front mount trailer hitches are extremely handy for launching a boat at the local boat ramp. These are available in most weight classes and can be mounted on almost any pick-up, van, or SUV.

The leading manufacturer of trailer hitches discussed here is Curt Manufacturing and that is the primary brand sold and installed by Chux Trux. This is because Curt hitches are built right here in the USA, install correctly, and are designed to be tough and safe. They may cost a little more but you get high value that comes with that quality. You can find cheaper hitches and have them installed by less experienced people but the techs at Chux Trux are very highly trained and after all, what’s your safety worth?

If you live in the Kansas City area, Chux Trux can usually get you fixed up with a Class 3 hitch, for about $219, fully installed, within 48 hours of notification.  For a slight extra charge, Curt makes hitches powder-coated in custom colors. (Curt is the only manufacturer that provides this.)

Chux Trux stocks more hitches than any of their competition and they have a hitch for almost any vehicle on the road. So give Chux a call today and get the best trailer hitches along with expert installation and service.

By: Chris Ripper


 
 
 

Towing Requirements and Safety

Jul 2 2012

Towing a trailer or towing a boat isn’t exactly rocket science. You don’t need a PHD in physics or a Masters in geometry or even a high school education. (Although a GED would be nice!) But you do need to know what you’re doing and what components you need to have in order to get the job done safely and efficiently. So that’s what we’re all about this time; a little Towing 101 for you to cover the basics of towing and define some terms and give you the knowledge you need to make towing a pleasant experience. There is a whole range of components and parts involved in setting up a towing package and you need to know the proper names and uses of these various components before you hit the road.

 

We’ll begin with the tow vehicle itself. This can be a car, truck, or SUV, but whatever it is, it’s important that you know and understand what its specific towing capabilities and limits are. You can find much of this information in the owner’s manual that came with the vehicle. That’s that little book that you thumbed through when you bought the car or truck, figured out how to fire up the stereo, then tossed it in the glove box never to see the light of day again. There’s some useful information in there so go dig it out and see what it has to say.

 

 

To get you started, here are a few random examples of some popular vehicles and their towing capacities.

Type of Vehicle                         Example Models                                                       Max Towing Capacity

Small car                                   Cobalt, Taurus, Avenger                                           under 1,000 pounds 

Full-size car                               Impala, Crown Victoria                                             1,000-2,000 pounds

Mid-size CUV                             Edge, Taurus X, Equinox                                           2,000-4,000 pounds 

Mid-size truck-SUV                    Ranger, Trailblazer, Dakota                                      3,000-7,200 pounds 

Full size 1/2 ton truck, SUV       Expedition, F150, Tahoe, Durango hybrid             5,000-11,200 pounds 

1-ton or 3/4 ton truck, SUV       F250, Silverado HD, Ram 2500, F350, Ram 3500 10,000-16,000 pounds

Commercial Truck                    F450                                                                       16,000-24,600 w/5th wheel              

Class C or A RV                        Marathon, Jamboree                                                up to 10,000 pounds


 

Once again, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to be certain of your vehicle’s weight limits.

 

The next component to consider is the trailer itself. A trailer is defined as any wheeled object that is designed to be pulled by another vehicle. Pretty simple and straightforward isn’t it? Trailers range from those little box trailers you can rent up to huge cross country rigs. But what we’re concerned with mostly are travel trailers, boat trailers, race car haulers, flat bed trailers, 5th wheel or gooseneck trailers, utility trailers, livestock trailers, etc. If it can be pulled down the road by another vehicle, it’s a trailer!

 

Next on the list is lighting. All trailers are required by law to have the same lights as the tow vehicle, working at the same time as the tow vehicles lights. Taillights, brake and turn signals are a minimum. Large enclosed car haulers, livestock trailers, and RV should also have marker lights at the top rear and front and along both sides.

 

You can’t have working lights without wires. The wiring harness you need to connect the front of the trailer to the back of the tow vehicle is available in several standard formats and if your vehicle came from the factory ready to tow, there’s already a connection at the back for the trailer lights.

 

You can’t tow anything if you don’t have a hitch. Basically the hitch is the point where the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle. There are as many types of hitches as there are tow vehicles and trailers so the subject of selecting the proper hitch will take up an entire section of its own.

 

There are a few components on the hitch such as the ball mount. This is also sometimes called a draw bar or stinger. It’s the component that slides into the hitch receiver and has a mounting pad for the tow ball.

 

The hitch pin and clip hold the ball mount in the receiver hitch and also is a convenient place to attach any breakaway cables, if your trailer is so equipped. The pin itself is usually shaped a little like a hockey stick and the clip is a hairpin design like the hood pins on a race car.

 

So naturally the next component is the ball itself. This is half of the flexible joint between the tow vehicle and the trailer that enables it to operate over bumps and dips in the road and navigate around corners. Tow balls come in different sizes, usually 1-7/8”, 2”, and 2-5/16” diameters depending on the weight of the trailer you plan to pull.

 

The other half of that all important flexible joint is the coupler. The coupler fits over the ball and rotates around it as the tow vehicle moves around curves and over dips and bumps. The size of the coupler must match the size of the ball for safe operation. NEVER tow with mismatched coupler and ball sizes.

 

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of the trailer breaking free from the tow vehicle but it can happen. That’s what safety chains are for. These are your backup plan. They should be attached between the trailer and the tow vehicle so they cross under the hitch. That prevents the hitch from digging into the roadway at speed.

 

Now that you have some definitions you can get more information from the experts down at Chux Trux. Give them a call today if you’re ready to start towing and they will get you on the road quickly and safely.

By: Chris Ripper

 
 
 

Towing 101 - Introduction to Towing

Jun 27 2012

TowingSooner or later every car or truck enthusiast will be faced with towing a trailer. Whether it’s a fifth wheel camper, towing a boat, towing a horse trailer, a trailer full of motorcycles or ATV’s, or a towing race car, you’re going to want to get where you need to go safely and without stress. And really, there shouldn’t be any stress about towing. You get enough of that at work, (some of you may get that at home too, if you know what we mean!) you sure don’t need it when you’re on your way to the lake, the mountains, or the race track.

There really isn’t anything difficult or especially tricky about towing, you just need to understand the basics, make sure you have the proper equipment for the task at hand, and go about using it with safety foremost in your mind. So let’s look at what you need to know before you hook up that trailer hitch for the first time.

Right up front you have to be prepared for the changes in the way you must drive. Your vehicle is going to handle completely differently with any sort of trailer tagging along behind you. You are now driving a vehicle that is much longer and heavier than what you’ve been used to. It may be slower too and it will not stop as quickly as it does without that trailer. Changing lanes on the interstate takes more care now to make sure you have enough space behind you and there’s just a lot more you have to think about.

Fortunately, if your tow vehicle is properly equipped and the trailer and tow vehicle are well matched, towing is not only less stressful than you might think, but it will actually be fun and just as easy as normal driving.

Before you can begin to select the right trailer hitch and other towing gear for your vehicle you have to know what sort of trailer you’ll be pulling. A huge 5th wheel or gooseneck travel trailer has different requirements than a small, relatively light weight boat trailer. The type of trailer you need will determine the type of hitch you need. A receiver hitch will suffice for many types of tag along trailers, but if you are pulling a large camper or race car hauler you may need a gooseneck hitch or 5th wheel hitch. Another consideration is where you plan to go with your trailer. Pulling a load of ATV’s out to that special place in the desert or the mountains is very different from cruising down the interstate with a camper.

Your tow vehicle and how it is equipped also plays a major role in the safety and stress level of your towing. You can PULL a trailer with almost anything on the road, but even more important is stopping the tow vehicle and trailer combination. Are the brakes on your tow vehicle up to the task of bringing the combined weight of your rig to a safe stop from freeway speeds, or especially in an emergency situation? As you get into larger trailers most will come with some sort of braking system of their own that can be controlled from the tow vehicle.

Many new pickup trucks can be ordered with a towing package. This will include things like a heavy duty cooling system, heavy duty transmission, some additional electrical circuits for the trailer lights, an appropriate hitch, of course, and a brake controller for the trailer’s brakes. All of these things can also be retro fitted to your current vehicle if necessary.

We’ve only just touched the surface in this article. There is a lot more to towing safely and legally. Fortunately for you, there is a place where you can get all your questions answered and find the best products you’re going to need, and that place is Chux Trux. These guys are the leaders in towing equipment and installation and their tech guys are VERY well trained and really know their stuff. You can call them or check them out on the web any time. If you’re in the Kansas City area you can stop in at any of the three Kansas City area Chux Trux stores. You’ll see the different types of hitches for yourself and can talk to our experts who will get you on the road right away and off on your own excellent towing adventure. 

By: Chris Ripper