Steps to prepare truck for towing
I finally managed to find and buy a truck, and now I need to get it prepped for towing a trailer. It does have a factory installed tow package, but I know of a couple things I need to buy/get installed- a ball mount and brake controller.
I took it with me to look at a prospective trailer and it looked like a straight ball mount (as opposed to a dropped ball mount) would work fine for that one. Is it likely that the straight ball mount would work for most trailers if I don't get this one, or should I wait until I know which trailer I'm getting to buy one?
Same for the brake controller- does it need to match the trailer in any specific way (aside from the trailer needing to have electric brakes for it to be useful), or are they universal?
Any other tips or things to watch out for?
I have one truck set up for both a ball hitch and gooseneck, and one just set up for a gooseneck trailer. For the ball hitch I recommend that you get one that drops down and is adjustable. It is important for your horse's comfort and stability, that you adjust the trailer to ride level before you load your horses. I see trailers without this all of the time and you don't want that slope from the hitch to the back.
You will also want sway bars. We haven't had a ball hitch trailer for 13 years now, but we have stored the hitch and the sway bars in case we get one in the future. We took several trips in caravan and my friends could see that MY trailer stayed stable.
Make SURE that you have a good connection for your brakes. You will burn out your brakes on your truck if you have to stop suddenly and your trailer is fully loaded. We always double check our brakes and lights before we go anywhere, and we have had wiring problems. The connection uses the trailer's air brakes and they are much more powerful. Though you don't want to slam on the brakes, I have had several "almost accidents" on the road, including an elderly couple that pulled out almost right in front of me, on a busy highway, where the fast lane was blocked, and they didn't even look for oncoming traffic. I had my heart in my throat slowly down to not hit them and therefore, not throwing my horses forward in the stop. I grabbed the trailer brakes so hard I thought I left skin on them. 'O'
PLEASE remember to pull out slowly and slow down by braking on the cruise and coasting, then slowing down slowly.
Please ALSO remember that it isn't just YOUR good/bad driving on the road, it is also the good or bad driving of the people around you. You will understand the frustration of the semi drivers who put up with people in little sedans shooting in and out and around you to save seconds on their trips. MANY times, when there is construction I make sure to let the semi's in in front of me and block the sedans.
Ok- so I should be looking at getting something like this: Pro Series Weight Distribution System w Friction Sway Control - Round - 10,000 lbs GTW, 1,000 lbs TW Pro Series Weight Distribution PS49903 instead of just a plain ball mount, right?
That leads me to even more questions- Does something like that need to be professionally installed (it looks like part of it gets installed on the trailer & has some adjustment knobs)? Would it be safe to tow the empty trailer without it (to get it to the dealer/mechanic to install it)?
And is this something that I shouldn't order online to ensure compatibility? The trailer tongue in the product photos looks quite different from the horse trailer I was looking at; I'm not even sure that specific mount would work with that trailer.
Yes, you should have it professionally installed. And, you should have the installer buy the correct unit for your trailer. I KNOW that we're all trying to save money bc we're horse poor, but I'm clueless as to brand, so I want someone I trust to do this work for me. Just trying to save you $ and future heartache. I think somebody who lives closer to you should advise you about places to go. =D
Thanks, I definitely want to make sure I'm towing as safely as possible so I'll check around the barn to see what trailer places are recommended.
Another question- When I got my truck inspected I also got a quote on installing a brake controller and was asked if I wanted manual or electronic. My research on the internet brought up several types- time delayed, proportional, etc., but not "manual" or "electronic". The price they quoted seemed really high ($370 for the part, $100 for labor) and I'm not sure if this is because it was a car dealership and they rarely install these, if I got the wrong part quoted, or some combination of these two things.
The truck is pre-wired for a brake controller, so as far as I can tell it's just a matter of plugging the box in to the right wires and mounting the box somewhere on the dashboard. DH is an electrical engineer so I'm thinking this is something he could handle if I bought the right part and couldn't figure it out myself. Most of them seem to be in the $100-150 range. Something like this one? Tekonsha Prodigy P3 Trailer Brake Controller - 1 to 4 Axles - Proportional Tekonsha Brake Controller 90195
What truck did you get? It'll help with suggestions.
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I have the Prodigy P3 and its fantastic. You don't have to do anything it really is plug and play, plus they have really good videos to help you learn how to use it.
The sway bars are NICE but not required.
I HIGHLY recomend that you have your battery checked and evaluated before you tow. Specifically tell them you are pulling a trailer, and it will be drained excessivly, and you want to make sure that its hardy enough to handle it. There is nothing worse than packing every body up, you're on the road you stop and then the truck wont start b/c your battery was too weak too support the truck *and* the trailer.
ALSO, when they're doing the install make sure that they verify the wiring, supports the 7th channel for the 12 volt to the trailer. OTHERWISE the secondary lights wont work. (Secondary lights are things like, interior trailer lights, dressing room lights, exterior loading flood lights etc. Anything thats not the break or turning lights).
If you have a spare $600 laying around, get something like this to remind other drivers what you're towing.
In my own opinion, something like that is far more helpful than sway bars. I trailer warmblood moms and babies, hundreds of miles every summer. I hauled 2,500 miles last summer, over mountain passes and across deserts, and I've never been in a situation where I thought sway bars would help one way or another, but every time I pull out of my driveway with a horse I wish to God that I had that graphic, picturing one of my foals just to remind people I'm not going slow to annoy them, and I need 100 feet in front of me to stop "b/c I have a baby onboard, so I would appreciate it if you didn't cut me off in your Mazda Miata, causing me to slam on my breaks and throw my horses around."
Anything to get other drivers to help me out, is far more helpful that sway bars any day of the year.
Sirius radio in the tow vehicle is a must for long trips!
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I'm thinking once I get some recommendations on a reputable trailer place I'll take their advice on what kind of mount to get. If it's not a lot more I'd like to have all the safety features I can ;-)
The graphic printed on the back of the trailer is awesome. Where would you even get something like that done?
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