How to Hook Up a Trailer to Your Vehicle
Perhaps you’re a newbie when it comes to attaching a trailer to your vehicle, or maybe it’s been a while since you’ve done so and you’re lacking confidence. No matter your situation, hooking up a trailer can seem intimidating. If you do it wrong, the trailer could come off when you’re speeding down the highway, which means the contents could get damaged or lost, or you could cause serious injury to a fellow driver. Incorrectly hitching a trailer can also cause damage to your vehicle, which can be costly to repair.
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Luckily, hooking up a trailer is actually a pretty straightforward process. Follow these simple steps and learn the basics of how to hitch a trailer in just a few minutes.
- Make sure the coupler matches the ball size on your hitch.
- Raise your trailer tongue ball socket or coupler to a height that will clear the ball on your vehicle’s hitch.
- Line up the center of your trailer and the center of your vehicle.
- Back the vehicle up until the tongue coupler is over the ball (having a second person to direct you helps). Turn off the engine and put on the emergency brake.
Attaching the trailer
- Lower the tongue coupler socket onto the trailer hitch ball until the full weight of the trailer is on the ball. Close the coupler clamp to secure the ball in the coupler, and then lock the coupler on the ball using a hitch pin or hitch coupler lock.
- Run the safety chains under the tongue so they cross one another. This helps make sure the trailer tongue won’t hit the ground if it comes loose from the hitch while driving.
- Plug in the electrical connections for the trailer lights and the electrical brake on the trailer (if applicable) to the tow vehicle.
- Use the trailer jack to make sure the hitch ball and coupler are firmly attached.
- Retract the trailer jack and swing it up and out of the way. Be sure to secure or remove it so it will not fall down while driving. You may also be able to remove the trailer jack completely to prevent it from getting in the way.
- Make sure everything is working properly. Pull the tow vehicle forward a few feet, put it in park, set the emergency brake, and turn on the vehicle lights.
- Check to make sure the lights are all working and nothing is loose around the hitch.
Once you have completed these steps, you are ready to start towing! Whether you’re towing a boat, an RV, or a trailer, ensuring that your load is secure is imperative when hauling equipment.
Want to see the process in action? Check out the video below for a good visual instruction.
Catherine Hiles is a native Brit living and working in Dayton, Ohio. Cat has written about a variety of subjects, including finance, cars, and parenting. She is a frequent contributor to Dayton Mom Collective, The Penny Hoarder, and her own personal blog.
Cat lives with her husband, Ben; and their two kids, Rose and Liam. She counts running, reading, and cooking among her hobbies. See more articles by Cat.