How to keep it safe and secure when you’re taking your trailer out.
It’s the perfect day to take the boat out or go on a road trip to a nature destination with your trailer. Hooking up your trailer safely is the first step to starting this adventure without a hitch. (get it? ;)) But really, you need a hitch, and we’re about to tell you how to hitch your trailer.
All puns aside, if you don’t attach your trailer correctly, you risk damaging your car, the trailer, or other cars on the road. So we’re going to glide through the steps to hitching your trailer to your tow vehicle.
First, get to know your trailer’s coupler. A hitch ball coupler will connect to a ball on or underneath the rear bumper of the tow vehicle. To prep, you can wipe the hitch ball to check for cracks or flat spots, rock the ball to make sure it’s tight and secure, wipe the couple clean to check for cracks and make sure the tongue is tight to the trailer.
Now you can start hitching your trailer. Let’s go through how to hitch your trailer step-by-step.
Phone a friend to help you line up your tow vehicle
Guiding your tow vehicle will be so much easier with someone there for the assist. Your awesome friend can stand on the driver side of the vehicle, in line with the trailer tongue, so they can see you clearly, and vice versa.
Then agree to signals so you know when to brake and when to back up. Set your vehicle straight and in line with your trailer while your friend guides you back.
Or, you can always complete this step yourself with the Trailer Valet dolly that’s right for you.
Stop to raise the coupler before you back up all the way
When you get a foot away from the trailer, stop to raise the coupler. The key here is to ensure that your coupler will clear the hitch trailer ball when you back up the rest of the way.
The coupler should only be a few inches higher than the hitch ball. With caution, back up your tow vehicle the rest of the way to line up the ball and coupler. Your helper will come in super handy in this step, and you may need to try a few times to line it up just right.
Lower and latch the coupler onto the hitch ball
Once you’ve lined up the ball and coupler, put the vehicle in park and engage the emergency brake. Before lowering the coupler, the coupler latch should be upright and unlocked. Then use your trailer jack to lower the couple so it’s resting on the hitch ball. To speed this process up and to avoid manual cranking, check out our new drill-powered jacks, the JXS and JXC.
Now that the coupler is resting on the hitch ball, you can secure the latch with a coupler lock or safety pin. To test the connection, you should jack up the trailer tongue. If it comes off the hitch ball, then the coupler was not properly seated and you can unlatch and reposition.
Crisscross the safety chain for safety
This step is required by law, so don’t forget. Attach the chains in a crisscross pattern so they cradle the coupler from underneath. This is a safety measure in case the coupler disconnects from the hitch ball.
Make sure the safety chains are rated for the gross weight of your trailer and check to ensure they don’t touch the ground when connected to your tow vehicle and trailer.
Remove the trailer jack
You’re all hooked up and it’s time to retract the trailer jack. Remove the jack and move it out of the way for the rest of the trip. Your trailer jack will either have a leg that retracts, and some have a swivel bracket that swings up to store.
Plugin the wiring and check the trailer lights
You’re down to your final steps. It’s time to get the trailer lights hooked up so you can drive safely.
Wrap any excess wire around the trailer tongue, but make sure the harness is not touching the ground, and there is enough to turn without tension. Press the plug securely into the vehicle-side socket.
Bring your helper back in the mix so they can check the trailer lights. Check the turn signals, hazards, running, and the brake lights. Turn them on one at a time so your friend can confirm they’re working.
Now, a few extra tips to round out this guide for how to hitch your trailer.
- Inflate your tires based on the trailer manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Check the brake battery
- Set your tongue weight so your trailer doesn’t sway.
- Tie everything down inside your trailer so everything stays in place.
Now that you know how to hitch your trailer, you are ready for any trip with your trailer and tow vehicle. Cheers to smooth travels!