HITCH UP YOUR TRAILER CORRECTLY
Before towing, make sure you follow the proper procedures for hooking up your trailer. Double check all connections, including the coupler and wiring, and make sure your safety chains are crossed under the trailer tongue and securely connected to the trailer and vehicle. These five steps serve as a good guide.
Have a helper stand on the driver's side of the trailer to guide you backward. Make sure you can see your helper clearly before you start backing up.
Step 2: Align your vehicle
Aline your vehicle so that you can back straight up toward the trailer without having to turn. This will make it much easier than having to zigzag into the correct position. Have your helper stand off to the side and give you signals of which direction to go. Have your helper stop you when your hitch ball is about a foot from the trailer coupler.
3: Raise the Coupler
When your vehicle is about a foot away from the trailer tongue, stop, put your vehicle in park and adjust the height of the front of the trailer tongue, raising the coupler height. The bottom of the coupler should only be a few inches above the top of the hitch ball. Make sure the coupler will clear the trailer ball as you back the vehicle up the rest of the way.
Step 4: Align the Hitch Ball and Coupler
Use extreme caution while backing your vehicle up to align the ball under the coupler socket. Ensure your helper is giving you clear instructions on how far you need to back up and when to stop. The coupler socket should line up directly above the hitch ball. Go slow. It is important that you rely on your helper to tell you which way the vehicle needs to go. If things are not lining up on the first try, pull forward and try again. For best result align your vehicle with the trailer.
Step 5: Lower the Coupler onto the Ball
Once the hitch ball and coupler socket are aligned, place the vehicle in park and engage the emergency brake to inhibit the vehicle moving. Lift the coupler latch handle and use the trailer jack to lower the coupler onto the hitch ball. The ball must “seat” fully into the coupler socket until the socket is resting fully on the ball. If you find that the coupler is offset from the ball and the hitch ball won’t rest completely in the coupler socket, raise the jack again and repeat the previous step.
Step 6: Latch the Coupler
With the ball full seated into the coupler, engage the latch and secure it with a coupler pin or coupler handle lock. Next, slightly jack up the trailer tongue to test the connection. If the coupler comes off the ball, it means that the coupler was not properly seated before being latched. Unlatch the coupler and try again. You can try shifting the coupler forward, backward and side to side to get it fully seated.
Step 7: Attach the chains under the Coupler
Every state requires the use of safety chains. They should be attached underneath the coupler in a crossing (“X”) pattern to provide support if the coupler ever becomes disconnected from the ball. The X-crossed chains are intended to catch the coupler and keep the front of the trailer from hitting the ground or becoming completely disengaged from the vehicle. Each safety chain should be rated to meet or exceed the gross trailer weight, and they should not touch the ground when attached.
Step 8: Retract the trailer Jack
When the coupler is secure, fully retract the trailer jack. The trailer jack must be raised high enough to not contact the ground during towing. Some jacks feature a swivel bracket that allows them to swing up parallel with the ground. Others simply have a leg that retracts into the jack post.
Step 9: Connect trailer wiring
Plug your trailer wiring harness into the vehicle. The harness should not touch the ground, but it should have enough length to make turns without tension.
Step 10: Confirm the trailer lights work properly
Before traveling, ensure all trailer lights are operating correctly. With your helper standing in view of the trailer lights, turn them on one at a time to make sure they are working. Check your brake lights, hazards, left turn signal and right turn signal. Always check your trailer lights before any trip regardless of how long or short.