How to Hook Up a Trailer

Failure to hook a trailer up to a hitch correctly can lead to serious damage to your vehicle and the trailer. It also risks an accident to other vehicles around you, should you lose the trailer off the hitch while driving. Hooking up a trailer is a simple and straightforward process.

Steps

  1. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 1
    1
    Raise your trailer tongue ball socket or coupler to a height to clear the ball.
  2. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 2
    2
    Line up the center of your vehicle with the center of your trailer.
    • Use a jack attached to the tongue. Be sure to jack up enough so you have enough clearance so you do not hit the trailer.
  3. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 3
    3
    Stop the vehicle once the tongue coupler is over the ball.
    • Put the vehicle in park.
    • Turn off the engine.
    • Set the emergency brake.
  4. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 4
    4
    Lower the tongue coupler socket onto the trailer hitch ball until the full weight of the trailer is on the ball.
  5. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 5
    5
    Close the coupler clamp securing the ball in the coupler.
  6. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 6
    6
    Lock the coupler on the ball using a hitch pin or hitch coupler lock.
  7. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 7
    7
    Run the safety chains under the tongue so they cross one another. This keeps the trailer tongue from hitting the ground if it accidentally comes loose from the hitch while moving.
  8. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 8
    8
    Plug in the electrical connections for the trailer lights and, if applicable, plug in the electrical brake on the trailer to the tow vehicle.
  9. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 9
    9
    You should check to make sure the hitch ball and coupler are firmly attached. Use the tongue jack to rise on the tongue to make sure the tongue coupler does not come off the ball.
  10. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 10
    10
    Retract the tongue jack extension and swinging it up and out of the way, securing or removing it so it will not fall down while moving.
  11. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 11
    11
    Pull your tow vehicle forward a few feet.
  12. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 12
    12
    Stop the vehicle, put it in park, set the emergency brake, and turn on the vehicle lights
  13. Image titled Hook Up a Trailer Step 13
    13
    Check and make sure the lights and the stoplights are working on the trailer and nothing has worked loose at the hitch.

Tips

  • Checking the stoplights on the trailer can be difficult if you do not have someone to step on the vehicle's brake while you are standing at the back. If you are alone, get a mirror or reflective board and place it at the back of the trailer in a position enabling you to see it from the driver's seat. Step on the brakes. A red reflection indicates you have brake lights. This also would be a good time to check the turn signals on the trailer.
  • Visual aids will simplify the alignment and backing up of the tow vehicle. A piece of masking tape centered over the trailer hitch on the back of the vehicle and visible to the driver and a bicycle flag attached by a magnet to the center of the tongue and behind the ball socket works well for this purpose.
  • The coupler clamp can be stiff to close. A small amount of grease or oil can make closing and releasing the coupler easier.
  • You should check to make sure the hitch ball and coupler are firmly attached. Use the tongue jack to rise up on the tongue to make sure the tongue coupler does not come off the ball.

Warnings

  • Always check to make sure that a child or pet has not wandered behind the vehicle before you start backing up.
  • Always inspect the hitch connections, tires and running gear before you get ready to pull away after a rest or fuel stop.
  • Never have a person stand between the vehicle and trailer while backing up to guide you when hitching up the trailer.

Article Info

Categories: Cars & Other Vehicles