tech articles on the Tech, Tests & Installs page
we all log a lot of miles transporting ourselves and
our cars to the dragstrip on a weekly basis. This is
no small task but many of us take it for granted. Think
about it: we’re not only driving a vehicle, but
that vehicle is towing another vehicle that’s
carrying yet another vehicle. Then think about how many
knucklehead drivers we encounter on a daily basis when
we’re driving our regular cars. It’s bad
enough having to take evasive action when driving a
daily driver. It’s even worse when we’re
driving a loaded trailer. Having a properly equipped
and loaded trailer won’t prevent any encounters
with knucklehead drivers, but it can change the outcome
from being catastrophic to being a minor annoyance.
Proper towing means having the right equipment, knowing
how to load and employing safe drive habits. Let’s
look at the loading first.
Loading Your ability to handle and control your
tow vehicle and trailer is greatly improved when the
cargo is properly loaded and distributed. Load your
trailer heavier in front: the trailer should have about
60% of the cargo weight in front and 40% in the back.
This is pretty easily accomplished in the case of hauling
a door car where the engine is in the front. In the
case of hauling the typical rear-engine dragster, care
should be taken to add some more cargo to the front
of the trailer to get to that 60%.
to your tow vehicle and trailer owner’s manuals
to find out how to balance weight from side to side,
distribute cargo weight evenly along the length of the
trailer, adjust the height of the tow vehicle/trailer
interface, and apply load leveling (weight distributing
Racers, I’ve seen some stupid things in my time
going to the track. I used to tow the Dodge with my
1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee (it also doubled as my hotel
which I referred to as The Cherokee Grand). I was towing
the Dodge on an open car carrier and I was always under
the towing limits of the Jeep. However, I’ve witnessed
a Jeep like mine hauling a box that had to be at least
24 ft. What was that guy thinking? If the box had anything
in it, it was way beyond the capacity of that Jeep,
and one good gust of wind would send the whole rig off
the road. I now tow the Dodge in a 24 ft. box with a
2500-series ¾-ton Chevrolet Suburban which is
maxed for towing: 8.1 liter engine, 4.10 gears, extra
cooling, and heavy duty suspension.
is a key component to safe towing. More specifically,
a fully-functioning suspension system (meaning having
the ability to travel as designed) is crucial to safe
towing. Trailers and tow vehicles should be level (parallel
to the ground) during travel. To learn more about this,
I spoke with Todd Green, Sales Manager
at Firestone Ride-Rite, which manufactures
air-ride systems for tow vehicles like ours. That's
a Ride-Rite system pictured. States Todd, “When
vehicles are towing and the rear is sagging, the weight
of the trailer decreases the suspension travel which
reduces the ability for the suspension to compensate
for road conditions. When this happens the suspension
cannot perform at its best. OE suspensions are a compromise
between comfort and capacity. Cheat the system by adding
an adjustable air helper spring system and get the full
potential out of your tow vehicle. Bringing the suspension
back up to the designed height with a kit like Ride-Rite
will allow the suspension to cycle normally, distribute
the load and reduce suspension fatigue.” There
are other benefits to having a properly level rig. Says
Todd, “Our air suspension kits will reduce bottoming
out, reduce sway, improve braking effectiveness and
level your headlights.” I hadn’t thought
of the headlights, but when Todd said that, a lightbulb
went off in my head. How much do we hate driving toward
someone who’s headlights are angled right up to
us? I don’t want to be that guy!
asked Todd if there were a particular Ride-Rite system
that’s especially easy to install. He replied,
“Ride-Rite™ Air Helper Springs. They are
a simple “bolt in” no-drill solution for
towing and hauling. When installed correctly and properly
maintained a Ride-Rite kit should last the lifetime
of the vehicle. Kits are made to fit a specific make,
model, and year.” Here's a video that details
a Ride-Rite No-Drill Kit installation.
area of equipment that should never be compromised is
the tires. Most trailers that I’ve used have come
with Load Range D tires specifically for trailer service.
When it comes time to change them, do yourself a favor
and switch up to Load Range E. Everything in our world
(meaning our race cars) is literally riding on the tires,
so inspect them regularly for dry rotting and the dreaded
sidewall bubble. When it comes time to replace, step
it up to Load E tires. Also, always check your pressures.
To get full load-carrying ability, tires need to be
inflated to their maximums, but don’t go over.
That leads to poor handling and premature wear.
Racers, I’m sure we’ve all seen it: other
racers rushing to get to the track, passing us on the
highway with their rigs, obviously well-exceeding the
speed limit. Just slow down! Keeping your speed reasonable
makes for a safer trip and puts less heat in the tires.
The likelihood of trailer-sway also increases at higher
speeds. If you do get sway, activate the trailer brakes
by hand with the brake controller, but do not also activate
the tow vehicle brakes. To control swaying caused by
air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger
vehicles pass from either direction, release the accelerator
pedal to slow down and keep a firm grip on the steering
and correct tire pressure on the tow vehicle and trailer.
sure the wheel lug nuts/bolts on the tow vehicle and
trailer are tightened to the correct torque.
sure the hitch, coupler, draw bar, and other equipment
that connect the trailer and the tow vehicle are properly
secured and adjusted.
that the wiring is properly connected— not touching
the road, but loose enough to make turns without disconnecting
or damaging the wires.
sure all running lights, brake lights, turn signals,
and hazard lights are working.
that the brakes on the tow vehicle and trailer are
that all items are securely fastened on and in the
sure the trailer jack, tongue support, and any attached
stabilizers are raised and locked in place.
load distribution to make sure the tow vehicle and
trailer are properly balanced front to back and side
side- and rear-view mirrors to make sure you have
routes and restrictions on bridges and tunnels.