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Grace
Hagerty Employee

4 tips for trailering your car like a pro

Own a vintage car long enough, and you will likely want or need to transport it via trailer. Broken parts or long distances that simply don't suit vintage motoring style are the most popular reasons, but any number of things can put you in a situation where trailering your classic ride makes sense.

 

For instance, all of my vintage vehicles could drive down the road right now, but they wouldn't be safe for me or others with whom I would be sharing the pavement. In this particular situation, local requests to keep to ourselves and distanced from those outside our immediate households added further complications: I needed to get my cars and motorcycles out of storage and transport them to my new garage without a pair of helping hands. So I called in a different sort of favor and borrowed a car trailer from a friend so I could do the job alone.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/4-tips-for-trailering-your-car-like-a-pro/

73 REPLIES 73
kcreary
Pit Crew

Be wary of locking yourself in the car by not being able to open the doors because they are blocked by the trailer's fenders!

TinaBird
Intermediate Driver

Very true! I have come to appreciate U-Haul’s trailer design with the fender that folds down on one side to allow the driver side door to open. That saved me from having to crawl in and out of the window, Dukes of Hazzard style.

zachary
Pit Crew

I tow Corvettes to shows and have installed elevated runners in my trailer to allow opening the driver's door over the fenders and left side escape door ledge.

TriumphTim
Passenger

Hmmm, no mention of trailer brakes and how to set a trailer brake controller.  You should NEVER tow a car on a trailer without trailer brakes.  

Jeff1
Passenger

Absolutely correct - Never use a strap with an open hook - a hard bounce could possibly allow a hook to fall off resulting in a big problem - Also if you don’t understand trailer brakes read the instructions - a panic stop with too much / too little trailer braking can result in a crash - particularly when towing with a light truck such as a 1500 Chevrolet which doesn’t have enough brakes to safely stop 2 vehicles and a trailer. Once vehicle is tied take trailered vehicle out of park / release the park brake and bump into forward / reverse and then put back into park and set park brake / this settles the vehicle and may loosen the ties - better to catch a loose tie before starting - don’t roll up long tie ends and put under the ratchet - roll them up and use a tie wrap to secure them if you don’t have the good velcro ties - make sure breakaway cable is attached / chains not dragging on the ground and wiring plugged in securely - stand back and be sure there is some tongue weight - 300 + # works well - drive a bit and apply trailer brakes alone to verify operation and then do a quick

walk around and you should be good. Lots more to know - drive a safe speed and leave extra room on both ends. Good luck

 

zachary
Pit Crew

I purchased my truck with heavy trailer towing as a primary concern. The factory installed brake controllers are far superior to the add on units. The factory controllers regulate the trailer brakes almost seamlessly due to their incorporation with the truck. They also inform you if your brake connection develops a problem. Just a thought for anyone purchasing a tow vehicle with trailer towing in mind. Recommended to have 10% of total trailer weight on the tongue. Make sure that the tow vehicle can stand this weight if towing a heavy trailer. My trailer weighs 12,000 so 1,200 pounds on the tongue is heavy for many trucks. Use the correct class of hitch. 

Kitcat7
Passenger

Your use of an open hook at the end of the tie downs is a huge no-no. The problem is if the strap stretches   too much, the open hook can allow the strap  to fall off completely. No strap is much worse than a loose strap. I always use a strap with a closed loop metal end that clips on then shuts tight (spring loaded so it stays closed once attached). This closed loop strap is standard on virtually all high end, heavy duty tie downs.

Doug42
Intermediate Driver

Very good point. My boss who owns a restoration shop uses the spring loaded type.

TinaBird
Intermediate Driver

There is actually good reason to not cross your straps. A guy made a video with a model car on a trailer with crossed straps and with non-crossed straps. Under normal circumstances, both held the car down well to the trailer. However, if only one strap breaks or becomes loose, the experiment showed that in a crossed strapped arrangement the vehicle would be able to fall off the trailer while with straight straps it stays pretty well restrained. I didn’t believe it until I saw his experiment with an RC model. Check it out!

kgreier
New Driver

KevinK
Passenger

I've trailered for 10's of thousands of miles, but let your guard down and oops.  A few years ago at the Chrysler Nats in Carlisle.  I hooked up the trailer in the hotel parking lot after the last day of the show to load up and head for home.  Safety chains on, break away chain on, lights connected - load the truck.  Oops I didn't say "coupler locked".  Tongue popped off when loading and shot right into the back of the tow vehicle.  At least I had an audience in the hotel parking lot.  Double check what you do.

Jhawk37
New Driver

Been there, done that. Learned the hard way (trailer tongue into back of tailgate) to always double check the bull nose coupler on my trailer. I also point this out to anyone who borrows the trailer. 

DrOverboost
Pit Crew

All good suggestions. Here is one more: If you own more than one classic vehicle, racecar, summer toy, etc. the responsible thing to do is to own your own trailer! And don’t loan it to people who are not smart enough to know that.

cobralee
New Driver

My first experience in buying a trailer was a utility trailer...thinking all trailers are alike...until I fishtailed across a busy freeway and just scaping the wall...fortunately other cars saw what was happening and backed off.  I learned the hard way that utility trailers aren't made for autos.  So get an auto trailer or auto hauler..it's  the only way to go...and make sure your tow vehicle is set up correctly.  I had a first year Tahoe which didn't have the right suspension...drove some 300 miles with the nose up and very unstable steering and swerving...then I got helper springs to even the load.  

DougL
Intermediate Driver

I have hauled a variety of vehicles on my dual axle, 7,000 lb capacity utility trailer. I have not had any problems. 

HASCpres2019
Intermediate Driver

You need to have the RIGHT tow vehicle and the RIGHT auto hauler. Before I had my own equipment, the village that used to own my fire engine sent a guy to pick it up for a show in it's home town. He was driving a "Li'l Red Express" short wheelbase Dodge pickup with a 14 ft. trailer. The fire engine was 18 ft.long. We loaded it anyway,and once on the freeway the trailer whipped all over the road. A big rig blocked traffic behind us while our driver tried to sort things out. The saving factor was the 383 V8 in the Dodge. A sudden shot of power straightened out the trailer. We crawled to the next exit and went home.

Troop2865
New Driver

It is important to note that helper springs do not re-distribute weight from rear to front.  They simply lift the back so that is sits level, but the weight is still very rear heavy.  It is best to use a weight distribution hitch.  This will actually shift weight back to the front of the towing vehicle so it steers properly.

DougL
Intermediate Driver

No mention of trailer brakes. No matter how good the brakes on your tow vehicle are, they are not up to the task of stopping a trailer that will weigh 2-3 tons with your car on it. You NEED brakes on the trailer and a operating trailer brake controller to move your car on the trailer safely. Additionally, in many states, trailer brakes are required once above a certain weight. In Michigan, if you are over 3,000 lb, brakes are required. 

Jhawk37
New Driver

The excess strap is always an issue for me. I have found that putting the excess strap in the trunk of the tow vehicle helps alleviate this issue for me.  

cobralee
New Driver

When your trailer is sitting, make sure you have a coupler lock and receiver lock on to prevent someone hooking it up and taking it.  It happened to me with my car on the trailer.

Pckrd
Passenger

If using an enclosed trailer, be sure any sky vents are closed prior to loading. Otherwise your car may be covered with dust when you open your trailer!

geosauto
Passenger

It's a good plan to set the E-Brake and on a A/T put it in park. On a manual trans, leave it in neutral.

Tootall
Passenger

Some type of shield at the front of the trailer will likely prevent stone damage to the front of your car:  I learned the hard way. 

StevenV
Passenger

There is also no discussion about the hitch capacity. The one shown in the truck receiver is likely rated at 5000lbs.

TonyT
Instructor

You mention that the straps should be attached to unsprung points. If you pay close attention to large auto transport trucks, the vehicles are not anchored to suspension points but to either the frame or dedicated tiedown points in on unibodies. Allowing a trailered car to use its suspension tends to overwork the straps, because they are constantly being stress-cycled. When anchoring a car down, if you tension the straps just enough to pull the car down about an inch or so, the load remains constant and tiedown wear is minimized. The suspension will still be somewhat compliant over the worst pavement, but remember that most cars and trucks can absorb a lot more than you think, unless said vehicles have been lowered to subterranean levels.

SecurityDude
Navigator

If towing long distance look for gas stations with plenty of room to maneuver around the pumps. I had a heck of a time at an unfamiliar fuel station. I actually struck a pole with my rented trailer. Fortunately my 67 Galaxie was not hurt. 

avideo
Intermediate Driver

Many newer gas stations and service centers have narrow pump lanes not really well designed for a truck or SUV towing a trailer. Of course, you can always stop for gas at commercial truck stops where the lanes are designed for heavy vehicles and folks pulling a trailer. 

Kyle
Moderator

This is a great tip!

 

Streetrod
Passenger

I always trailer my 39 Chevy and 27 Ford street rods to carshows and parade events in my area in NEPA. I use a Belmont aoto transport with the optional torsion bar suspension. I added a hitech electric brake controller which has both warning alarms and visual flashing led lamps. I secure the 4 corners with 12,000# rated straps. I also secure all wheels with 2 straps each with opposing force. As an added measure I use ridged rubber wheel chocks. I have travelled both the Pa Turnpike and norrow mountain roads without a problem or worry. My Hagerty Insurance policy rounds out all the protection I need. GEORGE SCHAEFER

Mikey_p_tv
Passenger

Is there a good way to calculate a change in tow ratings on a modified truck?  Say something that’s been lifted or lowered, motor swapped, wheels changes, etc?

waynearny356
Passenger

What are the positives or negatives of strap setups that have a strap-net sort of thing (Pardon my lack of proper nomenclature.) on each one that fits over the tires?  That's what came with the auto trailer I bought, and I believe they're used on many rental auto trailers.

Kyle
Moderator

Convenience, for one. They are often easier to deal with than rolling around on the trailer deck finding a spot to tie to. 

 

They do require the tie-down points to be in line with the wheels of what you are hauling though, which may or may not be the case if you haul multiple different cars on a regular basis. The rental car hauling trailers have a clever system to adjust for different track widths, but more owned trailers don't. 

Also, if you care bout scuff marks on your tires that type of strap can leave some real nasty ones. I pulled my father's Model A last fall on a rental unit. His car has white walls on it and then he had to spend a few hours getting the white walls clean again. 

426mopar
Passenger

thanks for the info on pulling with a car trailer. 

avideo
Intermediate Driver

I've trailered our two classic cars - a 1966 Corvette convertible and a 1969 Shelby GT350 Fastback - several thousand miles over the years with both my own trailer and with rental trailers as well.  I can't image towing any vehicle of any size with less than a two axle trailer with brakes on both axles. And a lower deck trailer is always easier to load than an "all purpose" trailer designed to carry loads other than a vehicle. 

    I've always found over the wheel- basket type straps easy to manage with ratchet type tie downs on each end of the straps. And I always use commercial grade type straps with 3,000 Lb. or better ratings.  I've purchased most of my straps from AW Direct; which is a commercial towing supply company and they sell almost anything you might need for towing. 

     It's also a good idea to mark on the trailer where you place your ramps and how far forward you park your vehicle. Makes putting the car on the trailer again much easier. 

I usually use a silver sharpie or yellow painters tape that can easily be seen. 

    And don't forget to check the trailer tires for proper air pressure and be sure the axles have been greased BEFORE you start out. Good luck towing!

warrene
Intermediate Driver

If my cars have wheels and run, what do I need a trailer for ?? ...    If I can't drive it I do not want it.

Rider79
Instructor

Perhaps his cars' brakes or suspensions were not currently road-worthy.  There can be many times when one needs to tow a car that is not road-worthy, even though its engine runs.

TonyT
Instructor

Some of us stumble across a forgotten jewel in a side yard or an unwanted, unfinished project that we can do something with that doesn't run. Better to save them by hauling them home on a stretcher than to let them be crushed.

avideo
Intermediate Driver

Try and drive your car without AC from Phoenix to Reno on a 100+ degree day sometime and then find out how much easier it is from the inside of an air conditioned truck towing your car safely behind you. 

Silver_Baron
Passenger

Before starting, check not the integrity of the trailer tires AND the correct tire pressure.

And when doing to 20 min in re-check, feel with your hands around wheel bearing area of the trailer for heat. They may look good at the start, but heat is a sure sign that your bearings are old/dry and on their way out. I see many trailers stranded on the side of the road because of tire/bearing problems.

DaveT
New Driver

I had to disconnect the battery on my 2002 Firehawk. As we were leaving our house I kept hearing a horn blow, thought it was my wife behind me in her vehicle. Turned out the alarm on the Firehawk was sounding each time I hit a bump in the road.

RGT818
Pit Crew

Remember to cross your safety chains from trailer to tow vehicle as well

Rider79
Instructor

I would note that the safety chains in the pictures look too loose, hanging way too low.  They probably will not be able to catch the trailer's tongue, should it come loose; instead, the tongue will likely hit the ground and drag, possibly causing a major issue.

TriumphDon
Passenger

No mention of checking the trailer wheel bearing hubs for excessive heat indicating lack of lubricating grease, at each stop.

zachary
Pit Crew

Very good advice. I have been trailering cars sometimes over 800 miles to a show several states away for over 20 years...I live in the west so the states are big, especially Texas.

 

Inspecting the trailer is very important. Many trailers are not used frequently and might have expired license. The lights, trailer brakes and the tires must be inspected very carefully since those are often a problem. I must add that checking the spare tire for the trailer (you do have one don't you?) is necessary and be certain that you have a jack and tools that fit the trailer which are usually different from the tow vehicle.  Check the tire ratings to be certain that you are not overloading them. Air up all of your tires, trailer, tow vehicle and both spares to the maximum recommended pressure. This will help prevent sway as well as provide the maximum load capacity. 

 

Your tow vehicle needs to be rated for more than the expected weight. Borderline might not be a good idea. I learned this from experience a long time ago when a bridge guard rail was the only thing that prevented disaster as the trailer gently struck the railing after a dangerous sway when I was forced to change lanes due to a cow in the middle of the road. My experience is never use too small of truck. I use a Ram 2500 Cummins with the factory trailer equipment to tow a 28 enclosed trailer.  I also have kept my original medium duty open car hauler...sometime an enclosed trailer is not the best option. You need a good brake controller to operate the trailer brakes. Adjust your mirrors to see the lanes beside your trailer if using an enclosed trailer rather than looking directly behind. Your visibility will likely be reduced by the trailer. 

 

Securing the car is vitally important. I believe this article explains that clearly. I have heard many different options but prefer to secure the car by attaching to a rigid sprung portion of the car. Compressing the suspension will relieve some stress on the straps if you encounter some rough road which will tend to bounce the car and place a great deal of strain on the straps. Since I own my trailers, I have installed rigid front chocks attached to the trailer. This allows me to drive the car onto the trailer until the tires are solidly against the chocks before securing the car. 

 

Now remember to drive with care. Especially if you do not do this often. The stopping distance is greater and the ability to avoid vehicles, animals and pot holes are reduced. Far too many other drivers seem not to realize the reduced maneuverability of the truck and trailer and pull directly in front after passing which is an unsafe distance. Finally, meeting or passing large vehicles might cause your tow rig to sway due to the wind from those vehicles pressing against your trailer and tow vehicle. Often you must steer in one direction as the other vehicle is beside the trailer and then quickly reverse steer as the air pressure passes from the trailer to your tow vehicle. Using a tow vehicle and trailer with excess capacity will greatly reduce the uneasy feeling when meeting an eighteen wheeler on a two lane road.

 

Take care and safe towing.

Johnsfolly
New Driver

No mention of tires. Most tires on light trailers are rated at 55 mph max. Few of us probably pull that slow in interstates, but I see some guys hauling at 80+. That's dumb. It has also become quite difficult to find trailer tires made anywhere but you-know-where.

Callen
Pit Crew

Another thing to watch for is the brake lines when wrapping the axle.  I've seen a lot of flattened hard brake lines on the front side of the axle, especially from tow truck drivers using hard hooks on the axle.  The other thing to watch for is tire age, especially if you are borrowing the trailer.

Kyle
Moderator

Good reminder!

Grumpy
Pit Crew

My cousin decided to help me out by trailering a full size 1968 Mercury Colony Park wagon on his newly purchased 4 wheeled car trailer which, I thought he had experience with being a guy who drove trucks with trailers for work and pleasure for many years before. I followed him onto a ramp on a toll road communicating via a CB radio. He got just about up to 55 mph when the trailer started to do the Watusi , at first just a little bit but I could see it was going very quickly totally out of control. Me being a non-trailer but a crazy driver all my life could think of only one thing to do. I keyed the CB radio and said as clearly and loudly as I could "Punch it !" he did just that which stopped the Watusi motion and slowly pulled it over to the side of the road where I concluded that we should move the car more forward on the trailer to put more weight on the tongue of the trailer hitch. That did it, but that was the scariest time I ever experienced in my life while following an old car going to a car show. That Merc. wagon was a one of a kind in near mint condition with 50 K miles on it and only got a creased rocker panel from contacting the trailers fender because it was anchored down correctly but it was a miracle that no one got hurt and the car survived so well in the process. It could have been a lot worse. Yes, it was my cousins first time hauling a car and the many years of hauling my big Mercs. around after that, we never experienced anything like that again. Your article is great and you mention it first off and I just wanted to reinforce this point very clearly with an example. The rest of the article is perfect. Thanks for doing this even if the cars are not going anywhere right now. God Bless You ALL and Keep you Well. Grumpy 

DT
Detailer

Before I load the trailer I like drive a couple of miles and then stop and check the wheels bearing caps or the wheels on the trailer to see if they are getting hot, If they burn you it means you have a bad wheel bearing or a brake hanging up and should get it repaired before you use the trailer. I always check the tires with a piece of pipe like the truckers do also and check to see how hot they are getting. If they are getting too hot it usually means the load is to heavy and you could have a blow out.