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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
MarkS
New Driver

Visit http://www.macscustomtiedowns.com/ or Mac's Tie Downs on YouTube for some of the best tie-down and safety tips.  Their products are the best.

brnagn
Navigator

One inspection item I would add is a quick check of lug nut torque on the trailer wheels.  I'm still missing a nice aluminum wheel and 1 month old tire around the Knoxville area because it sheared the studs off and headed for the woods.  This happened during rush hour traffic and I am so thankful I was in the slow lane, it was the passenger side tire and we were in a clear area.  The only explanation I could come up with is that the lug nuts started to loosen (although none of the others were loose when I checked them) or someone tried to steal one of the wheels the night before in the hotel parking lot (unlikely, right?).  Either way, I now check lug nut torque.

63NOVSS
Passenger

Two items I want to comment on. In the article and the comments I saw no mention of: 1) if borrowing a trailer make sure your hitch ball is the correct size for the trailer. Learned this one the hard way. Bringing the trailer home we were fortunately ok. However, loading an 850 lb. Harley Electra Glide into the four-place enclosed trailer was enough to lift the trailer off the ball which was too small. Fortunately no damage was done.

2) Always check the battery on the trailer for the emergency trailer breaks. You wouldnt want the trailer to come loose and not have the trailer breaks work. Check the trailer breaks operation by disconnecting the electrical connector from the tow vehicle and also pulling the pin on the trailer's break actuator switch. The trailer breaks should engage. Check this by trying to move the tow vehicle and trailer forward.

Doug42
Intermediate Driver

My boss who owns a restoration shop purchased a trailer ball with a built in scale which shows the tongue weight. Purchased at SEMA.

Kyle
Moderator

That sounds pretty neat, especially if you aren't hauling the same gear regularly.

Jim
Pit Crew

Having the tow vehicle strong enough to handle the load over long distances is critical.  Since my tow vehicle is dual purpose (periodic local driver) I chose a new light truck (2007 Yukon 1500) with Class III Towing Option.  Since the trailer reacts to the way the tow vehicle handles the road I made mine as stable and flat as possible by lowering it 3", adding the biggest sway bars (Addco) and air lift bags in the rear coil springs to adjust tongue height.  Then I maxed out the cooling capacity for everything - biggest radiator that would fit, separate transmission oil cooler with bigger oil pan, engine oil cooler (already had the connections on the side of the block) and a bigger capacity differential cover for the LSD rear.  Short tube headers with dual exhaust helped low end grunt and gets better mileage.  This has resulted in 170K+ trouble free miles towing an enclosed trailer.   I keep the Yukon in a garage and it looks good as new after 13 years.  HTH

Renopup
Passenger

If you leave your trailer for more than a couple minutes, be sure to check the straps on trailer when you return to your car.  I went inside to pay for my gas and in my absence, a 'bad actor' disconnected one end of my tow straps from the trailer and artfully 'hid' his work.  When I returned, I tugged on the straps and found them to be completely slack.  Had I not checked, my race car would have planted itself into my tailgate next stop light.

Kyle
Moderator

Whoa! That is scary. Glad you caught it.

OldBird
Pit Crew

Yes to everything posted here.  Safety should be your #1 concern.  That includes how you secure to the trailer, that your tow vehicle is up to the job (especially with braking - or that you have trailer brakes), that the trailer is balanced with some weight on the tongue (if not you could set up an oscillation that won't have a good outcome).  Don't bank on being lucky.  Think it through first.

TimBlueCJ5
Passenger

Had the securing debate with a few people . Grew up in a fleet repair ,heavy towing business and have hauled many things from a HEMMTT to tool boxes .Motor homes , fire trucks and a variety of cars on flatbed trailer and carriers . Until recently most cars and light trucks have pill shaped anchor pints on all 4 corners . One reason for them  is securing during transport . Even military vehicles have done this for years . Within reason pulling down on suspension shouldn't hurt .Imagine a fully loaded truck going down the road . How is it hurting the suspension  ? Seen many auto transporters hauling new vehicles this way .There is also a good video of why not to cross the straps on youtube. If one were to come loose you could loose tension on  everything .  IMO suspension is made to be pulled down on not  sideways .In the end we will use what works best for us .

Planeguy
New Driver

Important lesson learned from experience is that you can have too much or too little strap wrapped around the ratchet on the ratchet strap. If you have too much, it can compress and the straps will loosen up. If you have too little, the strap will slip and loosen up. I have never had it happen to anything I have strapped down but I towed for someone who assured me everything was done correctly, but there was too little strap around the ratchet strap. It started to loosen up and the car came loose in the trailer.

Kyle
Moderator

You are absolutely correct. I strive for one to one and half wraps on the ratchet spool--no more, no less.  That has treated me well thus far, but might be strap dependent. 

Frank
Pit Crew

Check the car to be towed. I bought a clean, stock '51 Ford coupe after a brief test drive. Came back a few days later to haul it home. The owner had positioned it conveniently so I could easily back my trailer in front of it for loading. My buddy stood on the trailer tongue to direct me up the ramps. Once the rear wheels were on the trailer platform, I applied the brakes to position the car. However, in the few days since the test drive, the break fluid had leaked out and - guess what - NO BRAKES!  As the car rolled forward on the trailer, I was so shocked or surprised that I didn't even think of the emergency brake. My buddy saw what was coming and dove off the tongue Like an Olympic athlete. The car continued to roll until the front wheels were off the platform and the frame slammed into it, quickly stopping the roll.  Once our hearts started again, we were faced with jacking the car back onto the trailer. blocking the wheels, then strapping it down securely. Luckily, no damage to man or vehicle (miraculously).

Moral of the story: know the condition of the vehicle you want to tow BEFORE you try to load it. It might save a life!

 

JDavid
Passenger

Excellent article on trailering.  But don't forget the tow vehicle.  It should have an axle ratio that will keep the engine rpm in an optimum torque range.  Also, avoid short wheelbase pickups and SUVs.  The best tow vehicles are those with a longer wheelbase that provide much better lateral stability.  And personally, I prefer RWD.  All of the above is based on 50+ years of experience towing boats and racing cars with towed weight up to 8-9,000 lbs.    JDavid 

Jferg
Passenger

Take the slack out of the chains and cross them to form a cradle to keep the tongue from hitting the ground.

69Camaro2DHT
Passenger

I learned to tuck the free ends of the straps into the ratchet roll in the last pull. This was after a roll as you described in a location that I couldn’t see with the mirrors bounced off the trailer and was significantly shortened in the few miles it was drug like that. I can’t imagine what would have happened if it fell under a tire at speed.

If the roll is too long to tuck inside, I shorten the strap, the length as delivered is appropriate for a wide variety of uses, and since I don’t have a semi, I don’t need a strap longer than my trailer.

kgreier
New Driver

Be aware of where you are loading.  Despite having a Class A CDL and years of towing a variety of items, my excitement for a new (1947) tractor got the best of me.  I backed up the driveway, which was on an incline, threw it in park and set the parking brake.  Dropped the ramps and brought the tractor down.  As soon as the rear wheels of the tractor hit the ramps, the weight unloaded the rear end of my truck and off we went.  Luckily (maybe?), the front end of the truck dropped off the side of the driveway and my step-bars landed on the edge, bringing everything to a halt.  I was able to disconnect, drive down the embankment and hook back up.  Only damage was to my steps; drivers side pushed back about six inches.  Could have been much worse. 

DUB6
Technician

I have gotten into the habit of putting jack stands under the rear corners of the trailer before driving (or winching) a vehicle up.  This prohibits the trailer from going down under weight - thus keeping the tongue from jumping up (and potentially lifting the tow vehicle's rear wheels).  In extreme cases, I'll put stands under all four corners of the trailer until I'm all secure - then with a floor- or bottle-jack, I'll ease each corner up and remove the stands.  It takes only a few extra minutes, and I'm sure that my trailer isn't going to be tipping or jumping unexpectedly while I'm trying to get the vehicle spotted and secured correctly.  Chocking the trailer fore and aft of the tires will add security also!

kgreier
New Driver

A few posters mentioned the youtube video on crossing the straps.  I've attached the link.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIC7URvAqmM

 

MTPantera
Pit Crew

I've pulled my rig a few thousand miles on both open and enclosed trailers.  I had an issue once when I got onto a very curvy road and a stap came loose due to the main hook that came undone from the axle strap.  Now I only use a hook with a sprung clip so that nothing can come detached if things loosen up.  Learning can cause heart burn sometimes.

Musclebrose97
New Driver

If your worried about a coupler hitch popping off, use a trailer with a pintle hitch, or have yours swapped out for one, if possible. We've had our trailer for 20 years with the pintle hitch setup, and never had a pop-off issue.

Musclebrose97
New Driver

Also, make sure your car isn't heavier than the trailer load capacity. I've seen a lot of idiots pulling a trailer with a car that's too big for it. Or using a tow vehicle not heavy duty enough, like a minivan or suv. Use a pickup truck, and you will be fine.

patgarity
Intermediate Driver

In one of the pictures the hook of the tie down was pointed up in the eye of the axle strap. If something came loose that tie down would fall right out of the axle strap. Always envision what would happen if something came loose and arrange the tie downs and axle straps so that they can’t fall out if things get slack in them.

Ezra_Burgess
Passenger

1.  Using chocks in front and back of all tires is also a good idea.

2.  Weaving your straps back through the buckle is a good safe way to prevent the                 straps  from ever slipping.  This is something my son, who is a trucker, showed me.

3,  When inspecting your trailer and tow vehicle, make absolutely sure your hitch is the          same size  as the tow ball.  Failing to do this could end in a catastrophe you don't            want to even think about.

5.  Make sure your trailer safety straps are correctly attached to your tow vehicle.

You have a lot of really great tips with good  photos.