TRAILERING AND TOWING SAFETY

BEFORE YOU TRAILER

Whether you’re transporting precious cargo or passengers, safety is a priority. We recognize that and go to great lengths to provide you with the safest vehicles and the knowledge you need to operate them. Before you begin trailering, please read through the sections below.

aligning a trailer hitch and trailer properly

SAFETY CHAINS

Always attach safety chains between your vehicle and trailer. Cross them under the tongue of the trailer so the tongue is less likely to drop if the trailer separates from the hitch. Leave enough slack in the chain to allow for turns, but make sure it is never dragging.

 

LOADING YOUR TRAILER

A good rule of thumb is to distribute 60% of the load over the front half of the trailer. Once balanced, all cargo should be secured, as shifting objects, or an imbalanced load, can lead to trailer sway and trailering instability.

 

DOUBLE CHECK THE FOLLOWING

  • Hitch and platform
  • Hitch nuts and bolts
  • Mirror adjustments
  • Safety chains
  • Vehicle and trailer lights
  • Tire pressure on both the tow vehicle and the trailer
  • Brakes—test at slow speeds
  • Breakaway switch (if available)
  • Sway-control device (if available)
  • Load stability

ON THE ROAD

For safe trailering, you’ll need to slightly modify your driving techniques. Read through the tips below to learn how to tow with confidence and control.

GMC Terrain trailering capacity

ACCELERATING/BRAKING Avoid overworking your vehicle when trailering by gradually accelerating and allowing extra time and distance while merging or braking. Give yourself plenty of space on the highway—one vehicle and trailer length between you and the vehicle ahead for every 10 mph of speed. When you hit the brakes, apply firm, steady pressure.

 

PASSING You’ll need additional time and distance to safely pass, especially when reentering the lane. Make sure to signal your pass and reentry well in advance.

 

CORNERING When approaching sharp turns you’ll need to slow down significantly and, if possible, take a wider angle than normal. Drive the vehicle slightly past the normal turning point and firmly turn the wheel. Be careful not to turn too sharply lest the trailer collide into your vehicle or any objects at the turn’s apex—curbs, trees, or soft shoulders.

 

BACKING UP Slow and low is the key here. Place your hand at six o'clock on the steering wheel, and begin backing up slowly. To turn the trailer left, move your hand left, and vice versa. Turns should be made incrementally; your hand never straying far from the bottom of the wheel.


CONTROLLING TRAILER SWAY

Sway often results from improper weight distribution, excessive speed or overloading, crosswinds, poor vehicle maintenance, or hazardous road conditions. Steering or braking can worsen the situation. To learn how GMC has engineered its vehicles to minimize trailer sway, check out the video below.

If you ever find your trailer in sway, you’ll need to slow down and do as follows:

 

1.  Hold the steering wheel as steady as possible.

2.  Release the accelerator but do not touch the brake pedal yet.

3.  Activate electric trailer brakes (if equipped) by hand, until the sway condition stops.

4.  Use the brakes to slow down, pull over, and come to a complete stop.

 

Once pulled over, you can check for the following causes of sway:

 

  • Shifting cargo load and improper weight distribution
  • Improper tire pressure on the tow vehicle or trailer
  • Malfunctioning suspension and shocks

 

If the sway was caused by strong winds, wait for conditions to improve before continuing your trip.


DRIVING ON GRADES

Before going down a steep incline, reduce your speed and shift into a lower gear. This provides “engine braking” and reduces the need to apply the brakes for long periods. When driving up a steep grade, shift to a lower gear for more torque to maintain speed. Pay attention to your temperature gauges for any signs of overheating.

GMC Yukon fuel economy

OVERHEATING

When temperature gauges register abnormally high, there is a noticeable decrease in power, or you hear unusual engine noises, pull over immediately and following the steps below:

  • Shift into park and apply the parking brake. Leave the engine running.
  • Turn off air conditioning and other accessories. Roll down the windows and turn the heater to the maximum setting.
  • Check for steam or leaking coolant underneath the engine. If you see either of these, shut off the engine and allow it to cool.
  • If you suspect that the overheating is the result of climbing a long, steep grade, run the engine at 1500 rpm until the temperature gauge registers a normal reading.

 

PARKING ON GRADES

Parking on steep grades with a trailer is not recommended. If you must, follow these steps:

  • Apply the brakes and shift into neutral.
  • Have someone set blocks behind the trailer’s wheels on the downgrade side.
  • Release the brakes until the blocks absorb the load.
  • Apply the parking brake and shift into park.

 

LEAVING YOUR PARKING SPOT ON GRADES

  • Hold the brake pedal down and start the engine
  • Shift into gear and release the parking brake
  • Drive uphill until the trailer is free from the blocks
  • Apply brakes and have someone retrieve the blocks