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How to Connect a Trailer to Your Vehicle
Towing Trailers
Tow Vehicle

Precautionary measures do not solely apply when you are driving towing trailers but also surface as early as the time you are connecting a single axle or tandem axle utility trailers to a tow vehicle. This step-by-step guide should set you off on the right footing.

1. Read the manufacturer’s manual. Never attempt to connect a trailer without familiarizing yourself with the parts of towing trailers and with an overview of the steps needed to attach it to the vehicle to be towed.

2. Check that the hitching, braking and wiring systems of both the trailer and the vehicle are compatible with each other. Trying to connect incompatible systems is a recipe for disaster.

3. Choose the right trailer hitch by knowing the trailer capacity and the gross trailer weight. Check again the manual for the manufacturer’s specific recommendations.

Basically, there are three common hitches you will encounter. The fifth wheel is for mounting the trailer from the mid-point connection of the truck. The weight-carrying hitch is for holding the tongue weight. The distributing hitches are for spreading out the tongue weight among the axles of both vehicles.

4. Attach the hitch. Position the back of the tow vehicle closest to the trailer, and then release the coupler locking device. Latch the coupling device to the hitch ball and double-check by elevating the trailer tongue. (Repeat this procedure when working with weight-distributing hitches.)

5. Attach the safety chains. Ideally, they must be cross-positioned under the trailer tongue to prevent tongue dropping incidences and must not be latched too tightly to give the vehicle to be towed some proviso when making sharp turns.

6. Install and activate the brakes. Generally, you will be activating one of the two types of brakes characteristic of many towing trailers. Electronically controlled brakes sport a control box which you will use to fine-tune and adjust to trailer loads. Surge brakes on the other hand do not require any fine-tuning. Take care not to connect them to trailer’s hydraulic system as surge brakes function independently.

7. Attach any cables and chains that go with the brakes. Just like the safety chains used in hitching, leave enough slack to accommodate sharp turns.

8. Wire the trailer to the tow vehicle. This step is necessary for lights, turn signals and reflectors to function. Most towing packages include a trailer wire harness which you can conveniently connect to the vehicle’s lighting system.

9. If your trailer does not come with a harness, you may need to buy a few accessories.

Available in four-way or seven-way variants, connectors power the backlight, brakes and power supply when hooked to the electrical system of the tow vehicle.

Electrical converters are capable of combining wires to enable them to be attached to the lighting system.

An adaptor may also be necessary to address the different wiring requirements necessitated by different types of trailers that are simultaneously used.

10. Double-check and make sure that everything is in place before hitting the main road. Always begin and end the process with safety in mind.


Attaching towing trailers to the vehicle requires a fine attention to detail, presence of mind and mastery of precautionary measures. The steps can be further shortened to three basic reminders: First, check for compatibility issues. Second, select the appropriate hitch. Third, install the right accessories (chains, brakes and wirings included).


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