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Knowing the Limits

SUV trailerImage158 - know the limitsBefore you hit the road, you need to know the limits.

As spring transitions into summer, we see an increase of trailers out on the roads carrying a variety of cargo. From the weekender pulling their ATV’s and bicycles to the cabin, to the landscaper hauling dirt and mulch for a home project. Before pulling out of the driveway it is in best practices to know the limits and take a few minutes to check your trailer over, a “Pre-trip” inspection if you will.


9 Key Points to Check Before Travel

• Check and correct tire pressure on the tow vehicle and trailer.

• Make sure the wheel lug nuts/bolts on the tow vehicle and trailer are tightened to the correct torque.

• Be sure the hitch, coupler, draw bar, and other equipment that connect the trailer and the tow vehicle are properly secured and adjusted.

• Check that the wiring is properly connected—not touching the road, but loose enough to make turns without disconnecting or damaging the wires.

• Make sure all running lights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights are working.

• Verify that the brakes on the tow vehicle and trailer are operating correctly.

• Check that all items are securely fastened on and in the trailer.

• Be sure the trailer jack, tongue support, and any attached stabilizers are raised and locked in place.

• Check load distribution to make sure the tow vehicle and trailer are properly balanced front to back and side to side.

“Remember – a little time spent on safety, will save you a lot of time and money wasted on the side of the road.”


Too Much Weight…

We’ve seen it before, a vehicle passes you on the highway and you cringe because their trailer is overloaded.

Overloading a trailer can result in some expensive repair broken axle - know the limitscost at the end of the day. Overload damages can range from bent axles, tire blowouts, structural damage such as weld failure to overpowering the tow vehicle.


4 Key Points to Know

Improper trailer loading causes many accidents and deaths. To safely load a trailer, you must consider:

• Overall load weight.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.41.01 AM - know the limits

• Load weight distribution.

• Proper tongue weight.

• Securing the load properly.

How to Determine the Load Limit for Your Trailer?

Determining the load limits of a trailer includes more than understanding the load limits of the tires alone. On each trailer, there should be a Federal certification/VIN label that is located on the forward half of the left (road) side of the trailer.

This certification/VIN label will indicate the trailer’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This is the most weight the fully loaded trailer can weigh. It will also provide the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR). This is the most a particular axle can carry. If there are multiple axles, the GAWR of each axle will be provided. (see sample below)SampleVIN - know the limitsIf your trailer has a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less, there is a vehicle placard located in the same location as the certification label described above. This placard provides tire and loading information. In addition, this placard will show a statement regarding maximum cargo capacity.

Tire placard - know the limitsCargo can be added to the trailer, up to the maximum weight specified on the placard. The combined weight of the cargo is provided as a single number. In any case, remember: the total weight of a fully loaded trailer cannot exceed the stated GVWR.





  1. Thanks so much for this post! I was driving on the highway yesterday and traffic was backed up for miles because of a trailer that had become detached from the truck pulling it. I don’t know whether it was because of an excessive load limit or a weak hitch. Either way, these tips are really REALLY important. Thanks for sharing.

  2. These are some great points to keep in mind, especially the tire pressure. One year on our way back from Lake Powell, we blew a tire, so we replaced it. An hour later we blew another tire, so we had to ditch to boat on the side of the road and drive to the closest city to get two new tires. We think the low pressure mixed with the variable of bad weight distribution in the boat was the cause. It wasn’t a fun day. So now we carry two extra spares and check the pressure more often.

  3. These are some great tips for ensuring your safety on the road, especially how it mentioned to make sure all lights were working properly. Many accidents occur on the road because of failure to signal, brake lights not working and light malfunctions, I can imagine the results would be more severe if a cargo trailer was involved. I travel far distances on the road quite frequently so now I know that I will be even more cautionary around trucks for safety.

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