Answers to questions about RV Repair and Maintenance from RV expert Dave Solberg, author of the “RV Handbook” and the managing editor of the RV Repair Club. This column appears Monday through Saturday in the RV Travel and RV Daily Tips newsletters. (Sign up for an email reminder for each new issue if you do not already receive one.) Today he answers a reader’s question about the property setup of towing safety chains.
When I learned to hook up my camper and now my tow car I was always instructed to cross my safety chains. I see many RVers not doing so. When I ask them about it they respond it is unnecessary. What is the proper setup of safety chains when towing? —Michael
Every state has its own specific State Equipment and Road Use Laws that pertain to towing and other driving issues. RVIA has posted recent Safety Chain Requirements for RV Trailers and State Equipment and Road Use Law Summaries on its website here.
I have always found it interesting that there isn’t a standardized set of Road Use Laws, as I do not believe it’s harder to tow in Minnesota than it is in Iowa. According to the summary, when towing in Iowa you only need one chain or cable and it must be sufficient to control the towed vehicle if the hitch fails. In Minnesota, you are required to have two chains or cables but not crossed. However, in Nebraska, it is required to prevent the tow bar from dropping if disengaged – which means chains crossed.
Road Use Laws
During the development of the RV Safety & Education Foundation’s (RVSEF) safety program, I spent a great deal of time researching the Road Use Laws and working with companies that engineered the various components used in towing. What I found is that there is a big difference between towing legally and towing safely! An item that is not listed in this summary is the need for an emergency braking system. Some states require supplemental brakes for anything over 1,000 lbs., while others are at 3,000 lbs. or more. Plus, what you will find is the law is most often left to the interpretation of the officer that stops you! Better to be on the safe side.
Here is what we developed for a recommended safe method of connecting safety chains and towing:
1. Make sure your hitch pin is in the down position and the cotter pin opening is facing down to ensure it will not work loose.
2. Use a secure ball.
3. Use two chains secured to the trailer with safety hooks on the ends. Cross the chains to create a cradle in case the tow bar is disengaged.
4. Provide enough slack in the chains so the trailer can turn but not drag on the ground. Twist the chains to shorten if necessary.
5. Connect the hooks from the bottom.
6. Connect the electrical connection leaving enough slack to turn and not drag.
7. Check all lights, turn signals, and other electrical components.
8. Connect the electrical safety brake if applicable. Most trailers have an electric brake that is activated with the tow vehicle braking system through the brake controller. However, some have a breakaway system.
Read more from Dave here.
Dave Solberg worked at Winnebago for 15 years developing the dealer training program, as marketing manager, and conducting shows. As the owner of Passport Media Creations, Dave has developed several RV dealer training programs, the RV Safety Training program for The Recreation Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation, and the accredited RV Driving Safety program being conducted at rallies and shows around the country. Dave is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.
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