Fast Lane: Towing tips for trouble-free travel

Every year, millions of Americans take to the roads with their trailers in tow. Whether you’re towing a boat, a horse or a houseful of furniture, driving with a trailer presents challenges to both the driver and the tow vehicle. Here are the top tips from hauling experts about how to keep your travel trouble free.

Be cool

Towing season is usually during the summer months with temperatures regularly between 80 to 120 degrees. Keeping your tow vehicle’s fluids cool is critical to keep the engine from overheating, or worse. You may want to upgrade to a larger radiator to keep those fluids cool.

Engine temperatures can more easily and inexpensively be reduced by adding a coolant additive to your radiator. These products decrease the surface temperature of water in the radiator to improve heat transfer and, therefore, lower temperatures. One of the more popular coolant additives, Purple Ice, has been proven to reduce engine temperatures as much as 30 degrees.

Another easy way to keep things cool is by upgrading motor oil. Premium synthetic motor oils typically have a lower coefficient of friction and better heat transfer than conventional motor oils. For instance, in independent tests using Royal Purple’s high-performance motor oil reduced engine temperatures as much as 12 percent.

Remain level-headed

Trailers have a tendency to load down the rear of a tow vehicle. As the vehicle rocks farther back, the dynamics of the vehicle change. This means that the tow vehicle will not stop, steer and handle as well as it does when it’s not towing something. Investing in overload springs, air bags and/or a weight-distributing hitch will help the tow vehicle ride level, which will translate into a safer and better ride.

Breathe deeply

During the life of your engine, thousands of cubic feet of air will pass through the cylinders. Dust and other material in the engine can cause excessive wear and operating problems. It’s imperative that you keep air filters clean by regularly replacing them. To further enhance performance, you may want to consider upgrading to a high-performance air filter or complete intake system. The relatively low cost of a high-performance filter and ease of installation (about 5 minutes) makes upgrading a no-brainer.

Don't go bald or flat

Whether towing or not, checking the condition of your tires and tire pressure is vital. Tires that are under-inflated or over-inflated may wear out prematurely or potentially blow out and cause an accident. Ideally, tire pressure should be checked every time you fill up your gas tank. By keeping your tires properly inflated, you’ll also help reduce fuel consumption and increase your safety while towing. The U.S. Energy Department reports that under-inflated tires can actually increase fuel consumption by up to 6 percent.

Don't strip (a gear)

Two components that take the most abuse and are most neglected in tow vehicles are the transmission and differential. In most cases, neither is adequately cooled, and both undergo extreme pressure in towing conditions. Keeping the fluids cool is vital for a healthy transmission. The cheapest and easiest solution is upgrading fluids to high-quality synthetics. For instance, Max ATF and Max Gear from Royal Purple have been proven in independent tests to reduce operating temperatures for increased transmission life. Additionally, both use Royal Purple’s proprietary additive technology that provides maximum wear protection particularly in extreme situations like towing.

Consider hardware and software upgrades

Aftermarket manufacturers produce a variety of parts from brakes to computer chips that can dramatically improve the performance of your tow vehicle and make towing easier. Upgrading brakes with a larger rotor or better caliper will help slow or stop everything quicker. Premium brake pads that dissipate heat also improve stopping. Aftermarket exhaust systems increase exhaust flow and reduce backpressure for increased torque. Finally, engine management software that optimizes engine performance is available from a variety of manufacturers.

Don't forget to brush

Following good maintenance procedure is a lot like brushing your teeth. Failure to do so can cause a lot of pain and unnecessary expense. Checking all of the fluid levels, the air filter and regularly replacing the fuel filter will keep the vital components clean and clear of debris. Cleaning windows and mirrors will reduce glare and make the trip safer and easier for you and your eyes. It’s also a good time to consider adding trailer mirrors, which dramatically improve rear-view visibility. And don’t forget to check your trailer’s brake fluid, electrical wiring and tires. Make sure the lights work properly and everything is in working order.

Each of these seven tips will improve your towing experience and help ensure a trouble- free ride. For more information visit,

Courtesy of ARA Content

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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