which to choose?
Barry Weeks has been with Stovebolt.com since it was birthed! He was our first connection with others like us and helped us set up The Stovebolt Page for 1939-1940 Chevy trucks. When we got a lengthy, hand-written mail from him, it was good to know that we were not alone!
Since then, Barry has volunteered thoughtout the site and currently is resting his typing fingers and running the Hauling Board on Stovebolt.
If you are just getting into this hobby, or even if you've been at it awhile, the time will come when you have to move your antique truck -- hauling home your latest project truck, taking it somewhere to get work done on it, going to a distant show or just getting it out of storage. I would like to step up to the podium and remind everyone of a few trailering safety tips.
Between hauling my own project trucks (and everyone else's I know!) and hauling race cars to and from the track on weekends, I have quite a few miles with a trailer behind me. I would just like to share some of my observations for the novice and refresh the mind of the experienced on how to do this safely.Tow Vehicle
Ideally, your tow vehicle should be as heavy or heavier than what you are towing. This means you might want to think twice about towing your 1-1/2 ton fire truck project home cross-country behind your S-10 Blazer.
Longer wheelbase helps too. It keeps the tow vehicle from being pushed around by the loaded trailer. A 1/2-ton pickup truck will do in many cases, a 3/4 or 1-ton is even better. (Stovebolt.com recommends at least a 3/4-ton truck for towing antique pickups on trailers. Just remember ... Just because you *can* doesn't mean you *should*.)
Make sure all lights work. Here's a great trailer connector diagram from Grigg. It covers all major types of trailer electrical connectors.
The tow truck should have a brake controller to work the trailer brakes. (It's the law in many states for car-hauling trailers.) The truck needs to have a safe hitch. I like the frame-mounted receiver hitches. Use the proper size ball for the trailer you are hauling (2" or 2-5/16" usually). Try to use a ball with a 1" shank on it instead of 3/4". Cost is almost the same.
Should cost even be a factor when we are talking about safety on the road? I have seen two trailers lost when step bumpers came off trucks. The worst part was that the safety chains were hooked to the bumper in both cases. This meant the trailers went where ever they wanted until they got tired and stopped. Luckily, no one was injured in either case, but the drivers did need a change of underwear.Trailer
I prefer the use of a trailer, and not a tow dolly (see right). You don't usually know the condition of the bearings or tires on your project you just dragged out of the woods. Doesn't it make more sense to get all four wheels on a trailer? Check the trailer over whether it's yours, borrowed or rented. Is the trailer even big enough to haul what you want?
For hauling cars and trucks, the trailer should have tandem axles and be rated for at least 5,000-7,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW).
The trailer should have brakes, (both axles by law in most states).
All lights on the trailer should work properly. Ever follow someone who has the left turn signal flashing on the truck and the right one on the trailer? Be safe and professional and do a proper pre-trip inspection before leaving home. Brake lights, too.
Make sure the trailer tires are in good shape and properly inflated. Under inflation leads to blown out tires from excessive heat build-up under load. You do have a spare, right? Have the wheel bearings been packed lately? Do you carry a spare wheel bearing set? Make sure the coupler is in good shape and can be locked down securely to the ball.
The trailer should have two adequate safety chains of the right length -- not so short as to keep you from turning, but not so long that they drag on the ground. They should be crossed when hooked up so they provide a cradle for the trailer tongue should it come unhooked. Many states also require a battery operated break-away system to be mounted on the trailer. This activates the trailer brakes if the trailer gets loose from the truck.Loading
Try to shoot for 10-15% tongue weight. This usually means loading the car / truck with the engine to the front of the trailer. If your load is 5,000 pounds, try to get 500-750 pounds of tongue weight. Have a few buddies stand on the rear bumper to get an idea of how much this "squats" your truck.This is critical. Too much tongue weight will overload the rear of the tow vehicle and take weight off the front wheels leading to poor steering control. It will also pull a lot harder than you would expect. Too little tongue weight is very dangerous! This will cause the trailer to "whip" violently. This will not occur until a certain speed is reached. The photo here shows a truck properly loaded on a gooseneck-style trailer.
I know a body shop owner who was towing a full-size Cadillac on a trailer behind a full-size Blazer. Everything seemed okay, until he got up to speed on the freeway and the trailer started to whip. He ended up doing two 360's and he came to a stop sideways in the middle of the road. This was caused by not enough tongue weight because he had loaded the car backwards (engine to the back). His reasons for doing this was that he wasn't going far, and that was the easiest way to load the car, and he didn't have time to turn it around. But I guess he did have time to tie up traffic during rush hour and put two new quarter panels on his Blazer, and paint it. Luckily no one was hurt, and everything stayed right side up.
The less the tongue weight, the slower the speed at which whip will occur. You might be fine at 46 mph, but at 48 mph, it gets to be a handful. When starting out with a new load, accelerate slowly to traveling speed to check for whip. If it occurs, you need to slow it all down. The best way of doing this is by manually actuating your trailer brakes and letting the trailer slow the truck down. (You did make sure you had working trailer brakes, right?) When stopped, redistribute the load to get more tongue weight.
When properly loaded, you'll hardly notice the trailer behind you. Before taking a long trip with a loaded trailer, I will even test it out on a highway near my house and re-adjust the load if necessary. It just makes the trip so much more enjoyable to have the trailer pull nice.
Cars with tall, flat windshields tend to pull hard from wind resistance (Model A's, for example). Sometimes these kinds of vehicles pull better if facing backwards on the trailer to better cut the wind. This usually means getting it as far forward as possible to get enough tongue weight. This can be hard to do on a short trailer. Use your best judgment.
Every truck / trailer / load combination is different. What works for me may not work in your situation.Tie Downs
I started out using chains, and then switched to straps. I switched back to chains when a guy I know lost a car on I-80 in Iowa due to straps that had rubbed on sharp metal for 800 miles and got cut. After he told me about looking in his mirror and seeing his '37 Ford doing endo's in the ditch, I started using chains again. I have transport grade chain (gold colored) and hooks.
Transport chain is stronger than logging chain. I use binders to tighten the chains up, and I safety wire the binder handles down so they can't come loose. I like to use four tie downs -- two in front and two in back. I cross the chains in a "X" pattern in front and back when I can. This prevents sideways movement as well as front to rear. In the photo on the left, you see crossed chains (with binders) attached to the rear axle outboard of the springs. BE CAREFUL WITH THOSE CHAINS AROUND THE BRAKELINES!
Make sure the tie down attachment point on the trailer is solid. I usually tie the axles down on the hauled vehicle so the suspension is free to work. Always check for loose parts that need to be tied down also. This photo shows a truck with a small tie strap on the hood. The hood latch was "tired" and this hauler didn't want to take any chances with the hood flying open on the New York Thru-way. (The photo also illustrates another important item -- the security / alarm system for your load.)
I don't know how many times I've picked up a project vehicle for a new owner at the former owner's house, and found that the running boards or something weren't bolted on, but just laying there.On The Road
Once you are moving safely down the road, stop every once in awhile to check your load. I stop after everything has settled in (5 or 10 miles) and check the tightness of the chain binders. Then, every so often when I get gas or whatever, I'll check the binders, look at the trailer tires, put my hand on each trailer wheel bearing to feel for a hot bearing, and generally check the load over to make sure nothing is coming loose.
Always have some rope, wire and duct tape (my favorite!) with you to secure loose parts. You don't want your junk falling off on to the road.
Remember to leave plenty of room around you on the road! If you should have one car length / every 10 mph normally, shouldn't this be double that when pulling a loaded trailer?
The Heavy Vehicle Formula for timed interval following distance requires one second for each 10 feet of vehicle length (truck and trailer) for speeds under 40 mph. Add one second when above 40 mph. Use a minimum of five seconds (more if the road is slippery). Everyone else on the road will fight your attempts at this. There seems to be some unwritten law about having to pull in front of a loaded truck and trailer, and leaving him 12-1/2 feet of space. As soon as you have this happen to you a few times, you will have some new found respect for the truck drivers in this country. How they keep from stopping and choking some drivers is beyond me.
Try to stay in the right lane and drive smooth. This isn't the time to be cutting in and out of traffic. Watch your speed and wear your seatbelt. You do these things all the time any way, right? We just want you to get that truck moved around safely. It ain't worth you or anyone else getting hurt over. I already lost one friend who was working on his old truck. I don't want to lose any more. So please, everyone, take the extra minute, or spend the extra dollar to do things as safely as you can.
Want to know more? Download a copy of the Commercial Drivers' Manual from your state Department of Motor Vehicles web site -- It has a lot of great information applicable to us little trailer haulers, too.Hiring a Hauler
If you don't feel you can do the job safely, maybe you should hire a hauler and make it *his* problem. First check our own Hauling Forum right here on Stovebolt -- someone might be going your way with space on the trailer for your haul! Other carriers can be found in Hemmings Motor New as well as others listed in the Stovebolt's Links Section. These folks usually charge by the mile, but some will have a flat fee for certain hauls. You may have to pay a premium price if you want it done right away.
Most will try and wait until they have a haul for the return trip, or another job in the area. This is the only way to make money doing this. They also don't have time to waste, so make sure your vehicle is ready to load. They don't want to put air in your tires, and move Aunt Betty's furniture that's piled on your pride and joy.
Is your vehicle nice? Do you want it hauled in an enclosed trailer, or is open okay? Is your vehicle insured while being hauled? I know of someone who had a very rare '40 GMC Woody hauled cross-country by a commercial hauler who shall remain nameless. The front end of the GMC was damaged during shipping, and no one wanted to take responsibility for the damage. Next we saw, the owner had a "parts wanted" ad on Stovebolt -- parts not easy or cheap to find. Something to think about.
Most of all, have fun, and happy hauling!
Money can't buy experience -- just parts and labor.