Safely Coupling and Uncoupling Utility Trailers

safety first

You probably already know that to tow your trailer safely you need to have a suitable utility trailer attached to your towing vehicle. You need to change your driving style, brake earlier than normal and load that trailer sensibly. However, even if you’ve followed these steps, the coupling of your trailer could be your undoing. A secure fastening between the two components is essential – get it wrong and you could cause serious injury. We’ll talk you through safely coupling your utility trailer to your vehicle.

How to Couple a Trailer

Although it may seem like a complicated procedure, coupling your trailer to your vehicle is straightforward; especially if you follow these simple, safe steps.

Check the connecting parts before you do anything! Conduct a thorough check of the 5th wheel (the ‘U’ shaped coupling part on the back of the towing vehicle) and the coupler (the connecting part on the trailer head). Is the 5th wheel suitably greased? Are the air and electrical connections sound?
If both parts look ready for coupling, set them up in the correct position. Double-check the height and alignment on both sides to make sure they’ll meet safely.

Reverse your towing vehicle, slowly. When the 5th wheel and the coupler are almost touching, stop the vehicle and check the alignment. The coupler should be slightly lower than the 5th wheel.
Continue to reverse the vehicle and couple the trailer and the towing vehicle. If you’re happy with the connection, attach the airlines, electrical lines, and safety chains.

Supply air to the trailer and wait until air pressure returns to normal.
Drive forward, slowly, and check brake operation. If everything operates as planned, you’ve managed to safely couple your trailer and towing vehicle.

How to Uncouple a Trailer

Uncoupling your trailer isn’t an exact reversal of the coupling process. Follow these steps to make sure you do it safely:

Before you do anything, make sure that the brakes are applied to both the trailer and the towing vehicle. To be absolutely sure, block the wheels of your trailer so they can’t roll anywhere.
You’ll need to use a landing jack for the trailer. Properly attach it to the trailer head and make sure it’s sitting just above flat ground. This will ensure that after being disconnected, the trailer won’t drop dangerously.

Disconnect the safety chains, electrical lines, and airlines.

Unlock the coupling attachment and extend the jack until it touches the ground. This transfers the weight of the trailer to the ground.

If your trailer seems stable, remove the brakes on your towing vehicle and slowly move it forward, away from the trailer.

Common Coupling and Uncoupling Mistakes

There are a lot of steps to follow when coupling and uncoupling your vehicle. That means there are plenty of opportunities for mistakes to creep into the process. One of the most common mistakes is fitting the wrong size couple to the fifth wheel. This mistake is easy to avoid – double and triple check the fitting sizes, and make sure you’ve got a good match.

Another easy mistake which sneaks into the process is forgetting about the tire pressure. Check the pressure before you begin the coupling process as under inflation will lead to overheating and eventually, a blowout. Finally, don’t forget about the safety chains, airlines, and electrical lines. This is particularly important when you’re uncoupling: forget to disconnect them when you drive forward and you’ll know all about it.

Whether or not you’re confident coupling and uncoupling your utility trailer, getting the advice of professionals like McFarlane will help with any of your trailer needs. McFarlane has years of experience and can help you avoid many of the common coupling and uncoupling mistakes.