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Mark Polk, motorhome maintenance expert

By Mark Polk
RV Education 101

Let me ask you a question. Have you ever hooked up your dinghy and headed down the road wondering to yourself, did I remember to check this or check that? I think it happens to most of us unless you use some type of checklist to make sure everything was completed before you leave on a trip.

Checklists serve as a good reminder, and can help prevent costly mistakes. This is my top 7 dinghy towing safety checks. These checks are designed to give you a general idea of items that should be checked before you tow a vehicle with all four wheels on the ground. Use the checks that apply to your situation, and you can add to the list as necessary. And when towing another vehicle, always adhere to your motorhome's gross combination weight rating.

Note: Always follow the towed vehicle manufacturer’s instructions for towing a specific vehicle.

1. Always hook and unhook the vehicle on a flat, smooth surface. Set the emergency brake on the towed vehicle and the motorhome before hooking or unhooking the tow bar.

2. Before connecting the tow bar, inspect the base plate, receiver, tow bar and mounting hardware for any damaged or worn components. Check all nuts and bolts for secure mounting. Tighten loose bolts and replace worn parts before hooking up. Do not use any components of the towing system that are damaged or worn.

Note: If you have a coupler-style tow bar, check the fit of the coupler on the ball. Lock the coupler on the ball and secure the coupler latch with a lock or safety pin.

3. Hook up the tow bar. Make sure it is properly connected and that all pins, latches and clips are properly secured. Attach the safety cables securely. Secure the safety cables on a permanent fixture on the vehicle and on the motorhome. Attach the light cable and check all lights -- brake lights, taillights and turn signals -- on both vehicles for proper operation. Attach the breakaway lanyard if applicable.

4. Prep the vehicle for towing. Set up the towed vehicle’s steering, transmission and/or transfer case to tow the vehicle in accordance with the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions. If the vehicle requires any special modifications for towing, make sure they are installed and/or engaged.

5. If equipped with a supplemental braking system on the towed vehicle, test it for proper operation before leaving.

6. When the vehicle is completely hooked up and ready to tow, disengage the parking brake. Make sure the tires are centered, roll the windows up and, if you lock the doors, make sure you have a spare set of keys.

7. Latch the tow bar legs if you use a self-aligning tow bar. Slowly pull the motorhome forward, turning the steering wheel left to right until both tow bar legs are fully extended and locked into place.

Hit the road and have fun.

In addition to these safety checks, every time you stop check the tow bar, base plate and safety cable’s to make sure they are still properly attached. Check the tires of the towed vehicle to make sure they are not too hot or losing air. If you are using a dolly or trailer, check the wheels to make sure they are not hot to the touch. If the wheels are hot, it may indicate a brake or bearing problem.

This checklist is an excerpt from my Checklists for RVers e-book.

Happy Camping.

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