Warm weather is on the horizon, and people from all over are preparing their vehicles for another season of road trips. In addition to packing the interior cargo areas full of equipment and luggage, many road-trippers also haul gear and recreational accessories with them.

There's more to towing than hitching a trailer and hitting the open road. A number of factors come into play when towing cargo or another vehicle, including the towing capacity of the vehicle doing the hauling. The following are some safety tips for road trippers hitting the road with trailer in tow

Tow vehicles

While many vehicles have towing capabilities, not all of those vehicles are necessarily right for the job. Review the towing capacities of various vehicles depending on the type of trailer that will be towed. A larger, more powerful vehicle may be necessary if you will be towing something large and heavy, such as a boat or a recreational vehicle. You may need more horsepower to maintain a safe driving speed when towing especially heavy cargo.

Equipment

Different manufacturers offer towing packages equipped to work in concert with your vehicle. Towing packages may include certain types of hitches, batteries, flasher systems, extended-view side mirrors, and even special axles and tires. In many areas, a trailer with a loaded weight of more than 1,500 pounds requires a separate braking system and a breakaway switch located on the tongue of the trailer that activates the trailer brakes in the event it separates from the tow vehicle. Having the right equipment can mean the difference between safely towing cargo and getting in an accident.

Ability

Having a lot of power and the right equipment is not enough to safely tow cargo. Recklessness on the road, which includes driving over the speed limit, is a recipe for an accident. It typically takes time and some practice for drivers to grow accustomed to driving while towing cargo. Driving while towing cargo requires that drivers maneuver their vehicles differently than they would in more typical conditions, and that they drive at slower speeds while leaving room for a larger turning radius. In addition, drivers must accommodate for the extra weight when braking.

Vehicle check

Verifying that the trailer hitch is secure is not the only inspection drivers must conduct before hitting the open road. The vehicle doing the towing should be serviced, and any repairs should be made. Check fluid levels, particularly the transmission fluid. In addition, make sure the water level in the battery is acceptable and have the motor oil changed if it is nearing its mileage limit. It's also a good idea to replace the air filter, examine the tires for adequate tread and test the brakes.

When the trip begins, give your vehicle and the hitch a once-over to double-check that everything is in working order. This can be done during service station stops along the trip.

Summer a season of recreational fun and long road trips, but it pays to play it safe when towing gear and other cargo.