Did you ever read the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? You may remember it from when you were a kid, or if you have kids of your own, you’ve likely read it more recently than the rest of us. Basically, the story goes that if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll probably want a glass of milk with it. If you give him the milk, he’ll probably want something else to complement the milk, and so on and so forth. You can see the pattern. The reason I bring up a children’s story on a forum that’s supposed to be about towing is that the principle carries over. It’s not a bad thing, but the truth is, if you buy a trailer hitch for your vehicle, you’re probably going to want a few accessories to go along with it.
Some of these accessories are essential to towing and some of them are just nice to have. For example, safety chains are a must-have any time you tow a trailer. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a few blocks down the street or hauling cross-country; if you’re towing a trailer, hook up your safety chains. In all reality, they’re probably the easiest part about towing, and yet they’re invaluable on the road. They’re also required by law. The point of safety chains is to prevent unnecessary damage and injury in a worst-case scenario; that is, when a trailer becomes disconnected from the tow vehicle. Though this is a rare occurrence, you can imagine what might happen if the trailer became totally disconnected. To eliminate this danger, all you have to do is hook up your safety chains. The proper way to do this is to crisscross them underneath the trailer coupler. This creates a sort of cradle to catch the coupler and keep it from scraping on the ground until you can bring the vehicle safely to a stop.
One other essential accessory you’ll want and might already have is a pin & clip. It’s a simple metal pin that inserts into a hole in the side of your receiver tube and holds in place the ball mount or whatever accessory you’re towing. There are a few different types to choose from, and if you want, you can swap one out on your own rig for a hitch lock. Also, if you don’t already have a lock or safety pin for your trailer coupler, get one. You should never tow without locking down the coupler latch with some kind of retainer. And a wooden stick doesn’t count!
Another thing you’ll probably want to get for your new trailer hitch is a hitch tube cover. Unlike safety chains, a hitch tube cover is not essential. You can tow safely and get to your destination without one. However, a tube cover isn’t a gimmick either. A trailer hitch and ball mount of the same shank size are designed to fit together with very little wiggle room. We’re talking fractional space. This flush fit helps ensure that your trailer tows quietly and that everything stays locked in tight. With the trailer hitch mounted on the underbelly of your vehicle, it’s inevitable that dirt and grime will splash up into the open receiver tube. The next time you go to insert the ball mount shank into the receiver, you can guess how dirt and grime might be very helpful in getting your ball mount installed… NOT! Enter the receiver hitch tube cover to save the day. A tube cover will help keep dirt, grime, moisture and other debris out of the receiver tube, allowing the ball mount shank to easily slide in and out without resistance.
I would also recommend getting a tow mirror and a pair of wheel chocks. A tow mirror probably won’t be necessary if you’re driving a sedan or compact, but for the van, SUV or pickup truck, it can be a lifesaver. A tow mirror is essentially an extension for the side mirror on your vehicle. You might think it’s a silly idea what with all the experience you’ve got under your belt, but I have to let you in on a little secret: all the experience in the world won’t give you x-ray vision. For any large trailer, I suggest slapping on a tow mirror, or even two, one on each side, to give you a better view of your trailer and the surrounding area. The wheel chocks I recommend because they’re useful beyond towing. Any time you park your trailer for an extended period of time, especially when you plan to interact with that trailer (e.g. camping in an RV), it pays to make sure your trailer’s not going anywhere. It’s also very wise, and I would say essential, to chock your wheels when working on your vehicle. Whether you’re under the vehicle or under the hood, if it starts to roll away, there’s going to be trouble. Play it smart, and chock your wheels!
My final recommendation is to get some sort of lock for your trailer/hitch. I already mentioned hitch locks, and while they are effective, you might want to take it a step further. Trailer theft is a surprisingly large problem, and a simple way to avoid it is to get a lock. It could be a wheel chock lock, a coupler lock or a trailer lock, depending on what you’ll need it for. Locking up your trailer will prevent theft and greatly deter any kind of tampering.
Certainly you can take these recommendations or leave them. That’s not true of the safety chains or the pin & clip, but the other accessories are up to your discretion. I just know from my own towing experience, I prefer to have a couple of the bells and whistles. Call me a greedy little mouse if you want to.