If you want to start a great camp fire debate, ask whether you should cross your trailer chains! In all seriousness though, today we are going to discuss why we believe you absolutely should cross your trailer chains. After this, when the argument does arise again you’ll have some talking points.
What’s the purpose of trailer chains?
Lets start right at the beginning. Trailers have had chains as a mandatory safety requirement for many years, and the reason is simple.
Regardless of tow hitch types, they can, and do fail on the odd occasion, along with the tongues. This can happen on the trailer end, or on the vehicle end, and essentially what happens is your trailer de-couples from the tow vehicle, and takes off in any direction it pleases to.
When you have trailer chains though, they (hopefully) catch the trailer drawbar as it drops, and keep it attached to the tow vehicle, giving you enough time to safely pull over without sending the trailer head on into another vehicle.
You might still end up with some damage to your trailer, and to your tow vehicle, but its going to be a whole lot better than having the trailer come off all together.
Of course, if your tow bar, or drawbar fails, trailer chains aren’t going to do a thing, but these are much less common events.
So, why should you cross your trailer chains?
They don’t bind up when you turn
If you don’t cross your trailer chains, and you keep them straight, when you go around a corner the outer chain will get pulled taught, and if its not long enough you can put a lot of stress on things. When you cross your chains, the length hardly changes as it crosses over under the tow attachment point.
It helps to catch the drawbar
If you do have a major incident, where your trailer hitch breaks, and the drawbar drops, crossing the chains ensures a much higher catch rate.
Straight chains have a gap between them, which makes it highly likely that the drawbar will fall straight through your chains and onto the ground, digging in and causing all sorts of damage.
Crossed trailer chains that are the right length will catch the drawbar on its way down, and give you the best chance of pulling up with minimal damage.
It reduces swaying if it does fall down
Trailer sway is sketchy in any scenario, and it can be quite confronting to see it happen. If your trailer does happen to fall down and you are relying on your chains to keep the trailer attached to the tow vehicle, its best that the chains are crossed as it helps to alleviate trailer sway.
Straight chains have a huge potential for the trailer to swing back and forth, and that can make an already bad situation much worse. Crossed chains keep the trailer much more central and stop the trailer yaw.
Do you have to cross your trailer chains?
If you want to know whether its a legal requirement to cross your trailer chains, it gets a bit more interesting.
There’s some very vague comments made about safety chains ‘should support the drawbar and prevent it dropping to the ground’, which can be interpreted however you want. I don’t think there’s a requirement, but it is a good practice for the above reasons.
Keep your trailer chains short
One of the most important things you can do with trailer chains is to run them nice and short. Not so short that you have issues turning and binding up, but short enough that they are actually going to catch the trailer before it hits the ground.
Often trailers come with awfully long trailer chains, and there’s nothing wrong with moving the shackle up the chain to make a better length.
So, should you cross them?
I don’t see why you wouldn’t cross your trailer chains. Are there actually any good reasons?
What do you do, and why?