Cargo Trailer Advice: Tips for Coupling and Uncoupling Trailers

April 3, 2019

Knowing how to couple and uncouple your cargo trailer from your tow vehicle is key to successful and safe towing. We offer up the following tips for making sure you do it right: 

  1. Be sure the size and rating of hitch ball match the size and rating of the coupler. Hitch balls and couplers are marked with their size and rating.  
  2. Wipe the hitch ball clean and inspect it visually. Feel for flat spots, cracks and pits. Rock the ball to make sure it is tight to the hitch and visually check that the hitch ball nut is solid against the lock washer and hitch frame. 
  3. Wipe the inside and outside of the coupler clean and inspect it visually for cracks and deformations; feel the inside of the coupler for worn spots and pits. Be sure the coupler is tight to the tongue of the trailer. All coupler fasteners must be visibly solid against the trailer frame.
  4. Raise the bottom surface of the coupler to be above the top of the hitch ball. Use the jack if one is provided; otherwise, use wood or concrete blocks to support the trailer tongue.
  5. Lubricate the hitch ball and the inside of the coupler with a thin layer of automotive bearing grease.
  6. Open the coupler locking mechanism. Ball couplers have a locking mechanism with an internal moving piece (ball clamp) and an outside handle, wheel, or latch. In the open position, the coupler is able to drop fully onto the hitch ball. See the coupler instructions for details on placing the coupler in the “open” position.
  7. Slowly back up the tow vehicle so that the hitch ball is near or aligned under the coupler, if the trailer jack has raised the coupler.
  8. Couple the trailer to the tow vehicle: With your jack, lower the trailer tongue until the coupler fully engages the hitch ball. If the coupler does not line up with the hitch ball, adjust the position of the tow vehicle.
  9. Engage the coupler locking mechanism. In the engaged position, the locking mechanism securely holds the coupler to the hitch ball. Insert a pin or lock through the hole in the locking mechanism. Be sure the coupler is all the way on the hitch ball and the locking mechanism is engaged. A properly engaged locking mechanism will allow the coupler to raise the rear of the tow vehicle.
  10. Using the trailer jack, test to see that you can raise the rear of the tow vehicle by 1 inch, after the coupler is locked to the hitch.
  11. If the coupler cannot be secured to the hitch ball, do not tow the trailer. Contact your dealer for assistance regarding how to adjust a trailer coupling and general troubleshooting advice.
  12. Lower the trailer so that its entire tongue weight is held by the hitch and continue retracting the jack to its fully retracted position.

 Follow these steps to uncouple your ball hitch trailer from the tow vehicle:  

  • Block the trailer tires to prevent the trailer from rolling—before jacking the trailer up
  • Disconnect the electrical connector
  • Disconnect the breakaway brake switch lanyard
  • Disconnect the safety chains from the tow vehicle
  • Unlock the coupler and open it
  • Before extending the jack, make certain the ground surface below the jack pad will support the tongue load
  • Rotate the jack handle (or crank) clockwise. This will slowly extend the jack and transfer the weight of the trailer tongue to the jack 

If you have any questions about properly hitching your cargo trailer, contact a Look Trailers dealer. They’ll be happy to help ensure you’re doing it right and offer any other assistance you need.