How to use safety chains properly with a trailer hitch?

  • Post category:Guide & Tips
  • Post published:December 22, 2023
  • Post last modified:January 12, 2024
  • Post author:
  • Reading time:13 mins read

If you’re seeking guidance on safety chains, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we aim to provide you with the essential information. In terms of the fundamentals, safety chains are the links that connect the trailer tongue to the tow vehicle. Simply put, these chains play a crucial role in ensuring that your trailer is securely attached to your tow vehicle. Moreover, they are indispensable for maintaining control in the event of a ball or coupler failure, allowing you to safely maneuver your trailer until you reach a suitable stopping spot.

For beginners planning to use a safety chain, it’s imperative to thoroughly understand the details provided in this article. Take a few minutes to read through the entire content for a comprehensive grasp of the subject.

 On a trailer, where do you put the safety chain?

Ideally, at the point of crossing or as close to it as possible, the chains should be securely attached to the tow bar. Make sure to connect your trailer’s safety chains to your tow vehicle. To enhance safety, these chains should form a crisscross beneath the trailer tongue, creating an X-shaped configuration. This setup ensures that the chains will grasp the tongue in case the trailer becomes detached from the tow vehicle. Understanding and implementing these steps are vital for a secure towing experience.

How to use the safety chains properly with a trailer hitch?

Safety chains for trailers play a crucial role in securing your trailer to your tow vehicle and act as the primary defense in case of an unexpected disconnection. In the event of a ball or coupler failure, these safety chains provide the means to guide your trailer and safely bring it to a stop. Having chains as a backup is a prudent safety measure for any towing situation.

When towing your trailer, it is essential to use two safety chains, each of which should be properly connected to its designated chain retainer. This ensures a secure and reliable attachment, minimizing the risk of trailer detachment during transit.

Here are some key pieces of information that will enhance your understanding of the importance and proper use of safety chains.

Why so important?

Despite existing regulations and guidelines for the proper installation and use of safety chains, they are often misused and applied incorrectly. There are various reasons for the improper application of safety chains, including ignorance, inexperience, lack of training, negligence, and the use of inappropriate chains or attachments. Unfortunately, a significant number of incidents involving injury and property damage are a result of issues with the trailer’s connection to the tow vehicle.

While the process of attaching safety chains may seem straightforward, it is rarely done correctly. The realization that trailers are being towed on the road with potentially incorrect safety chain applications can be unsettling. In instances where the primary coupling fails, the trailer tongue may fall to the road surface. It’s important to note that allowing the trailer tongue to touch the ground is prohibited in many areas due to its highly aggressive and dangerous nature. Proper education and adherence to guidelines are essential to ensure the safe and effective use of safety chains during towing.

Things to avoid:

Trailer safety chains are a simple yet crucial aspect that significantly influences the safety of your trailer, tow vehicle, and towing experience. It is essential to consult your trailer’s owner’s manual for specific instructions on securing chains according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

When installing and using safety chains, it’s crucial to adhere to certain guidelines:

  1. Choose Strength Appropriately: Select safety chains that exceed the trailer’s overall weight capacity. The attachment points and connectors should also be stronger than the chain itself.
  2. Prevent Ground Grinding: Ensure that safety chains are positioned to avoid contact with the ground. Proper placement is essential to prevent grinding against the road.
  3. Avoid Weakening Chains: Exercise caution to avoid weakening the chains during installation. Welding and chaining chains together are not recommended practices.
  4. Optimal Chain Length: Keep the chains as short as possible while allowing for adjustment if needed. If adjustment isn’t feasible, explore alternative methods to safely shorten the chain.
  5. Consider Force Direction: Be mindful of the direction of force. If the chains might experience forceful movement, ensure that the fasteners and attachments are positioned correctly to withstand the forces involved.
  6. By following these guidelines, you can enhance the effectiveness and safety of your safety chains during towing. Always prioritize the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidelines provided in your trailer’s owner’s manual.

Coupler failure:

Encountering coupler failure while traveling with a trailer is a common issue, and it has been a recognized concern for decades. Safety chains play a crucial role in mitigating the consequences of primary coupler failure. In the event that any part of the primary coupling system fails, safety chains act as an additional layer of protection, preventing the trailer from disconnecting from the tow vehicle. Understanding the causes of coupler failure is essential for proactive maintenance and safe towing. Here are some common causes to be aware of:

  1. Wear and Tear: Over time, the coupler components can experience wear and tear due to regular use and exposure to the elements.
  2. Corrosion: Exposure to moisture and environmental factors can lead to corrosion of the coupler, weakening its structural integrity.
  3. Improper Maintenance: Neglecting regular inspection and maintenance of the coupler can contribute to failure. Lubrication and checks for wear are essential.
  4. Manufacturing Defects: Defects in the manufacturing process or materials used can result in coupler failure.
  5. Excessive Weight or Force: Loading the trailer beyond its capacity or subjecting it to excessive force during towing can contribute to coupler failure.
  6. Impact Damage: Accidents, collisions, or sudden impacts can damage the coupler, leading to potential failure.

Regular inspections, proper maintenance, and adherence to weight capacity guidelines can help minimize the risk of coupler failure and ensure a safer towing experience.

The causes you’ve mentioned highlight several scenarios that can lead to coupler failure or detachment during towing:

  • Incomplete Seating: If the coupler is not fully seated on the ball hitch, it can result in instability and potential detachment during travel.
  • Incorrect Ball Size: Using the wrong size ball for the coupler is a common issue. This mismatch can compromise the connection and lead to failure, especially if the coupler lock is not correctly fastened.
  • Unsecured Coupler Lock: If the coupler lock is not properly fastened down, it can allow the ball to disengage from the hitch, posing a significant safety risk.
  • Hitch Removal: If the hitch is not securely attached to the vehicle’s receiver, it can lead to instability and potential detachment while towing.
  • Trailer Draw Bar Detachment: The coupler on the trailer draw bar can become detached if not properly secured, leading to a complete separation between the trailer and the tow vehicle.
  • To prevent these issues, it’s crucial to ensure that the coupler is correctly seated on the ball, use the appropriate ball size, securely fasten the coupler lock, and properly attach the hitch to the vehicle’s receiver. Regular inspections and adherence to safety guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of coupler failure during towing.

How tight should trailer chains be? 

Maintaining the right tension in trailer chains is crucial for safe towing. Chains should neither be too tight nor too loose. If the chains are too loose, they might hit the road surface in the event of a coupler failure. It’s advisable to keep the chains in the middle range of tension, approximately 4-5 inches above the ground.

It’s important to note that all types of trailers and towed vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 4540 kg require couplings, hitches, and safety chains, and this is mandated up to a 10,000 lb rating. These trailers include utility, boat, camping, travel, and special purpose trailers, commonly pulled by passenger cars, light-duty commercial vehicles, light trucks, and multipurpose passenger vehicles.

For heavy-load trailers, it’s recommended to use Grade 43 chain, also known as High-Test Chain or G-4 chain. This type of chain is made of carbon steel, providing high tensile strength and wear resistance. Grade 43 is an excellent choice for applications such as towing and trucking heavy loads.

By adhering to these guidelines and using the appropriate chain for your specific towing needs, you can enhance the safety and reliability of your trailer setup.

What should be the strength of the chain?

It’s crucial to adhere to safety specifications and standards when it comes to safety chains for trailers. According to the specifications you’ve provided:

  1. Minimum Breaking Force Tensile Load: Each safety chain and its attachment means must meet the minimum breaking force tensile load. This ensures that the chains can withstand the forces they may encounter during towing.
  2. Labeling for Sale: Chains available for sale should be labeled with the trailer class and Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This labeling provides users with essential information about the chain’s suitability for specific trailers.
  3. Post-Manufacture Procedures: Any procedures conducted on safety chains after manufacturing should not lower their strength. This emphasizes the importance of maintaining the integrity of the chains throughout their lifespan.
  4. Trailer Classifications: Trailers are classified into four categories (Class 1, 2, 3, and 4), each with a corresponding minimum breaking force:
    • Class 1: Minimum breaking force of 2000 lbs.
    • Class 2: Minimum breaking force of 3500 lbs.
    • Class 3: Minimum breaking force of 5000 lbs.
    • Class 4: Minimum breaking force of 10000 lbs.

By following these specifications and guidelines, users can ensure that they are using safety chains that are appropriate for their specific trailer class and towing requirements, promoting a safer towing experience.

How do you install new trailer chains?

When installing trailer chains, it’s important to follow specific guidelines for proper attachment and use:

  1. Permanently Secured to Trailer Tongue: Two chains should be permanently secured to the trailer tongue, one on each side. Alternatively, a single chain can be used, but it must be permanently secured to each side of the trailer tongue, effectively acting as two chains.
  2. Attachment to Towing Vehicle: If the chains are distinct from the trailer tongue to the hitch system, they should be properly attached to the towing vehicle. This ensures a secure connection between the trailer and the tow vehicle.
  3. Equal Slack: The slack for each length of the chain should be equal when joined. This ensures balanced tension on both sides.
  4. Length and Slack during Turns: When the vehicles are in a straight line, the chains should be approximately the same length. There should be enough slack to allow for proper turning but not excessive slack. To prevent stressing or breaking the safety chains, they should be spanned under the trailer tongue when turning.
  5. Chain-Free Components: Any section of the ball, as well as any components connecting the ball to the hitch, should be free of chains. This ensures that the primary coupling components are not impeded by the safety chains.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure that the safety chains are properly installed, allowing for secure towing and providing an additional layer of protection in the event of a coupling failure.


 On a trailer, should I cross my safety chains?

Absolutely, crossing the safety chains is a recommended practice when attaching them to a vehicle. Crossing the chains can offer several advantages:

  1. Reduced Tension: Crossing the safety chains helps lower the likelihood of tension during towing. This is particularly beneficial when making turns, allowing the trailer to move more smoothly and reducing stress on the towing components.
  2. Improved Turning Capability: Crossed chains aid in turning the trailer more effectively. This is essential for navigating corners and curves, providing better control over the trailer’s movements.
  3. Enhanced Stability in Case of Separation: In the unfortunate event of a tow vehicle and trailer separation, crossed safety chains create a cradle effect. This means that if the hitch fails, the crossed chains can help catch and support the trailer tongue, preventing it from completely dropping to the ground.

Overall, crossing the safety chains is a safety measure that contributes to smoother towing, improved maneuverability, and enhanced stability in the event of a coupling failure. It’s an important practice to promote safe and secure towing experiences.

How many safety chains do you need on a trailer?

Indeed, proper safety chain rigging is paramount when towing a trailer. Connecting two safety chains to their designated chain retainers is a crucial step in ensuring the safety and control of your trailer. Neglecting to rig safety chains correctly can lead to severe consequences, including a loss of control over both the trailer and the tow vehicle. In the event of an uncoupling, it poses a significant risk of injury or worse.

By meticulously following safety guidelines, connecting the safety chains securely, and adhering to recommended towing practices, you significantly reduce the risk of accidents and enhance the overall safety of your towing experience. Always prioritize safety measures to safeguard yourself, your passengers, and others on the road.

 What’s the best way to protect my trailer chain from dragging?

It seems like you’re describing a product or tool called “Chain Up” designed to facilitate the secure and easy management of safety chains during towing. Here’s a breakdown of the information provided:

  1. Purpose of Chain Up: Chain Up is a tool designed to prevent safety chains from dragging on the ground during towing.
  2. Compatibility: Chain Up is versatile and can be used with weight distribution hitches, standard ball mount hitches, and adjustable ball mount hitches.
  3. Ball Size Compatibility: The inner circle of Chain Up is designed to fit a range of ball sizes, from 1 7/8 inches to 2 inches. If you have a 2 5/16-inch ball, you can use the large holes by clipping the material between them and the four small holes.
  4. Installation: Setting up Chain Up is a one-time process. Once installed, it remains in place until you’re ready to tow again. To install, place Chain Up on the coupler ball, feed the safety chains through the long oval holes, and attach them to the tow vehicle.
  5. Crossing the Chains: Crossing the safety chains is mentioned as a safe procedure during towing. This is a recommended practice for improved stability and control in the event of a coupling failure.
  6. Adjustment: Adjust the chains so that Chain Up lifts them off the ground when the trailer is hooked to the tow vehicle.

Overall, it sounds like Chain Up is a convenient tool to streamline the process of managing safety chains, ensuring a safer and more secure towing experience.


Absolutely, prioritizing safety is paramount when towing a trailer. Safety chains play a crucial role in ensuring a secure connection between the trailer and the tow vehicle, serving as a vital backup in case of any unforeseen issues.

It’s commendable that you’ve highlighted the importance of following guidelines for setting up safety chains properly. Clear understanding and adherence to these guidelines significantly contribute to a safer towing experience.

If any challenges or uncertainties arise during the setup process, seeking assistance from an expert is a wise decision. Their expertise can provide valuable insights and ensure that the safety measures are implemented correctly.

Wishing you safe and enjoyable journeys! If you have any more questions or need further assistance, feel free to reach out. Happy travels!

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