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HAVE TRAILER, WILL TRAVEL! Part 11: Hitches!       DFO 812-11       13/7/79

       1. IT'S ALSO QUITE IMPORTANT THAT YOU HAVE A GOOD SOLID SECURE TRAILER HITCH! I could have a lot to say about that, but you can read about that in the old Letter, "Have Faith, Will Travel" (No. 150)--I said a good deal about that there. But don't go for any of these bumper hitches or cheap hitches! You're penny-wise & pound-foolish spending a lot of money on a fine trailer, & then trying to get by cheap on the hitch, upon which its life & your life depend!--Along with God's mercy!

       2. USE A GOOD VERY STRONG SOLID HITCH ATTACHED TO THE CAR FRAME by several welded or firmly bolted supports, & very solidly welded or bolted, or both, to the frame of your car--not just to the bumper & not just to the bumper frame--but to the undercarriage, the actual frame of the car itself. This is something usually 'way underneath, & the trailer hitch must be attached to this. Only professional trailer-hitch men know how to do it, so don't try to get by without having the professionals do it.

       3. THE MATERIALS MAY COST YOU $25, & THE WORK ANOTHER $25, around $50 all told, & some extra strong hitches cost as high as $100, but it's worth it to have a good solid hitch that you're not going to worry about coming undone, & your trailer going skidding off down the side of a mountain, making a left turn right in front of on-coming traffic & causing an accident, or killing or injuring somebody! Don't take a chance on a cheap hitch--get a good one!

       4. THIS IS USUALLY DONE AT SPECIAL TRAILER REPAIR PLACES, where they also have an auto mechanic who knows how to wire the electrical lights for the light-hitch of the trailer, so that your lights on the trailer will all work properly. We're talking now about trailer lights, & its electrical hitch to the car.

       5. WE'RE SPEAKING NOW ABOUT THE TRAILER SAFETY LIGHTS, not just talking about the inside lights, which usually also work from your car electrical system while travelling, or while still hitched up in overnight camping or temporary night stops. But don't try to run your trailer battery lights longer than that, or you will have a dead battery!

       6. IT IS REQUIRED BY LAW TO HAVE ALL THE TRAILER SAFETY LIGHTS WORKING WHEN ON THE ROAD: Parking lights, running lights, brake lights, emergency lights, turn-signal lights. All these various lighting systems must be working on the trailer the same as also on the car. Because your trailer is also a vehicle & on the road right behind your car, & it is obscuring your car lights--the driver behind you can't even see the car, much less its lights!

       7. SO THEREFORE YOU MUST HAVE ALL THE TRAILER SAFETY LIGHTS WORKING FOR NIGHTTIME DRIVING, including the running lights, tail lights, brake lights, directional signals, emergency flashers, etc. These are required by law for your own safety & the safety of others. They must be working properly, & must be wired properly. The trailer itself is already wired to its plug through a cord hanging from the trailer tongue. The trailer cord also comes equipped with a plug which is pretty standard in Europe.

       8. THE SOCKET IS USUALLY ON THE CAR, & that has about six different poles, including the grounding pole, & must be wired into the various car circuits, including one that is always hot from the battery for your inside trailer lights, one which goes to your parking lights, running lights & tail lights of the trailer while travelling (the running lights are on the sides of the trailer). Another one is wired into the brake light, so that when you step on your car brakes, it not only turns on the brake lights of the car, which can't be seen but it turns on the brake lights of the trailer as well. Also, two are wired into the directional signals, each directional signal, so that your trailer directional signals work on the rear of the trailer just like the car, so the on-coming traffic from the rear can tell which direction you're planning to go--turn signals.

       9. THEN MOST CARS IN EUROPE, MAYBE THE STATES TOO NOW, ARE EQUIPT WITH EMERGENCY FLASHERS. In other words, both tail-lights, the same as the brake lights, flash brightly intermittently, off & on, off & on, off & on, if you're parked or stalled in a dangerous position or right on a traffic lane or something. If you're broken down, you can turn on these emergency lights which will flash very brightly red on the rear of your trailer to show that you're in the way & you're parked where you should not be: "Please don't run over me, or into me!" These will be working on the same circuit with your car flashers.

       10. SO IT'S QUITE A COMPLICATED ELECTRICAL WIRING JOB which is going to cost you some money & usually the people who put on the trailer hitches also put on the electrical hitches, & the electrical socket in fact is usually a socket right in the hitch itself for the electrical connection, & they usually wire that to fit your trailer. You'd better be sure they do, or if your car circuits don't fit the trailer wiring, you may have the turn signals working when you step on the brake, & brake lights flashing during the turn signals, & all kinds of crazy things!

       11. SO THE POLES OF THE ELECTRICAL HITCH MUST BE WIRED so that the wiring of the car is consistent with the wiring of the trailer. The socket on the car hitch must be so wired that it fits the trailer-plug wiring. If when you plug it in, you find that the wrong lights work--the right lights work on the car, but the wrong ones on the trailer--you're going to have to get an auto-electrical mechanic who knows what he's doing to re-wire the connection of the car, so that the circuits jive!--It is usually merely a matter of changing the wires to the poles in the car socket. Your trailer man may do it free!

       12. THEY USUALLY DON'T HAVE TO RUN NEW WIRES TO THE CONNECTIONS with the lighting circuits of the car-hitch socket anymore, once they're attached & already run to the car-hitch socket. All they have to do is change the poles of the wires that are already run to the car-hitch socket, so that they coordinate with the same circuits on the trailers--so that brake lights work with brake lights, & turn signals with turn signals, & running lights with running lights, & flashers with flashers, etc. Savvy ?

       13. SO BE SURE THAT, ONCE YOUR TRAILER IS HOOKED UP, THAT THE ELECTRICAL CIRCUITS ARE COMPATIBLE & the proper trailer lights work with the proper car lights. The identical lights on the trailer should light with the identical lights on the car. If your don't know how to do it & you're not an electrician, be sure you get somebody who does know how, because it's worth whatever it costs in safety, & it may save your trailer, your life &/or someone else's life!

       14. IT'S REQUIRED BY LAW that you've got to have the trailer lights all functioning properly, or you're going to get stopped by an officer of the law--or worse yet, cause an accident! You must have properly functioning trailer lights! So be sure your car circuits are properly connected. Usually the trailer circuits are proper, & it's not those that have to be changed. It's the car circuits to the car-hitch socket which may not be wired to fit your trailer.

       15. ONE WAY OR THE OTHER, GET YOUR CAR WIRING CONSISTENT WITH YOUR TRAILER WIRING, so that the proper lights work with the proper signals etc.--Also so that you can have inside lights in the trailer when you stop temporarily at night or overnight. These can run off the car battery if you don't burn them too late & too long & too many. There usually aren't many, so you won't run the battery down too much if you're careful, & only do it one night between trips!

       16. USUALLY IF YOU'RE TRAVELLING, YOU'RE GOING TO WANT TO GET TO BED EARLY & you're just stopping overnight. You're not hooking up to local electricity & you're not parking permanently--you're not even disconnecting your car--but you're just making an overnight stop.--Then your inside lights of the trailer work on the car battery. This is convenient when you are on the road & travelling & you're only stopping momentarily or temporarily fixing meals at night after dark or whatever, you've got lights in the trailer.

       17. SOME TRAILER'S HAVE GAS LIGHTS TOO, but they're pretty hot, so I wouldn't advise it in Summer hot weather. They're very good for Wintertime, because they help heat the trailer. But gas lights are not for Summertime in trailers, let me warn you! Trailers are not hard to heat--in fact they are almost too easily overheated! In such a small space, if it's all closed up with the windows nearly all closed, even your body heat will usually generate enough heat to heat it, even in cool or cold weather!

       18. IT'S GOT TO GET PRETTY COLD BEFORE YOU EVEN HAVE TO TURN ON ANY KIND OF A HEATER, because of the small space, & body & cooking heat etc. So trailers are great energy savers, thank God! It doesn't take much to heat them. Try to avoid cooking too much in them in the Summertime, because it's pretty hot to cook much in a trailer, I warn you!

       19. YOU CAN GET SMALL AIR-CONDITIONERS, which are about 18-inches to 2-feet square & about 10-inches thick, that you can place on top of your trailer over one of the vents. You take off the vent & put this air-conditioner over the vent, & it runs by local electricity. Of course you must have 220 or 110 to run it, because any heavy electrical appliance like an air-conditioner takes a lotta juice! But if you're in a trailer space with a hook-up where you have plenty of electricity & it's very very hot & no cool breeze, horribly hot, as it is sometimes in a desert in Texas, Florida, Arizona, California or some of those places, you may wish you had an air-conditioner that worked on electricity when you're parked for any length of time!

       20. NORMALLY YOUR TRAILER DOESN'T NEED AIR-CONDITIONING, even in Summer, because if there's any kind of breeze at all, you catch it, because you're living outdoors, & you've got windows all the way around & can open'm all up & get the breeze to blow right through & keep you plenty comfortable & plenty cool. In the Wintertime of course you need to keep nearly all windows shut, but even then keep at least one window open for ventilation.

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