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What is a Utility Trailer?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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While the term utility trailer can refer to any number of different types of trailer, in general, it refers to a trailer that is an unpowered vehicle pulled or towed by a powered vehicle such as a car or truck. The trailer has wheels and can be built as a flat-bed open-air trailer or as an enclosed trailer with shelving units or specialty equipment built in. This type of trailer is meant to haul some sort of equipment, either for professional or recreational use.

A utility trailer attaches to a powered vehicle via a hitch. There are numerous types of hitches, but the most common is the two inch (5 cm) ball hitch. Typically, the trailer should be attached to a vehicle with enough towing capacity to handle a significant weight load; hence, it is most common to spot a trailer attached to some form of truck. In the United States, all roadworthy trailers must have functioning brake lights and appropriate license plates.

Utility trailers come in a variety of styles, lengths, widths, and weight capacities. Many recreational motorsports riders use utility trailers to haul their motorcycles, watercraft, or ATVs. These utility trailers are most often single axle units with two wheels, but larger trailers might come in a two-axle version with four or more wheels to support more weight and to balance out the load. Some trailers are enclosed to protect the items being hauled from weather, debris, and theft.

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Most utility trailers do not come with an active braking system, and instead speed up and slow down in relation to the towing vehicle. Trailers past a certain weight and length, however, must have a braking system to work in coordination with the towing vehicle. 18-wheeler tractor trailers are an example of a trailer with a built-in braking system.

Attaching a utility trailer to your vehicle will affect the stability and handling of the entire vehicle. Because the trailer itself adds extra weight to the vehicle as a whole -- in addition to whatever is being hauled -- braking distance of your vehicle will be increased significantly. In addition, the handling of your vehicle will be affected by wind, snow, and rain. You will have to take corners slower as well, to prevent the trailer from swinging too far in either direction, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Take these factors into consideration before driving your trailer. Backing up your vehicle will also be a new challenge, since turning a trailer can be difficult and will take some practice. Be sure to allow extra room in turns and ensure that you have clear visibility in your rear view mirrors while towing a trailer.

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