By Jim Oaks

There are more and more enthusiasts hauling their vehicles to the trails, races, and shows. I’ve seen some rough looking trailers out there with very poor load securing. This article will provide some information on properly securing your rig to your trailer. We’ll discuss trailers in another story.

The whole point of securing your vehicle to the trailer is to keep it from coming off the trailer. Since most people drive forward on to the trailer they worry about the rig rolling backwards off the trailer or, worse yet, forward in to their tow rig. You have to also remember that you’re trailer will be going around bends and there will be side forces applied to the load.

Whether you choose to use chains or straps, there’s some basic principals that apply to all loads:

Balance – Load balance is important. Have a minimum of 10 percent of the total weight on the trailer’s tongue or tow rig’s hitch. This is the secret for a good, straight pull. For example, if your trailer and cargo weigh 6,000 pounds total, then at least 600 of that should be at the trailer’s tongue. Generally speaking, if you drive your rig onto the trailer, it should be just about centered over both axles. The engine weight up front will most likely offset the equal balance and put enough weight forward. It may take a couple of tries to figure out the trailer handling and how level the tow rig sits. Once the location is figured out, be sure to mark the spot for future reference, in case you forget it.

My standard cab and extended cab Ranger’s each have a different point that they sit on the trailer. I know when I have the desired amount of weight on the rear of my F-150 (tow rig) because the rear will sag down a little.

Having to much or to little weight on the tongue can dramatically effect how your tow vehicle handles. To much tongue weight can also damage the hitch.

Getting the weight balanced is very important. If you have the weight to far back on the trailer it can actually cause you to lose control. I seen a crash where a guy was pulling a boat on a trailer too small for the boat that resulted in to much weight at the rear of the trailer and not enough tongue weight. The driver stopped and fueled up the tanks in the boat and got back on the highway. He got about a 1/2 mile down the road and hit a dip. The boat caused the rear end of the truck to lift up and then abruptly spin around and jackknife from the boats weight. The boat came off the trailer and passed the truck going down the road.

Securing Your Vehicle – You can use chains and chain binders or webbing with ratchet straps to secure your rig to the trailer. Just be sure that whatever you use, it is up to the job. A 4,000-pound vehicle can exert a lot more than 4,000 pounds of energy in an emergency stopping situation. Each tie-down should have at least a 10,000-pound rating. If they’re properly sized for the job, chains last a very long time, and weather has little effect on them. Any damage can be spotted easily. The downfall is that chains are heavy and bulky, and in time, they’ll acquire a coat of rust. Straps made of polyester webbing are lightweight, easy to handle, and take up very little storage space. They are more prone to wear from sunlight, weather conditions, and abrasion, but often, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Vehicles must be tied down in both the front and rear, in such a manner to prevent any front-to-rear or side-to-side movement. Crossing the tie-downs from one side to the other is the preferred method if you can do it without causing any unequal pull or rubbing on any parts. It doesn’t do any good to use a 10,000-pound tie-down strap if your tie-down trailer connection is only good for 5,000. Connect your vehicle to the axlehousing or lower suspension member. You do not want to use the frame and pull down on the suspension. Even when you think the straps are super-tight, there will still be some movement, which puts a shock loading on the tie-down components. You’ll have a lot less suspension movement when you trailer rather than drive, because the trailer suspension takes the brunt of the road shock.

Tie Downs 101 at Easter Jeep Safari, Moab Utah YouTube play

Watch This Video About Tie-Downs


Company’s like ‘Mac’s Tie Downs’ and ‘Polyperformance’ offer kits that include axle straps, ratchet straps, and a bag to carry them in.

Mac’s Tie Downs Kit Polyperformance Kit



Ratchet Strap with Snap Hook  Axle Strap

Above is a ratchet strap with a snap hook. Next to it is an axle strap. Notice that a good axle strap has a protective sleeve on it since it’s going to be wrapped around something. This will prevent the strap from damage.

Make sure your straps are rated for at least 10,000 pounds.

Inspection: Always inspect straps prior to each use. Webbing that is cut, frayed or abraded should be replaced immediately. Never use any oils, solvents, acids, etc. on the webbing itself. When necessary only lube the mechanical workings of a ratchet or cam buckle with a lightweight lube such as WD-40.

Exposure to Sunlight: Sunlight is a killer for straps. When not in use, don’t leave your straps laying around on the deck of your trailer in the sunlight. Ideally, store them in a cool dry location. This will greatly prolong the life of your straps.

Routing: Be careful of how your straps are routed. Avoid sharp edges or abrasive surfaces whenever possible. If this cannot be done, make sure you add some protection between the webbing and the surface in question. Keep in mind that Mac’s offers straps with sleeve protector already in place.

It’s very tempting to use a strap with a flat hook in a stake pocket. The problem is when you’re pulling back to a corner and causing the strap to have tension on it like shown above. The corner of the steak pocket will ultimately cause a tear in the edge of the strap.

The straps on the front of my rig actually run around the square tubing on the front of my trailer. The tubing has round edges so there isn’t any ‘corners’ for the strap to rub on and cause it to get cut. I use two straps on the front of my Ranger and both are attached to the front axle at both ends.

Cleaning your Straps: Warm, soapy water and a good scrub brush is the best method. Once the cleaning is complete, hang the straps up to air dry. Avoid cleansers with bleach or acid as these will weaken the webbing.

Securing Points:

Bolt On D-Ring Weld On D-Ring

If your trailer doesn’t have d-rings (mounting rings) then you’ll probably need to add some. You can purchase D-rings that can either be welded on or bolted on. Make sure you’re getting a good heavy duty D-ring. It should be rated for around 16,000 lbs.


The Jeep above shows a proper ‘X’ pattern when securing a vehicle. Not only will this method prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards, but the cross (‘X’) pattern will also prevent the front from wanting to slide sideways going around a bend.

The same vehicle is using chains in the rear. Since there is no binders, the only way they’ll be able to tighten this up is by pulling it forward with the ratchet straps in the front.

This cross pattern in the rear is better. It uses axle straps over the axle tubes with a ratchet strap with snap hooks going from the axle straps to the D-rings on the trailer. These loose strap ends should be tied up so they don’t drag or flap around in the wind and get chaffed.

Some people feel that they need to secure the vehicle a bit more because they think the body is going to flop around due to the flexy suspension. This rig is shown with axle staps holding the vehicle. Two more straps go to the front bumper and out to the edge of the trailer. These two straps help keep the vehicle from bouncing around on the suspension as well as apply some angled force to keep it from sliding sideways on the deck.

Ranger Specific:

Below is a blurry picture of a strap around the beam style front axle on a Ranger. This is a bad idea because the edges of the axle beam WILL cut the strap. If you want to run something around the axle beam to secure the front, it should be a chain instead of a strap.

I use a flat hook as shown below on my Rangers front axle beam. I just hook it up on the bottom of the axle beam and and pull it down tight. I use two separate straps on the front axle beam.

Losing Your Load:

Using the proper amount of straps/chains and checking to ensure their tight and that you’re using sound securing points will prevent accidents like these from occurring:


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