Chains Crossed or Not: Why Do You Cross Chains On a Trailer?

Just like politics, some people vote the way their fathers and grandfathers voted. Their opinions are good enough for them. The same concept applies to trailer chains. They cross them because their grandfathers and fathers crossed them, no questions asked.

While some mechanics say you do not need to cross your chains anymore, it still makes sense to do so. A crossed set of security chains provides a cradle for the trailer hitch if it ever gets unhooked from your tow vehicle while in motion.

To learn more about this topic and why you should cross your trailer security chains, just continue to read our article. It has the information on why you should do it. It is a matter of protecting your trailer from possible damage.

Are Trailer Chains Crossed Or Not?


To some people, the occurrence of a trailer becoming unhooked from the tow vehicle is so rare that they compare it to wearing a helmet when playing a card game. They feel that safety chains are not needed anymore.

But to play it safe and be on the side of the law, it is best to cross your chains. This action provides a simple and free safety net just in case a rare event happens to you.

If a trailer becomes unhooked with no crossed safety chains, chances are the hitch will embed itself into the ground and pole vault the trailer in some fashion.

That is the reason you cross those safety chains. You are providing a secondary safety net to make sure nothing gets damaged while you are in motion.

Erring on the side of caution is the best way to go here as you never know when the rare event takes place. Some people do not think this is necessary anymore due to the upgrades in towing technology and hitch improvements.

They think it is a waste of time to cross chains and may not do so. However, it only takes a second or two to cross those chains so nothing is lost

Why do You Cross Chains On a Trailer?


We have given you the main reason why people cross their safety chains. A tow truck website has provided a couple of additional good reasons why you should do this as well. It comes from their experience when chain towing.

The first reason is that the crossed chains help prevent any sway and having the trailer or vehicle from straying into the oncoming traffic. Especially if the trailer does become unhooked from the tow vehicle's trailer ball.

The second reason is that it helps with turning. The crossed chains will have short slack making it harder for them to contact the ground and cause an issue while you are turning one way or the other.

You may have better control over your trailer while turning as well. The third reason is that securing the safety chains to the most logical attachment point is easier.

But you be the judge of these reasons. The website said that it did not matter which side of the tow bar you crossed those chains but we would disagree. The underside is the best side and will provide a safety cradle in case the unthinkable happens and the trailer becomes unhooked from the tow vehicle.

Is It a Law To Cross Safety Chains


Someone mentioned in one discussion forum that there may be a law somewhere regulating the use of safety chains. They are partially right. There are laws on the books that tell you that when you are towing a trailer, except a 5th wheel, you need safety chains attached.

However, those laws do not touch on if those chains need t be crossed or not. In other words, there is no law stating that you need to cross those chains. You are only required to have proper safety chains and have them attached to proper loops, etc.

We checked some Canadian provinces and only one did not state that you had to have the chains crossed. The other resource links either did not work or went to the wrong page in their trailer laws.

The word is that in both Canada and America, you are not required to cross your safety chains. But in keeping with safe towing, when you cross the chains, make sure you have enough slack for turning.

Too little slack will cause you problems especially when you are making a very sharp turn and when you are backing up. You will want to double-check the slack before you get started and know your turning radius to make sure you have the proper amount.

Why You Shouldn't Cross Chains on a Trailer?


There is no real reason to not cross your chains except for the situation where the chains are connected at the same central point. When the chains start at the same location on the trailer tongue, no matter what you do, they won’t cross.

The X or crossing point in this situation is not under the ball where it would be in normal circumstances. That means that you would not get the cradle effect unless you double crossed them at another point in the hook up.

Then if you double cross them, you may lose all the slack you would need for turning and backing up. This means that before you blindly follow everyone else, check your set up first. Make sure that crossing the chains will provide you with that cradle. If it doesn’t, then it won’t matter if you cross them or not.

If you want to switch to cables instead of chains to save on weight or storage space, etc., think again. Some states will not allow that replacement strategy even though the cables are as strong as the chains.

There are also other inventions people have come up with that replace chains. However, their story is the same as the cables. If they are not allowed by law, then you cannot use those alternatives.

How To Keep Trailer Chains From Dragging


The only way to keep trailer chains from dragging is to watch the amount of slack you have as well as the length of the chain. Some safety chains may be too long for certain applications and when that happens, they will drag on the ground.

You can shorten those chains by removing links or placing a link not at the end of the chain into the attachment area. This is okay but again, too much chain is not always a good idea.

The other option is to adjust the slack. This is done by choosing a link that will keep the chain elevated at all times without losing the right amount of slack. The slack is important as you have to consider the turns you will be making.

Too little slack and you are going to have problems making those turns or even backing up. Too much slack is okay for turns but it means that you will be dragging your chains throughout your vacation.

It is always best to figure out how much slack you will need for turns, etc., and then buy a chain at that length. It is okay to have a couple of spare links on each end just in case your calculations were a bit off.

How do You Cross Safety Chains?


Some people say you should cross them over the tow bar or hitch. However, that option does not provide the cradle you would need if the trailer became unhitched. It may still prevent the hitch from hitting the ground but do not count on it.

The best way to cross those chains would be underneath the ball on the tow vehicle. That way you have that safety cradle ready for action. It is better to have a secondary safety net set up that way you can protect your trailer and tow vehicle from extra damage.

The key to crossing the chains is to make sure they do not interfere with the duties of other safety equipment like brakes, lights, and so on. Place the chains in a manner that will not damage those wires or connectors, etc.

This includes when the chain tightens up during a turn. You will want those chains as far out of the way as possible without losing that safety net. So watch your wires and how you route everything to make sure all equipment is safe.

Some Final Words

It is best to always cross your chains, even though the law does not make that action mandatory. The only time you should not cross the chains is when your towing situation makes it moot to do so.

The key to crossing the chains would be to make sure you have the proper amount of slack and that the crossed chains do not interfere with other safety equipment.

The other key is to make sure those chains will meet the requirements of the law and be strong enough to hold the weight of the tongue.

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