By: Nate Hamilton
As a huge fan of action sports, it’s no surprise that I started drifting in amateur competitions in 2010 and jumped up to Formula Drift in 2013. I currently compete in the Formula Drift Pro Championship in a Nissan S13 on Falken RT615K tires.
Formula Drift is amazing. In part, what makes it such a great experience is that it affords competitors like myself the opportunity to travel all over the country, visiting great tracks and meeting the local fans. I’ve driven from the West Coast to the East Coast and back again, all while towing my Nissan with a Chevy Silverado and a Gooseneck trailer – using Falken WILDPEAK H/T tires, of course.
It’s a pretty common towing setup for race cars, and not so different than towing boats and jet skis to the lake or river on the weekend. In fact, we put more than 35,000 miles on our rig last year alone! Having towed so frequently, we’ve come up with some tips that should keep your towing trips rolling along smoothly:
Truck maintenance – I like to change the truck’s oil before every trip. We also inspect the air and fuel filters. With potentially thousands of miles to drive and dozens of fill-ups, it’s very common for the fuel filter to collect debris. This could abruptly end a trip and have you looking for the closest parts store, which may or may not be open at the time it’s needed most.
Properly set tire pressures – You’ll want to check tire pressure on both your vehicle and trailer before and during the journey. Our team checks tires at every gas fill-up. No one wants to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire! If the tires on the truck or trailer are underinflated, you could end up with handling problems, premature wear, overheating and eventually, a blowout.
You should also adjust tire pressures in accordance with the trailer’s load. For example, if one side of the rig is loaded with more weight than the other, the heavier side will heat the trailer tires, causing changes in pressure. This calls for balancing the tire pressures around the time of your first fill-up. This will allow the tires to heat and cool correctly as you continue traveling.
Make sure your trailer is up to the challenge – When you have a lot of miles to cover, the wheel bearings on your trailer are going to work really hard. Once the bearing loses its grease, it’s going to get very hot and eventually let go, leaving you stranded. We recommend checking and repacking the wheel bearings annually, at least, and more frequently if you are logging a lot of miles.
And remember to check on the trailer hitch! It may be easy to set it and forget it, but pay attention to the hitch, sway bars and other equipment that connect the trailer to your vehicle. Make sure all the lights are working and that the wiring is properly connected – not touching the road, but loose enough to make turns without disconnecting or damaging the wiring.
Torque down the trailer wheels – If the wheels are not properly torqued down and you find yourself running over huge pot holes on the highway, you might end up with a wobbly wheel that could eventually break free from the trailer.
Stop for gas at a quarter of a tank – Don’t wait until your fuel light illuminates to locate a gas station in an unfamiliar city. Our team makes it a priority to fill up once we hit a quarter of a tank. This prevents unnecessary stress when trying to get to the track on time.
Know when to slow down – Driving through unfamiliar cities and varying weather conditions can be tricky. I have experienced everything from sand storms to thunder and lightning. When conditions get challenging, remember to take it slow. It’s better to lose some travel time than to compromise safety.
Get out and move around – Long road trips can take a toll on you. Sitting for hours can be uncomfortable. I like to get out and skate around on my Falken signature skateboard!
Happy towing! We’ll see you at a Formula Drift event soon.