An Introduction to Towing Cable Safety

A tow cable or chain is an essential component of your towing gear, but not all tow sets are made equally. Just as you carefully selected your hitch and draw bar or ball mount and locking pin gear, you also want to ensure that you have the right towing cable to lessen the chances of towing setup failures and other safety concerns. If the tow vehicle’s hitch became disconnected somehow, the safety cable in your towing setup could be your saving grace, but only if you have chosen wisely and take all the safety specs into account when making your purchasing decision. To learn more about towing cable safety details, read on.

What is the Minimum Towing Cable Capacity Required?

The capacity of your tow cable depends on the amount of weight you will typically be towing. It is therefore determined by your towing activities. Just as your lead vehicle and your hitch setup are designed to handle a certain load, tow cables are as well. That being said, the minimum requirement for tow cable capacity should be greater than your "gross trailer weight" (GTW), which is the weight of a loaded trailer or the weight of the types of vehicles you will be towing.

What Are the Classes of Towing Cables?

Just as trailer hitches are divided into weight classes, towing safety cables are as well. There are five weight classes designated for each type of gear. They are as follows:
* Class I: Light hauls up to a total of 2,000 lbs.
* Class II: Light loads up to 3,500 lbs.
* Class III: Larger hauls up to a total of 5,000 lbs.
* Classes IV & V: Large loads up to 10,000 lbs.

Are Class IV and V Cables the Same?

While the weight capacity of class IV and V towing safety cables is the same, there is a distinction in trailer hitch gear in these two classes. The hitches in class IV can handle a maximum tongue weight of 2,000 lbs., while those in class V can handle 1,200 lbs. or more. Class V and IV hitches are often designed to be weight distribution setups as well in order to ensure excess weight from heavy hauls is not placed on the more vulnerable components of your gear setup. Because tow safety cables are only a backup mechanism and are not designed to be the primary towing mechanism, cables in classes IV and V are both able to handle the required 10,000 lbs. of weight for which their corresponding hitches are also designed. However, because hitches are designed in five classes, for continuity, tow cables are too.

Are Towing Cables Required by Law?

In most states, towing safety cables are required by law, although the term "safety cables" is sometimes used to describe both tow cable and tow chain setups. While your towing gear is designed to secure the trailer or towed vehicle to the lead vehicle via a fairly secure hitch and ball and pin mechanism, there are things that can go wrong during the tow. The towing cable is there as a safety precaution. It is designed to prevent the towed vehicle from detaching completely from the lead vehicle and spinning out of control if any part of the hitch gear fails.

Are Towing Chains Safe?

If properly selected according to your GWT requirements and appropriately secured to your hitch gear, then yes, towing chains are safe. They are in fact commonly used on tow trucks and other lead vehicles for hauling passenger vehicles. Just as special attention must be paid to the GTW of tow cables, it must also be a primary concern when choosing the appropriate tow chains.

A tow cable or chain is your safety backup when hauling any weight of load. The gross trailer weight (GTW) requirements of your common towing activities determine the class of hitch gear you need as well as the towing safety cable or chain you require. Of course, you should also take into consideration your maximum potential GTW when choosing safety cables. This may prevent the need for purchasing special cables or chains should you need to haul a load in excess of your typical jobs.