The Ott Planetarium and Physics Department Observatory Trailer
Before coming to see Dr. Palen about using the trailer, please do the following:
Once you have determined that you are a reasonable risk for taking out our totally sweet little trailer, come see Dr. Palen, and get:
- Check that you are certified to drive for WSU. (Have you seen the driving video?)
- Check your vehicle. If you don't have a tow vehicle, motor pool has Ford Expeditions they will rent you that have tow packages.
- Check your hitch. The trailer uses a 2" ball hitch.
- Check your wiring. The trailer has a 4-way system (this is the flat type). If you have a round hookup on your rig, you'll need an adapter. We will acquire a full set of adapters eventually, but haven't done it yet.
- Check your tow capacity. The trailer's GVWR is 2990 lb. A fully loaded trailer can easily weight at least two tons.
- Check your trailer brake controller---is it working correctly?
- Check your skill set. This is a bumper-pull trailer, currently parked in a pretty tight spot. Do you
- know how to hitch up a trailer, including the safety chains and the wiring?
- know how to adjust your turning radius to accommodate a bumper pull?
- know how to back up a bumper pull trailer? (This is infernally tricky. If you don't think so, then you don't know enough about trailers to borrow this one.)
- know how to adjust the trailer brakes? (Especially in an emergency? For a convincing story about why this is important, stop by and see Dr. Palen when you have about half an hour...)
- The last thing you do before you come to get the trailer is to check your truck's mileage. We are trying to keep track of the number of miles on the trailer, and the first-blush way to do this is to keep track of how many miles you put on your truck while driving it.
Now you are ready to borrow the trailer! It's parked near the observatory on WSU campus. Parking services expects to see it here, but nowhere else on campus, so make a mental note so you can be sure to bring it back to the same spot. If the trailer fails any of the following safety checks, do not go on. Return to Dr. Palen for an executive decision.
- A little quiz about trailer driving.
- The trailer registration.
- The trailer keys.
- The owner's manual.
First, run your visual safety check.
Second, hitch up the trailer.
- Check the tires---inflation, tread, round-ness, etc. While we check the trailer daily, when we walk past it, we might miss something, or some terrible tragedy might have happened in between times.
- Check the coupler (the part that goes over the ball on your hitch). Are all the parts in good shape? Can you close and open the coupler easily?
- Check the wiring of the plug that attaches to the truck. Everything good there?
- Walk around the trailer, and generally check it out. Are the doors shut tightly? Is there any damage anywhere? Are the lights still all in one piece?
Third, perform your functional safety check.
- Double check to make sure that the coupler is higher than your hitch. This is VERY important! Stop a moment, and imagine what will happen if you back your truck into the coupler, and push the trailer off the stand, and set it rolling. Ok. Now check AGAIN that the coupler is higher than your hitch.
- Back up the trailer so your hitch is under the coupler. This is MUCH easier with someone else to give you the 'c'mon-backs'. Otherwise, you need to keep stopping, getting out, running back and looking, getting back in the truck, moving two inches left, and then trying again.
- Use the crank to drop the coupler onto the hitch, and drop the lever to fasten the coupler to the ball. Slip the pin through the holes to keep the lever from popping up.
- Crank the trailer stand as far up as it will go. This is especially important here in Utah, where we have extreme road crowning that makes for very deep gutters along the side of the road.
- Hook up the safety chains by crossing them to form an 'X', and attaching them to the holes on your hitch.
- Plug in the brake lights.
- Remove the chocks from the wheels, and pick up the board from under the trailer stand. Toss them in the back of your truck, in case you need to unhitch the trailer someplace else.
- Slowly pull the trailer out of its spot by the observatory.
Now, you are ready to load and go! Park conveniently close to your load, drop the ramp, load up and go. Have fun, and drive safely!
- As you pull out of the spot, listen for extraordinary noises. If you hear one, STOP, and figure out what's up with that.
- Check that the brakes are functional. First, stop. If you can, that's good. Then drive forward slowly, and engage the trailer brakes manually from the control. You should feel a drag on your vehicle. Adjust your brake controller if necessary.
- Make sure the lights work. Put the truck in park, and have your helper stand behind the trailer while you
- Turn on the headlights. The tail lights should illuminate.
- Turn off the headlights, and check each turn signal.
- Push on the brakes to make sure the brake lights light up.
When you return the trailer...
- Park it in the same spot from which you got it. The easiest way to make sure you can do this is to wait until afternoon or evening (on a school day) to bring it back.
- Unhitch the trailer by following the above instructions in reverse.
- Be sure to chock the wheels, and to put the board under the trailer stand.
- Report the mileage and any problems to Dr. Palen when you return the keys, registration, etc. to her.