Towing heavy equipment around Michigan takes more than just the proper tow vehicle and trailer. Rather, without the right chain binders or tie downs, you’ll risk damage to your cargo, not to mention the other motorists.

However, traditional strap tie downs may not work, depending on the weight and length of your cargo. That’s when you may need to consider chains for your tie downs to keep your cargo secure. However, compared with straps, chains present a unique challenge in removing slack, requiring chain binders. Discover what they are, the kinds available, and what to consider when using them.

Defining Chain Binder

To begin, let’s discuss what a chain binder is and the role it plays. When you’re working with a strap tie down, you typically have a ratcheting system to tighten the strap so that there’s no slack. With a chain, you don’t have that same capability, but you still need to tighten it to keep your cargo secure.

A chain binder connects to the anchor point on your trailer and then to the chain itself. It then tightens to make the chain taught. As you can imagine, the chain binder has a tremendous amount of tension, so you have to exercise caution.

Kinds of Chain Binders

When it comes to securing your load with chains, you’ll have two primary types of binders available. These include the lever binder and the ratchet binder. Which you use is a matter of preference.

The lever binder also called a snap binder, is easier to use and maintain. However, it requires more strength and care from the operator to prevent injury while using it. The binder uses a lever to tighten the chain and lock itself in place after rotating 180 degrees around a hinge.

The ratchet binder is more akin to the ratcheting strap, being it uses small increments to increase tension. The downside to the ratcheting binder is that it is slower for loading and unloading, but the upside is that it’s physically easier and safer than the lever binder.

How Much Weight Do They Add?

When it comes to your load, you have to be conscious of the amount of weight you’re adding. This is especially important if you’re using a smaller tow vehicle. The exact weight will vary depending on your load and needs.

The smaller size binder adds less than 5 lbs. to your gross weight. Even if you need four of these around your rig, that’s only a net gain of 20 lbs. However, as you get larger, these binders can weigh in excess of 20 lbs. If you need six or eight of these, all of a sudden you’re adding more than 120 lbs.

This becomes an incredibly important consideration if your load is already nearing your trailer and tow vehicle’s capacity. Take the time to plan and factor in the weight of your chains and the binders before you purchase your rig to make sure you’re within safe operating limits.

Tie Down Rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, sets the minimum rules for safely hauling loads. The minimum number of tie downs required is both a function of the weight and length of your cargo, at least if your cargo is a vehicle of some kind. In those guidelines, it states that any vehicle with wheels or tracks that weighs over 10,000 lbs. must be secured at all four corners, at a minimum.

However, it also gives guidelines for length loads under 10,000 lbs. Loads under 5 feet that weigh less than 1,100 lbs. only require a single anchor point. However, if that weight exceeds 1,1000 lbs, you must secure the load at two anchor points. Loads between 5 feet and 10 feet in length always require at least two anchor points.

Chain Binder Maintenance

The most important aspect of maintaining your binders is to keep them properly lubricated. For lever binders, this includes the pivot and swivel points. For ratchet binders, you’ll want to lubricate both the screw threads and the prawl part. Additionally, store your binders in a dry location when they aren’t in use, such as in a chain carrier or other toolbox.

Whether you’re hauling large equipment for excavating or small loads for recreation, USA Trailer is your source for the best rigs. Stop by one of the seven showrooms throughout Michigan to talk with one of our trailer experts to find the perfect trailer for your needs.