Safety Chains vs Safety Cables

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Safety Chains vs Safety Cables

When it comes to towing your trailer, we’re always trying to impress the idea that safety is your first and top priority. Towing your boat trailer with poor safety measures is a risk that most boat owners avoid like the plague. Simple steps to follow make hitching up and unhitching your trailer a breeze. But if you forget one little step, like not hitching the ball completely, a smooth ride to the water can be dangerous and costly if you hit one little bump to uncouple your trailer and cause damage to your tow vehicle, your trailer, your boat - and possibly other vehicles and people on the road.

Having the proper safety mechanism in place can save you the headache, heartache, and cost of damage caused by unplanned issues arising from towing your trailer. Choosing an accurate and sturdy ball and hitch are very important. But you should never overlook the backup safety precaution of having safety chains or safety cables to prevent an accident in the event of an unforeseen issue.

Most states legally require the use of safety chains or cables by boat trailer owners, so finding the proper product to adequately protect yourself and others on the road is extremely important.

Safety chains and cables are designed to provide safety in the event your trailer is uncoupled accidentally and keeps your tow vehicle tethered to the trailer allowing you to safely bring both to a stop.

Safety Chains

Safety chains are an old and reliable solution to keeping your trailer safe from unexpected issues. Strong, durable and built to withstand not only the marine environment but also any accidental uncoupling by your hitch and ball. Safety chains are a cost-effective tool that will give most boat trailer owners peace of mind. Safety chains come in capacities to handle from 2,000 lbs all the way up to 26,000+ lbs.

Safety Cables

Safety cables are a newer idea with flexibility, durability, and cost as primary factors. They are usually nylon coated to prevent rust and deterioration from the marine environment. Safety cables are also preferred to keep down road noise versus metal chains. Cables are also a bit easier to handle, taking up much less space due to coiling. Safety cables come in capacities to handle from 2,000 lbs up to 7,500 lbs.

Which Should You Choose?

The debate rages on about which is a better choice for your trailer safety, safety chains versus safety cables. As a premier boat trailer manufacturer, Pacific Trailers recommends safety chains over safety cables in almost every application.

Safety Chains Pros

  • Durable, strong, highest load limits
  • Easy to detect wear and tear or any possible manufacturing defect
  • Shows signs of weathering and rust very obviously on the outside
  • Can support your trailer if it comes uncoupled without letting it touch the road/ground (if attached in a crossed pattern under coupler)

Safety Chains Cons

  • Heavy and can be hard to store and attach
  • Loud and bangs around during travel

Safety Cables Pros

  • The coiled design takes up less space
  • Nylon coating helps prevent rust and damage
  • Multiple cable strands prevent a simple fracture or single point of failure

Safety Cables Cons

  • Nylon sheath hides any water damage or rust
  • Splintered cable strands can poke through the nylon and make handling a challenge. NOTE: Pacific Trailers has worked with our manufacturer to improve the design to prevent this. 
  • Load limits are typically much less than chains
  • Can prevent the trailer from being abandoned, but won’t stop from hitting the road or tow vehicle

Important Safety Chain Tips

If you make the choice to use safety chains instead of safety cables, be sure you attach them the right way. By crossing the chains underneath the coupler as you attach them to your tow vehicle, you will create a safe cradle. This can prevent the trailer and your tow vehicle from being damaged in the event your trailer becomes uncoupled. A simple crisscross of your safety chains can keep your trailer suspended until you can safely slow down and completely stop your vehicle.


  • Gary Kramer

    I need to replace the 48 inch safety chain on my trailer for an inflatable boat used in saltwater. Most galvanized chains quickly rust. Do you have options? Thank you. I’d like safety snaps, not hooks as I tow a long way

  • Tea Marrows

    “Safety Cables Cons: Can prevent the trailer from being abandoned, but won’t stop from hitting … tow vehicle.”

    Neither will chains. Why isn’t that listed under the “Safety Chains Cons” category?

  • LB

    I am new to this, but won’t cables if crossed also provide a cradle? I must be missing something.

  • William Buttenfield

    Just replaced safety cables on my boat with chains, forgot to unhook and they broke when I pulled away, boat never moved. Can you say lawsuit if someone gets in an accident with cables? I now use chains!!!

  • Tom Drews

    Curious that you recommend chains over cables for almost all applications, but only sell cables… I would like to replace the cables on my Pacific Trailer with chains for most of the reasons outlined, and would like to get them from you, rated for the trailer, etc… Thanks!

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