How to Tow Safely

In an earlier post, we discussed ways to simplify RV trailer towing from determining towing capacity to tongue weight.

Just as it is your responsibility to know the capacity of your vehicle, trailer, and towing system and making decisions based on that knowledge, it is equally your responsibility to make wise decisions on the road. This starts by loading your trailer the right way.

The key is to make sure your trailer has the right amount of tongue weight. This is typically between 10 and 15 percent of the gross trailer weight. The load should also be centered evenly side to side and the center of gravity kept as low as possible.

With the right equipment, some practice and a healthy amount of confidence, towing can be almost as easy as regular driving. Pictured above fifth wheel trailer and tow vehicle parked at Cajun Palms RV Resort in Cajun Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the right equipment, some practice and a healthy amount of confidence, towing can be almost as easy as regular driving. Pictured above fifth wheel trailer and tow vehicle parked at Cajun Palms RV Resort in Cajun Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When packing your trailer, make sure all items are properly secured. Loose items can cause damage to other items, to your trailer or to your vehicle and can be very dangerous if they fall out along the road. Contain small items within a bag or tote and tie down large items with quality cargo straps. A little extra time spent strategically packing will pay off and could save you a lot more time and money.

The leading cause of accidents both in towing and in normal driving situations is driver error, not faulty equipment. Some of the main reasons people get into accidents is because they are not paying attention, they are driving too fast, they are tailgating the person in front of them and so on.

The following are some simple safety rules and precautions to help promote safe driving while towing a trailer:

Hitch up your trailer correctly. Make sure you have followed the proper procedures for hooking up your trailer. Double check all connections, including the coupler and wiring, and make sure your safety chains are crossed under the trailer tongue and securely connected.

Allow ample stopping distance. You need to increase your following distance when towing a trailer. It takes longer to stop your towing rig than your tow vehicle alone. Also, you should avoid sudden acceleration, braking, and maneuvering.

Source: Curt Manufacturing

Source: Curt Manufacturing

Anticipate problems. Since it takes longer to accelerate, stop, change lanes, and turn with a trailer, look ahead farther than you normally would. You can see many problems developing a long way off. Observe traffic flow and be ready to react.

Keep an eye out for trailer sway. Crosswinds, large trucks, downhill grades, and high speeds can all lead to trailer sway. If you are not careful, your trailer can start swinging back and forth like a pendulum. The best way to address this problem is with a sway control unit. If you experience trailer sway, you can also take your foot off the gas and manually apply the trailer brakes with the brake control. Press the button once and your trailer should align with your tow vehicle.

Be extra careful when changing lanes. Changing lanes is a challenge, especially when towing. With a trailer, your blind spots increase, and you cannot accelerate as quickly. You should consider installing tow mirrors to increase your view.

Be patient when passing other vehicles. You have to allow more distance when passing another vehicle. Passing on a two-lane road should almost never happen.

No matter how comfortable you may become with towing, the fact is that the combination of your vehicle and trailer weighs more and does not maneuver or stop as easily as your vehicle alone. Pictured above boondocking near Quartzsite, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter how comfortable you may become with towing, the fact is that the combination of your vehicle and trailer weighs more and does not maneuver or stop as easily as your vehicle alone. Pictured above boondocking near Quartzsite, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop gradually whenever possible. Towing a trailer requires extra work out of your brakes. Keep your vehicle and trailer brakes maintained and your brake control properly adjusted.

Do not pull in where you cannot see out. It is easy to get stuck with a trailer. You might pull into a small parking lot and have to perform a complicated backup maneuver to get out. Parking farther away may be a better option.

Be safe with a trailer lock. Trailer theft is a serious problem. A trailer left unattended can easily be uncoupled and stolen while you are away. Use a coupler lock when towing, as it not only keeps your coupler secure but also deters theft.

With the right equipment, some practice and a healthy amount of confidence, towing can be almost as easy as regular driving. Yet safety should always be one of your highest priorities when towing an RV trailer. No matter how comfortable you may become with towing, the fact is that the combination of your vehicle and trailer weighs more and does not maneuver or stop as easily as your vehicle alone.

Source: Curt Manufacturing

Source: Curt Manufacturing

Source: Curt Manufacturing

Worth Pondering…

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.

—Albert Einstein

Leave a Reply