Don’t confuse towing a travel trailer with driving a car—they only look the same. If you’re preparing to tow a trailer, it’s time to brush up on the basics.
Two of the most important things to have when you tow are basic common sense and the ability to adjust your driving. In other words, when towing, everything you do while driving needs to be done at a lesser speed when compared to driving without a trailer.
When you turn, go much slower. When you accelerate, do it much easier. When you brake, allow yourself considerably more space to stop. And when you change lanes, allow room for your vehicle and the trailer.
Towing a travel trailer requires regular inspection of the equipment, especially the hitch, brake lights, and signals.
Beginner drivers are advised to find an empty parking lot and get used to maneuvering the tow vehicle-trailer combination. Jackknifing happens to the best out there though, so don’t give up after your first try.
Regardless of the shape and size of your trailer, there are several dos and don’ts of towing a travel trailer.
Always travel with a fill-size spare tire for your trailer as well as your tow vehicle.
A flat trailer tire without a spare equates to a massive headache, especially in a remote area. Carry two spare tires: one for the tow vehicle and one for the trailer.
Check the tire pressure
Proper tire inflation is essential when towing a trailer. It optimizes handling, fuel economy, and safety. Check tire inflation and tread wear often. Inflate the tires to the trailer manufacturer’s maximum recommended cold pressure. Heat is the tires’ enemy, and a properly inflated tire will run cooler. Every morning, check the tow vehicle and trailer tire pressure, as well as the trailer lights and brakes.
Adjust the side mirrors
Available in a custom or universal fit, towing mirrors increase visibility. This makes backing up and passing other vehicles easier and safer. Adjust the side mirrors in a way that the rear of the trailer can be readily seen. That ensures a clear view of what’s behind and beside the trailer when changing lanes or turning a corner. The lower mirrors are there to help you with judging curbs.
Do not overload the rear of the trailer as this will lead to excessive swaying and general instability. Distributing the weight so that at least 10 percent is on the hitch.
Position your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. As you begin looking over your shoulder, move the hand to the right to make the trailer turn right and left to make it go left. If the trailer jackknifes, straighten the trailer by pulling forward and start over again, at a slower speed.
The extra length can also cause problems on turns. Because the trailer does not follow the exact path as the vehicle on turns, remember to swing out wider when traveling around bends and corners.
The addition of a trailer adds weight and length to the tow vehicle. More weight means more time to speed up and more importantly, slow down and stop. Allow for extra time when changing lanes, stopping, and passing other vehicles.
To conserve fuel when towing, travel at moderate speeds. Faster speeds increase wind resistance, reduce fuel mileage, and place added strain on the tow vehicle and trailer.
DO – Good Towing Practice
- Gradually reduce speed
- Steady the steering wheel—sudden turns can cause more sway
DO NOT – NOT Good Towing Practice
- Do Not slam on the brake—jackknifing can occur
- Do Not tow a trailer that continues to sway
Speed was high
Weather was hot
Tires were thin
X marks the spot