Whether you are connecting a camping trailer for a weekend getaway, hauling your boat behind your truck, or hitching a trailer to carry an ATV, safe towing is key. After all, you do not want your relaxing fishing trip or camping excursion to turn into a nightmare on the road. There are a few things you should know before you hit the road with a recreational trailer hitched behind your SUV or truck. Below, we will cover six essential tips for towing your trailer safely and properly! That way, you can set out and seek adventure with confidence.
1. Understand The Weight Limits and Towing Capacity of Your Vehicle
Before towing a trailer of any kind, you will need to fully understand how towing capacity works. This is especially true if you are towing a trailer for the first time.
What is towing capacity?
Towing capacity is your vehicle’s ability to haul a specific amount of weight safely. A vehicle’s towing capacity can change based on how it is configured, how much weight the trailer and vehicle will be carrying, and how you have distributed the weight in the towed load.
How to find a vehicle’s towing capacity?
Most vehicles capable of towing a trailer will have towing capacities listed on the driver’s side door jam, in a towing capacity guide, or in the owner’s manual.
Why is it important to adhere to towing capacity constraints?
If you exceed the maximum towing capacity recommendations, dangerous consequences can follow. For one thing, a load that is too heavy can cause your vehicle to exhibit insufficient braking performance. You could also seriously damage your truck or SUV’s suspension and engine drivetrain.
2. Be Sure to Use the Correct Hitches and Hitch Accessories
You will need to be sure that your trailer hitch can handle your trailer’s fully loaded weight. Most trailer hitches are labelled with the maximum tongue weight and maximum trailer weight for safe towing. Depending on how heavy your trailer is, you should also follow the guidelines laid out in your owner’s manual and any recommendations regarding the use of weight-distributing or weight-carrying hitches.
How to tell what hitch you need?
Choosing the best trailer hitch for your recreational towing applications is simpler than you might think. Most hitches are vehicle-specific, which means you can choose the exact hitch for your vehicle’s year, model, make, and style. From there, it will be a matter of choosing the right receiver size for your trailer or RV towing needs. There are various unique trailer hitch options for essentially every kind of vehicle.
Can you use a hitch adapter for towing?
Hitch receiver adapters and extenders allow you to utilize your receiver hitch more thoroughly. These adapters can be particularly helpful if you are installing a cargo carrier hitch or bike wrap. Other hitch adapters and hitch extenders allow you to change receiver sizes and remove obstructions as needed for smoother, safer towing. Be sure to follow all manufacturing guidelines and never exceed the weight capacity recommendations on any hitch or towing accessories.
3. Properly Load and Secure Your Trailer
It is critical to know how to properly secure your trailer and its load. Generally, heavier items should be loaded in the front, closest to the rear of your vehicle. Smaller or lighter items can be loaded and secured near the rear of the trailer. If you are towing a closed trailer, put lighter or smaller items up high and heavier items down low.
Why does weight distribution matter in a trailer or recreational vehicle?
Weight distribution is important for many reasons. Not only can distributing weight properly improve your towing ability, but it can help you keep control of your vehicle.
As a rule, try to distribute 60% of the weight in the front half of any trailer, closest to your vehicle. With a recreational trailer or camper, 60% of the loaded weight should be in front of the center axle. Then, the remaining 40% can be placed behind the center axle.
4. Learn How to Safely Back Up and Park with a Trailer
Knowing how to back up and park with a trailer hitched to the back of your vehicle is very important when it comes to safety. There are a few different ways that you can learn to safely back up your trailer when parking. Learning to back up a trailer may take practice. However, if you are planning to tow a trailer or recreational vehicle, it’s something that you must retain before you hit the road.
What are some tips for backing up a trailer?
One helpful tip when backing up a trailer is to put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel in the 6:00 position. With your hands in this position, it will be easier to visualize the direction to steer your trailer. When you want the trailer to go left, rotate your hand to the left or clockwise. When you want the trailer to go right, rotate your hand to the right or counterclockwise.
If possible, look over your shoulder so that you can see where your trailer is headed. If you need to, roll down your window for better visibility. Use your side mirrors to keep track of where your trailer is headed as you back up or park. Imagine that your vehicle is pushing the trailer like a wheelbarrow.
Go slowly and be sure not to jackknife the trailer, as this can cause damage to your vehicle and your equipment. Correct any excessive turns by steering your vehicle in the same direction that the trailer is moving. Turn wide to prevent jackknifing.
5. Be Aware That Regular Maintenance and Inspections are Essential for Safe Towing
Regular maintenance is an important part of safe towing and driving. Every six months, schedule regular maintenance to check your trailer for problems. Always perform a safety inspection before hitting the road.
Inspect the Following Items Before You Tow:
- Breakaway Brakes (either electric and/or hydraulic)
- Breakaway Battery
- Surge Brakes
- Shoes and Drums
- Safety Chains and Hooks
- Coupler and Hitch Ball
- Ring and Pintle
- Wheels (lug nuts, bolts, and hub)
Additionally, you should be sure that your trailer has a lubricated gate and door hinges. Every six months, check your electric brake magnet, wheel bearings, jack, structure welds, axle attachments, and brake wiring. The tires of your trailer should be professionally inspected every year as well. These equipment inspections can help you avoid an accident.
6. Do Not Underestimate the Importance of Having the Right Insurance for Towing
Finally, be sure to always have the correct insurance for towing a trailer. Towing insurance and liability coverage can help you pay for any accidents that take place on the road. This kind of insurance can cover countless trailer styles and will help you protect your assets. It is always better to have trailer insurance and not need it than to wish you had trailer insurance after an accident!
Additional Tips for Driving With a Trailer: Braking, Turning and Merging
Knowing how to safely drive with the trailer takes practice. It may be helpful to have someone who knows a lot about towing teach you the ropes at first. Merging safely, knowing how to drive in inclement weather, and understanding what to do if your trailer begins to sway are all important aspects to comprehend.
Merge safely and look twice to prevent an accident.
Merging safely with the trailer involves getting up to speed, checking your mirrors, and adjusting your following distance. Remember, when you have a trailer behind your vehicle, merging can be a lot more complicated. So, always play it safe and let others pass when you can.
Check the weather before you go.
Whether you are towing a small recreational trailer or a large fifth wheel trailer, you should always check the weather before you head out. Ice, snow, high wind conditions, and other types of inclement weather can make it very difficult to drive with a trailer behind you. Better to be safe than sorry!
Get the Right Insurance for Your Recreational Trailer! Contact RecProtect Now.
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