Are you ready to embark on a thrilling adventure with a travel trailer in tow? Towing an RV may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re new to it. But fear not! With the right mindset and a few essential tips, you’ll become a towing pro in no time. Let’s dive into the world of towing and uncover the secrets to a safe and successful journey.
The First Step: Hitching Up
Proper hitching is crucial for a smooth towing experience. Here are three essential pointers to keep in mind:
Match Your Hitch and Tow Bars: Ensure that your hitch and tow bars are compatible with your vehicle’s towing capacity and the weight of your load.
Practice Makes Perfect: Familiarize yourself with the hitching process by practicing a few times. Soon, it will become second nature to you.
Double-Check for Security: After about an hour into your trip, take a moment to stop and inspect your hitch. Confirm that everything is securely in place for your peace of mind.
Familiarize yourself with the four main types of hitches:
- Weight-Carrying/Non-Weight Distributing
- Fifth Wheel
Knowing the Numbers
Understanding the numbers associated with towing is essential for a successful match between your tow vehicle and trailer. Pay attention to the following key figures:
GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating): This represents the maximum weight of your vehicle, including passengers, cargo, and the tongue weight of the trailer. Staying within the GVWR requires knowing your vehicle’s curb weight and your trailer’s tongue weight.
Tow Capacity Rating: Find out your vehicle’s tow capacity rating to determine the maximum weight your vehicle can safely tow. Remember to leave some wiggle room and avoid exceeding this rating.
It’s best to choose your travel trailer or fifth wheel before selecting a tow vehicle. This way, you can ensure that your vehicle is capable of handling the load.
Weight distribution plays a vital role in towing safety. To minimize the risk of accidents, it’s crucial to distribute the weight evenly:
Front-Heavy Trailer: Ensure that heavier items are placed towards the front of your trailer. However, be cautious not to overload the front, as it can make steering difficult.
Pack Light: Only pack what you truly need to keep your overall weight manageable.
Weighing Your Tongue
The tongue weight, which is the downward force exerted by the trailer tongue, should be around 10 to 15 percent of the gross trailer weight (GTW). Investing in a tongue scale can help you ensure that your tongue weight is within the recommended range.
Adding Safety Chains
Once you’ve hitched, distributed, and weighed your trailer, don’t forget to add an extra layer of security with safety chains. Cross the chains around the tongue and hitch to ensure that they hold if the hitch detaches. Always ensure that the chain you choose is rated appropriately for your trailer’s weight.
Knowing Your Trailer’s Dimensions
Before hitting the road, measure the height of your trailer yourself. Don’t solely rely on the owner’s manual. Keep a note of the height where it’s easily visible while driving to double-check before passing under any low overhangs or bridges.
The Importance of Mirrors
Once your trailer is hitched, take a seat behind the wheel and check your mirrors. Can you see to the end of your trailer and a reasonable distance to the sides? If not, consider investing in extension side mirrors to enhance your visibility. Additionally, a wireless observation camera can be a valuable tool for easier parking and backing up.
Mastering the Art of Braking
Braking while towing requires some practice and adjustment. Follow these tips to ensure a smooth and controlled braking experience:
Adjust Your Trailer Brake Controller: Set your trailer’s brake controller so that it activates slightly more than your vehicle’s brakes. This ensures that the trailer stops first, creating a more cohesive and synchronized braking process.
Test Your Brakes: Take your trailer for a test drive on a paved surface and fully apply the brakes using the manual activation lever. Ensure that the wheels don’t lock up or that you don’t feel excessive trailer movement. Adjust the brake control as needed based on your trailer’s load.
Before setting off, check your brake battery with a voltmeter to ensure it has a sufficient charge. It will recharge as you drive.
Driving and Braking Basics
As you hit the road with your trailer in tow, keep these driving and braking fundamentals in mind:
Allow Extra Room: Remember that you have additional weight behind you, so acceleration, deceleration, and stopping will require more time and space.
Navigate Downhill Braking: When descending hills, brake gradually to avoid sway and maintain control. Practice on local hilly roads to become familiar with the process.
Avoid Sudden Braking: Abrupt movements with a trailer can be hazardous. If you experience sway, remain calm, and gradually slow down until the vehicle and trailer realign.
Stay Alert: Keep an eye on the road ahead, anticipating possible obstacles and making timely adjustments.
Follow Commercial Truck Drivers: Observe the lanes commercial truck drivers use and follow their lead to ensure safer driving.
Engine Braking for Extreme Slopes: When encountering steep slopes, such as mountain passes, use engine braking to prevent your foot brakes from overheating.
Taking Your Turns
Navigating turns with a trailer requires a cautious approach. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Turn Slowly and Widely: Provide ample room for your trailer, especially when making right turns. Be mindful of adjacent lanes and always leave enough space. Longer trailers may require wider turns, so prioritize safety on the road.
Prioritize Route Planning
Before commencing your journey, take the time to plan your route considering your trailer’s size and limitations. Be aware of low overpasses, narrow bridges, tight turns or exits, and roundabouts. Whenever possible, choose alternate routes to avoid these challenging spots.
Investing in an RV-specific GPS, such as the DHPL Travels’ RV GPS, can provide customized routes that account for your RV’s size and driving preferences.
Research your chosen campsite in advance to ensure it can accommodate both your rig and tow vehicle. Look for length information and any obstructions like low branches. Additionally, check for any warnings specific to longer rigs, as some campsites may have tight spaces. When arriving at the campsite, survey the area for any obstructions before parking.
Embrace a Relaxed Pace
Remember that traveling with a trailer requires a more leisurely pace. You won’t be able to speed along as you normally would. Expect to spend more time driving in the right lane, take alternative routes to avoid challenging areas, and allocate extra time for parking. Embrace the slower pace, take a deep breath, and enjoy the journey.
Embrace the Learning Curve
Driving with a trailer is an acquired skill that improves with practice. Take your trailer to an empty parking lot to practice reversing and parking maneuvers. Go for a drive on lightly traveled roads to become familiar with the combined handling of your vehicles. Gradually introduce yourself to towing on local roads similar to those you’ll encounter on your trip. Confidence builds with practice, leading to safer and more enjoyable towing experiences.
Towing doesn’t have to be daunting. With the right preparation, practice, and a sense of adventure, you’ll soon be ready to embark on unforgettable journeys with your travel trailer in tow. Happy trails!
Do you need help planning your next travel trailer adventure? Visit DHPL Travels for expert advice and personalized travel experiences.