If you’re considering getting into the RV lifestyle, you might have some apprehension about the process of towing a travel trailer. Most of us don’t get much experience towing a big trailer in everyday life, and it’s no wonder that it might be somewhat intimidating. Luckily, towing a trailer doesn’t have to be intimidating if you prepare correctly, practice, and learn how to remove distractions while you drive.
Read on to learn our best tips for towing a travel trailer. When you’re ready to shop for a travel trailer, stop by Wisconsin RV World, in Deforest, Wisconsin. We’re near Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and Eau Claire, and we’re waiting and ready to help you find the perfect trailer for your needs.
Talk to any long-haul trucker, and they’ll tell you that weight and its distribution on a trailer are some of the most important considerations for anyone towing a trailer. The first thing you should know is how to stay within your vehicle’s gross combined weight rating, or GCWR. Every truck, SUV, or van comes with a GCWR which dictates how much weight the vehicle can haul, including the weight of the passengers, cargo, the trailer, and the vehicle itself. You should learn this number before you start shopping for travel trailers and make sure you don’t overload your trailer when you leave for your first trip. Stop at a weigh station along the highway if you don’t know if you’re in compliance.
Weight distribution is also important. When weight is loaded towards the rear of the trailer, it will become much less stable. But that doesn’t mean you should just load all the weight as far forward as possible. The ideal distribution is to be more or less symmetrical from side to side (when viewing the trailer straight on) with the majority of the weight being centered over the trailer’s front axle. About 10-20% of the total trailer weight should rest on the hitch.
If you’re confident in your preparations, you can be more confident that things will go well when it’s time to hit the road. Start by making sure the trailer and tow vehicle are in good shape for travel. Check the tire pressure all around and make sure all the tires are in good shape. Take a look at the hitch itself and make sure you’re connected correctly. The electrical harness should be firmly connected, and the support chains should be crossed in an “X” pattern under the hitch. Walk to the back of the trailer and make sure turn signals and brake lights are functioning correctly. Check the engine fluids in your tow vehicle, including the oil, gas, coolant, and transmission fluid. Make sure these are topped off when you ride because the extra exertion on your engine that’s necessary for towing can make it burn through fluids faster than normal. You should also familiarize yourself with your planned route so that you can make sure you avoid bad traffic or inclement road conditions.
Practice the Basics
It’s important to practice the basics of driving with an unloaded trailer before you ever hit the open road on your own. Have a more experienced tower drive you to an open parking lot and start practicing things like taking corners, braking and accelerating, and parking. It’s especially important to practice things like reversing and driving in narrow areas because you don’t want to have to learn this on the fly with a vehicle full of kids and a trailer loaded up with gear.
One of the more common problems people face with towing is driver error, and a major contributor to driver error is distractions. The most obvious distraction these days is the cellphone, so make sure yours is turned off and stowed safely out of reach. Let your co-pilot handle the navigation, climate control, and music selection. You’ll want to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. Avoid eating while driving and make sure all pets are safely secured away from the driver.
Safe towing is all about preparing correctly and getting in enough practice to be confident in your skills. If you want more towing tips or you want to look at the latest models from some of the top RV brands, stop by Wisconsin RV World in Deforest, Wisconsin. We’re near Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and Eau Claire, and we help people find their dream RVs every day!