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Tips For Towing Your Travel Trailer Safely

As you can imagine there are many things to take into consideration when towing a travel trailer. The following are towing tips to make your journey safe and hassle free once your trip begins.

Checklist

When hooking up a travel trailer try to do things in the same order each time and use a checklist.

Tow Ratings

This item is here as a reminder because at this point you should have a tow vehicle that is able to tow the weight of your trailer. You can find your vehicle's tow ratings in the vehicle owner's manual. It is crucial that you do not exceed this weight. Going over the rated weight can cause handling difficulties, insufficient power in a tow vehicle and poor fuel mileage.

Weight Distribution

Load the trailer properly by storing heavy items low and forward and lightweight articles high. This will keep the trailer's center of gravity low and will help minimize sway, wobble and swing. It will enable you to maintain more control over your trailer.

Secure The Load

Make sure everything in your trailer is put away in cabinets and whatever is not in cabinets is safely tied down so it can not move. Checking the fridge is a good idea to make sure there is nothing that will spill or be thrown around during the trip. You would not want to get to your destination and find a fridge full of broken eggs or spilled milk. Not a fun way to start your trip.

Hitch

Check the label to make sure your trailer does not exceed the suggested maximum tone weight and towing capacity. Inspect hitch for cracks and rust before hooking up. The hitch will have 10% of the total trailer weight if trailer is loaded properly.

Ball

Check the label and make sure you do not exceed the suggested towing capacity. The ball should be lightly greased so trailer can turn smoothly and it should be located so the trailer sets level when attached to tow vehicle. Inspect ball for cracks and rust before hooking up.

Safety Chains

Safety chains provide added insurance that the trailer will not detach from the tow vehicle. Attach in a crisscross pattern under the trailer tongue, allowing enough slack for turns, but short enough not to drag along the ground. This prevails the tongue from dropping to the road if the trailer coupler separates from the hitch ball.

Weight Distributing Bar

By using a weight distribution hitch you are transferring some of the tongue weight to the front axle of your tow vehicle when you set the chains on the bars of the weight distribution hitch. Finding the correct link point may take a few tries. If you do not apply enough tension on the bars, you'll find yourself swaying, on the other hand if you put too much tension on the bars, you'll be taking the weight off the back of vehicle.

Connector

Connectors need constant attention because they tend to corrode easily. Ensure the wiring is loose enough to make turns without disconnecting or touching the ground. Once you have it connected check the running lights, turning lights and brake lights to make sure they are working properly.
Brakes

Make sure the brakes are working.

Tires

Checking tires tend to get overlooked when towing a trailer. You should do a thorough check before leaving on a trip by measuring the tire pressure and a quick check whenever you fill up for gas which can be done by feeling each tire with your hand. Recommended pressures are indicated on the tire sidewalls. Also be sure the tow vehicle's tires are properly inflated. Please remember that with multiple axles and tandem wheels it is sometimes hard to tell if you have a flat just by looking at the tires because of the many wheels supporting the weight. You can usually check this by putting your hand over all the tires, the one that is hottest is the one losing air. The best way to be safe on the road is to measure the tires. Overloading and underinflation are the most common causes of tire failure.

Wheel Bearings

The bearings should be kept in good repair. If the bearings are not working correctly, the internal rollers are not moving freely. If the bearings are not properly greased, they can get so hot that they will actually weld themselves to spindle assembly. A total failure of wheel bearings will cause the wheel to stop turning which may cause an accident. In order to prevent this wheel bearings should be checked at least once a year.

Commercial Weight Scale

The best way to know the actual weights of your tow vehicle, trailer and tongue weight is to use a public commercial weight scale. In order to be sure you are not overloaded you must weigh the vehicle and trailer fully loaded. It may take over half an hour to determine your weights but the time you spend doing this will save you time and money with unexpected repairs to your tow vehicle or trailer and possible breakdowns during your trip. Make sure you write these numbers down and keep them as a reference in the future.

Towing Mirrors

Towing a trailer creates many blind spots. Make sure you have adequate mirrors that give you the visibility you need for safe towing. Adjust your mirrors so you can see at least 200 feet (60m) behind the vehicle once the trailer is hooked up. If you have limited visibility you have two options; 1. install extended mirrors that replace your current mirrors, 2. attached a small mirror to your existing side-view mirror. This will enable you to see rear and side approaching traffic and be safe on the road.