Camper 101: Towing Safety
We have put together some great Towing Tips to help you with your travels!
While the thought of setting off on a travel expedition in your personal travel trailer is enticing, the task of towing it can be daunting. The process may not entirely be nerve-wracking but a step up in complexity from driving a solo vehicle and it also requires you to practice maneuvers before you begin piloting the big rig.
If the trailers are not properly set up, loaded and maintained, a lot of trouble can ensue on the road. Each year, several accidents are caused by RV drivers and are attributed to a lack of knowledge about proper towing procedures. Hence, this is something you shouldn’t risk. Before you set out on your best camper adventure, here are a few towing tips to ensure safety on the road.
1. How to Hitch Your Travel Trailer
First things first, hitching the camper to your wagon accurately is indispensable. When purchasing a hitch, check the label to determine if it can lug the weight of the travel trailer. Also, review the towing capacity of your vehicle. A weight distributing hitch is always the best choice as it can safely handle the load and helps improve safety on the road!
The front of the trailer, which hitches to the truck, is known as the tongue and incorporates a coupler in which the hitch ball is to be inserted. Raise your travel trailer on a jack and drive your vehicle in reverse so that the hitch ball and the trailer coupler are in line. Put your towing truck in park and turn on the parking brakes. Gently lower the travel trailer on to the hitch ball and activate the locking mechanism.
Once your trailer is seated, plug in its wires into the electrical outlet of the vehicle and crisscross the safety chains, loose enough to allow slacks at turns but tight enough to not drag, so that if the hitch comes off, the trailer would drop on to the chains instead of on the ground.
2. Camper Weight Distribution
Bulking up the travel trailer irregularly causes it to sway and lose balance. To gain more control over your trailer, it is imperative to distribute the weight evenly from side to side to lower the center of gravity. Also, spread the cargo weight from front of the trailer to the back lengthwise. Secure hefty items within the travel trailer to prevent them from shifting places during travel. To ensure a hitch-free ride, make sure that your trailer is in line with your towing vehicle and is parallel to the ground.
For examples please visit this video.
3. Trailer Braking System
Your travel trailer brakes and brake lights should be in sync with those of the towing vehicle. The heavier your trailer, the greater the momentum, which makes braking more dangerous and braking distances are extended. Electronic or hydraulic braking mechanisms are employed to activate the brakes on a travel trailer.
Electrical brakes start with a gradual braking application and the longer you hold your foot down on the pedal, the more it ramps up the tension on the brakes. This allows you to gently slow down without losing control of your trailer and prevents trailer-wheel lockup. To comply with this principle, you need to give plenty of time and space to your trailer before you ease up at stop signs. Allow ample space between your rig and the vehicles in the vicinity in case you need to pull over suddenly, which could result in a calamity.
Overuse of the brakes can lead to overheating and ultimately a brake fade. In this case, friction causes the heating up of braking pads and a temporary loss of braking. Prevention is the key when out on the road. Downshift your gear to impede speed sufficiently so that the brakes might not be used unnecessarily and are preserved for emergencies. Slowing down also prevents your trailer from flipping or skidding during braking.
4. Backing Up a Trailer
Backing up a trailer like a pro is one of the hardest tricks in the book and can prove exasperating for a first time tower. Use these tips while backing up on the road:
- Your view may be blocked by the robust proportion of the trailer so have someone stand outside and guide you whenever possible
- Put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. Move your hand towards the left to turn left and similarly move your hand right to turn right
- Use subtle movements of the steering wheel to adjust directions as exaggerated actions can cause greater movements than intended.
- Make sure that your trailer and towing truck are aligned. Otherwise, pull forward, realign and begin again.
5. Parking a Travel Trailer
Your rearview mirror is not the best guide in a camper trailer and it is prudent to ask someone outside to guide you while parking. Ask someone to put blocks on the downhill side of the trailer wheels. Shift into park, apply the parking brakes and let go of the braking pedal gently.
If this sequence is not followed, your vehicle runs the risk of becoming locked in park because of the extra load. Putting blocks behind the tires prevents them from rolling. If you need to uncouple your trailer from the towing vehicle, stick blocks to the front and back tires to the trailer, before you release the coupling, to prevent it from rolling away.
6. Inspect in Between
Each time you pull over, inspect around your travel trailer and scrutinize the condition of the hitch, wiring and the tires. Check that the hitch is secured to the tow vehicle and the coupler is attached to the trailer. Your light bulb sockets, connector plug prongs, receptacles and ground connections should be clean and protected from moisture.
Check for any glitches in the braking systems and rectify any anomaly you find. Thump the tires to check for the inflation level. Overinflated tires wear prematurely and under-inflated tires diminish the load-carrying capacity of the trailer and cause it to undulate and lose control.