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Towing tips Towing tips!  Whether you're towing a folding trailer or a fifth wheel, you have to ensure that your towing equipment is in order and that your crgo weight is distributed properly. Many accidents have occurred in the past because of faulty equipment, improper load balance or simply lack of experience (re. practice) on the driver's part. Driving a vehicle and towing a trailer are two different things. For simplicity's sake, in this document, the term "trailer" will refer to anything that can be towed (a utility trailer, a folding trailer, a park trailer etc....). Here are some things to consider if you're planning to do some towing!

What will you be towing?
The fact that your vehicle is currently equipped to tow a utility trailer doesn't mean that you can use it to start towing a folding trailer or a park trailer. Although most mid-size and full-size family cars, most minivans and most light-duty trucks can pull a trailer, they cannot pull all trailer sizes. Your owner's manual identifies the trailer types that your vehicle can haul and the maximum load weight that it can pull (see below for a definition of common "weight" terms). If you can't find that information or if you simply cannot figure it out, contact your car dealer or manufacturer. Be aware that towing a trailer that's beyond the weight recommended by your car manufacturer can cause serious damage to your vehicle and even void your warranty.

If you're going to purchase a new vehicle or a new towing hitch, bring the following information with you when you go shopping; the trailer's length, weight and height, and the type of trailer brakes on your trailer. You can easily get this information from your trailer dealer/manufacturer.

Loading your RV
When you load up your RV, remember to store heavy items low and forward and lightweight articles high. Keeping your RV's center of gravity low will help minimize swing, sway and wobble. Make sure that heavy items cannot slide into the water pump or other fixed equipment. Try to balance the load between the two sides of the RV. It is important to load your RV so that it is heavier towards the front. In other words, approximately 60% of the cargo weight should be in the trailer's front half. This ensures proper weight distribution while only placing about 10 percent of the loaded trailer weight on the "tongue". As a general rule, the tongue weight guideline is;

  - for trailers up to 2,000 pounds, the tongue load should not exceed 200 pounds
  - for trailers over 2,000 pounds, tongue load should be 10-15 percent of trailer weight
  - for fifth wheel trailers, tongue load should be 25 percent of trailer weight.

Finally, you should ensure that both the trailer and the towing vehicle are within load recommendations.... otherwise you may end up with handling and trailer-stability problems.

Before you "hit the road"

1. If applicable, check the oil, fuel and coolant levels of you vehicle.

2. If applicable, inspect all the belts and hoses for cracking (especially radiator hoses) and replace as needed.

3. If applicable, check your headlights and turn signals.

4. Check your tires... both air pressure and tread! Most tire failures are caused by RV overload or tire under-inflation. Make sure that your tires are inflated in accordance with proper inflation pressures for the load they're carrying. Overloaded tires are prone to blow out and under-inflated tires can cause swaying.

5. Inspect your trailer and hitch safety chains for proper connections. Always ensure that the electrical hookups work for the trailer wiring and the brakes and that the vehicle and trailer lights work properly and are synchronized. If you have a break-away switch, make sure that you test it.

6. Ensure that you have the following tools handy;
  - flashlight
  - jumper cables
  - flat repair spray
  - road flares
  - adjustable wrench
  - screwdrivers
  - pliers
  - duct tape (useful for temporary repairs such as a ruptured radiator hose)

7. Practice, practice, practice....If you haven't had much experience with trailer-towing, you should practice in a safe area before beginning a long trip. Before you drive away, always adjust your rear view mirrors for optimal road views. Do not wait until you're on the road to make these adjustments. Also, remember that backing up with a trailer is the most difficult part. So here's a tip; when backing up, place one hand on your vehicle's steering wheel at the six o'clock position.... if you want to move the trailer's rear end to the right, simply turn the steering wheel to the right (and vice versa). Avoid any sharp movement of the steering wheel once the trailer is moving in the proper direction. And remember... you have to have your hand on the steering wheel at the six o'clock position for this to work! 

While "on the road"

1. While driving, always avoid sudden moves as they might create a side force on the trailer and in some cases, "tilt" the trailer. On right-angle turns, always allow more room to the inside since the trailer wheels will be closer to the inside turn path than your vehicle wheels.

2. When changing lanes, always signal well in advance and move gradually into the next lane. After passing, remember to allow extra room for the trailer before returning to the driving lane. For obvious reasons, avoid passing on steep grades (up or down).

3. Always allows a greater distance to stop when towing a trailer. Always allow one "vehicle and trailer length" for each 20 km/hr (10 mph). So if your vehicle + trailer length equals 30 feet and you're driving at 80 km/hr, you should keep a distance of approximately 120 feet between you and the vehicle in front of you. If you have to do an emergency stop, do not step on the brakes but shift to a lower gear and "pump" the brakes lightly to cut the vehicle speed. (You definitely should practice this one regularly!).

4. When you found a spot to park your "rig", if it happens to be uphill or downhill, you have to take precautionary measures. This involves placing a "block" (you should always leave some in your trunk) either "in front of" or "behind" the vehicle wheels depending on whether you're on a downgrade or upgrade respectively. Someone traveling with you should do this while you're holding the brakes. Once the blocks are in place, you then slowly release the brake pedal until the vehicle and trailer come to a complete stop. The final step is to fully engage the parking brake and to shift the transmission to park (or to 1st gear for a manual transmission). 

5. Remember to always observe posted speed limits and to slow down in bad weather or slippery road conditions.


Click here to see our "Towing glossary"


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