Driving with a trailer can be like learning to drive all over again. Not only are you adding a great deal of weight and length to your vehicle, there are also new challenges to master that are unique to having a trailer. But don’t be intimidated: once you get comfortable, towing your new camper will be a safe and simple prospect. This guide will offer you a few tips to make sure you stay safe on the road. If you’re in the market for a new travel trailer, stop by Athens RV in Athens, Texas. We proudly serve Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Fort Worth, Tyler, and Longview Texas.
One rarely consider weight distribution when driving a car, but when you add a trailer to the mix, correct weight distribution makes all the difference. You want to make sure to put at least 10% of the weight on the tongue of the trailer, meaning the tow car will carry it. Putting all the weight in the front of the vehicle, however, can cause your tow vehicle to lose front wheel traction. You also want to avoid putting too much weight on any given side, which can make your trailer less stable going into turns and under windy highway conditions. You can go to a commercial weigh station or an RV-specific weigh station to see how the weight is distributed if you aren’t sure of the weight on each axel.
Even the basics of driving can feel new when you first start towing a trailer. For example, many trailers have their own brakes which behave independently of your tow vehicle’s brakes. Instead of responding to the exact pressure of your brake pedal, these may start out soft and build in strength the longer you hold the brakes. If your trailer does come with independent brakes, you can use these brakes to help stabilize your trailer when highway wind and drafts cause it to drift.
When steering, make sure to take corners wider and use your mirrors to make sure you don’t hit curbs or other vehicles. Mirrors are also incredibly important when learning how to back up with a trailer. A trailer will pivot the opposite direction from normal when turning, so it’s best to practice backing up in an open parking lot with lots of space to maneuver. Your trailer will also turn more quickly than your tow vehicle when backing up, so use small adjustments to ensure maximum control.
Driving on the highway shouldn’t be a problem as long as you learn to take it easy. Passing a slow vehicle may be tempting, but a trailer will diminish your acceleration, and you will also need more room to pass. Make sure to give yourself double the normal amount of room between yourself and the next vehicle, as stopping takes much longer and you won’t be able to respond to obstacles as quickly. You will likely feel lots of wind when driving, especially if you have a larger camper. This can feel scary, so keep both hands on the steering wheel and make sure not to overreact to gusts of wind. When going up or down long grades, make sure to lower your speed using your gearshift rather than just the brake pedals.
The key to driving with a trailer is to be smart, methodical, and consistent. Quick, jerky turns, unnecessary passing, and distracted driving can all lead to problems. Even if you’re used to changing the radio station or checking a map while driving, you should probably give those duties to your co-pilot.
If you’re in the market for a new travel trailer, fifth-wheel, or RV, Athens RV has a huge selection of new and certified pre-owned RVs. We proudly serve Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Fort Worth, Tyler, and Longview Texas. Stop by and talk to a member of our experienced team about the best travel trailer for your needs, and how to drive it safely.