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Tips for safely towing a trailer with your truck or SUV

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People presume that all you have to do is hook up a trailer to a truck, and they are ready to hit the highway. But in actuality, there’s much more to towing in the modern age than that.

Whether you are hauling landscaping equipment or preparing to spend a day on the water, hauling a trailer takes a lot of preparation and careful consideration.

Trailers can be a little tricky to get used to pulling, especially if they are larger in size. Therefore, it is important to practice in areas with little to no traffic, as practice always makes towing a trailer easier and safer.

But even then, there’s more to it than that, which is why we put together the following tips…

What is considered a trailer?

Trailer is a catchall word for a non-powered wheeled vehicle that can be towed by an automobile.

A few examples include:

  • Utility trailer
  • Boat trailer
  • Recreation vehicle (RV) travel trailer
  • Cargo trailer
  • Motorcycle trailer
  • Horse trailer
  • Car trailer

Some safe towing tips

If your vehicle is equipped with a tow hitch and you need to haul a trailer, it is important to know what you are doing. Consider the following tips first so that you can arrive safely at your destination without incident. Hauling any form of a trailer without understanding how it will change your vehicle’s handling can put you at risk of getting into a serious car crash during your trip.

Familiarize yourself with your trailer

It is important to know everything aspect of a trailer, especially if it is lengthy or you plan on hauling heavy loads. Increased weight can make it difficult to stop and can make sharp turns challenging.

Sometimes trailers are taller than the vehicle pulling them, which is why it is important to be mindful of clearance restrictions when going under bridges or when pulling up to a gas pump or drive-thru.

Making wider turns

When turning a corner or when approaching a curve, your trailer’s wheels will be closer to the inside of the turn than the vehicle doing the pulling. For this reason, many trailer tires bump over curbs or hit things they should not. Make sure you give yourself a wide berth at every turn so you can maneuver without incident.

Give yourself more time to stop

Because of the additional weight behind the vehicle, stopping distances will be a good deal longer than they would be without a trailer being pulled behind you. Pay close attention to the vehicles before you and brake far sooner than you normally would if the car in front of you seems to be slowing down.

Stay to the right

When you are pulling a trailer, the right/slow lane is the safest place to be. This way, if you find that you need to make an emergency braking move, the shoulder to the right will give you some extra room. It also makes it easier to pull off the road and onto the shoulder if you blow a tire.

Get off the brakes

When you are traveling downhill, it is tempting to ride the brakes. However, this can put additional strain on your braking system when a heavy load is in tow, which can be dangerous. Instead of riding the brakes, downshift to a lower transmission gear. Some vehicles have a “tow mode” that will automatically sense when you are traveling downhill and downshift for you.

If you need to slow down further when going down a steep or lengthy incline, do not ride the brakes, but brake periodically to prevent your brakes from overheating.

Backing a trailer

Backing a trailer requires some concentration and coordination, even after you get the hang of it. If someone can spot you while backing your trailer, that is far safer than depending on mirrors and backup cameras alone. Even wider mirrors made for towing may not always capture the full picture of what’s behind you.

By using a spotter, in conjunction with mirrors and rearview cameras, backing up is much safer. So practice backing your trailer in a safe, open environment until you get the hang of it and feel confident about getting on the road.

Disconnecting the wiring

An electrical connection to your vehicle allows brake lights, license plate lights, and tail lights on the trailer to be seen by other drivers. However, if you are towing a boat, make sure to disconnect that lighting before you begin backing down that boat slip. This will prevent electrical problems when the trailer becomes submerged.

Check your route

Some roads are not cut out for vehicles towing heavy or oversized trailers. The roads could have weight limits, clearance height restrictions, or be too narrow for a trailer to navigate. It is better to plan your route ahead of time with these considerations in mind than to drive a long distance just to find out you cannot pass and must turn around.

Getting ready to hit the highway

After spending some time getting to know your trailer, learning to navigate corners, practicing safe reversing techniques, and stopping at the appropriate time, you should be able to haul it almost anywhere. Just be sure to always exercise extra caution and try and enjoy the ride in the slow lane.

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