Tips for Towing a Trailer

June 25, 2019

Tips for Towing a Trailer

Remember the first time you merged onto the highway? You confidently pressed the accelerator to reach more than 60mph, casually merged between two semitrucks, kept the recommended 2-second distance behind the vehicles in front of you, and were prepared to slam on your brakes due to construction a half-mile up the road. That all sounds right… right? Okay, probably not.
When it comes time to tow a trailer, the typical stresses of the road are exacerbated if you’re unprepared. So, we have a few tips-let’s call it Towing 101-to help you overcome any fears.

  1. Build confidence
Start out in areas that are a bit more remote like parking lots and quiet country roads. Here you can learn how the unit moves behind the tow vehicle, what it takes to brake safely, where your blind spots are, and how to park the unit without a panic attack. Let’s be honest, some of us still suffer from these problems WITHOUT a 44-foot trailer behind us.  
  1. Know All the Angles
If you’ve ever backed up a trailer or boat, then you know the frustration that comes with the task. Left is right, right is left, depth perception is out the window-you get it. So, while you’re learning in the parking lot, take some time to hone this skill. And always take it slow. The more you rush, the harder it will be to control which direction the RV goes.
Steady does it: When in reverse, turning the steering wheel harshly to the left will force the RV to the right. But, if you use a softer angle and go slow, turning the steering wheel to the left will allow the RV to make a similar curve.
Utilize your mirrors: This can help you avoid sending the front of the RV into the back of your truck.
Be aware of your surroundings: If it’s safe to do so, get out and determine how far you are from other vehicles, trees, active roads, and other people.
Ask for help: Most people are more than willing to help you guide your RV to its destination. They can help you get as close or as far as you need to be, navigate narrow spaces, and avoid any potential damage.
  1. Limit Distractions
Remember, you need to worry about the extra vehicle traveling behind you. Which means, you need more time to react to the road in order to avoid accidents.

Trust us, we love to take our pets along as much as the next RVer, but we know how excitable they can get with all the new smells, sights, and energy that comes with visiting a new location. So, while you’re driving, make sure your pets either can’t access your lap, are crated, or are secured somewhere they won’t be spotting squirrels every five seconds.
Smartphones: Not only is it against the law, using your cell phone while you navigate is very dangerous for you, your passengers, and for everyone else along the way. We recommend using the GPS system in your vehicle (if it has one) or ask a co-pilot to do any digital tasks while you keep your eyes on the road.
  1. What’s the forecast?
Inclement weather can really put a damper on any vacation plans, whether it’s hail on your new rig, high winds, fire danger, or flooding that can leave you stranded. So, make sure to check the forecast before heading out. Delaying your trip or canceling altogether might not sound fun, but it’s better than winding up in a situation you can’t control.
Standing water: Water on the road can make braking more difficult and increase your chance of hydroplaning. So, when it’s raining out, you’ll want to keep your speed down, stick to the right lane, and plan out any areas to park at while you wait out the storm.
  1. Instructions Are Your Friend
Because every RV carries unique standards and features, make sure to utilize the instruction manuals that come with any appliances, chemicals, and accessories you’re using with the RV. Sometimes it’s as simple as carefully reading the packaging on any chemicals you plan to use for tanks, cleaning, and other tasks. And when in doubt, contact the manufacturer directly.
Dutchmen owners: For an overview of common RV systems and terminology, plus links to some of the component manufacturer sites, you can head here to download your owner’s manual.
  1. Check Your Destinations
There’s no headache like failing to make a reservation and then finding out once you’ve arrived that there are no spaces available, that your rig is too big for the site, or the campground is closed for the season.

This probably seems like a no-brainer, but you’ll want to know exactly how much room your rig (plus your towing vehicle) will take up. That’s length, width, and height. Some destinations only allow certain sized truck and trailer combinations to visit. Doing a site recon through the website, checking Google Earth, or even simply calling the facility can help reduce some of that pre-trip anxiety.
Now for some general advice, because we’re nice like that.
Consider a Tag-Along
Who doesn’t love a good co-pilot? Not only are they great for handing over warm drive-thru food, they’re better with directions (we hope), help pass the time on desolate roadways, and can be a lifesaver when backing up the trailer or navigating tight spaces. Plus, we like to think traveling is better when it’s shared with someone else.
Plan Ahead
Some campgrounds reach booking capacity months (sometimes a year) in advance, so if you want to make that great big trip to Yellowstone or Arcadia, we suggest you start booking your trip ASAP.
When in Doubt
You can always ask the Dutchmen team for help when it comes to your RV travels.
For more RV advice, head to our Facebook page. And, you can always follow us on Instagram for updates about our family of Dutchmen RV owners.
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