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Whether you have been hauling large trailers for years and are a seasoned tower, or you are about to embark on your first family vacation this Easter period with a small travel trailer, towing isn’t something to be taken lightly.
To pull a trailer or caravan behind another vehicle, a driver needs to develop a whole new set of skills. Just the process of hitching and unhitching a trailer from a tow vehicle requires know-how and numerous steps and forgetting even one crucial element in the process could compromise safety.
In this week’s article, we delve into key tasks that should be part of any pre-towing checklist and finish up with some driving tips to help towing adventures go more smoothly and safely.
Once your trailer is safely hooked up to your tow vehicle, it is finally time to hit the open road and let the adventure begin.
But wait: Towing a trailer—regardless of whether it is a small 5ft Venter, a 20-foot powerboat —requires practice, skill, and an even greater degree of driver attention than what most people are used to.
Below we highlight some important tips for getting you, your truck, and your trailer on down the road to your destination safely.
Know your trailer. In many cases, the trailer weighs as much as the towing vehicle. All that extra weight behind your vehicle will have a huge impact on your vehicles ability to stop quickly and navigate sharp turns
Make wider turns at curves and corners. Because your trailer’s wheels will end up closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, the trailer tires are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs. Safe towing requires that the driver take constant care to give a wider berth than usual around any corner.
Allow for longer stopping distances. Stopping distances will increase from what your tow vehicle can normally achieve on its own, because of the added weight of the trailer. This means you will need to be more attentive to vehicles stopping suddenly ahead of you when towing and begin braking sooner than if you were not towing. It is advisable to keep a longer following distance than usual, should you need to emergency brake.
Drive in the left lane on highways. Try to drive in the left lane as much as possible, so you can use the extra stopping room of the right shoulder of the road in case you need to brake suddenly. Driving in the left lane will also make it easier to get over to the shoulder in the case of a tire blowout.
Do not ride your vehicle’s brakes on long downhills. Shift your vehicle’s transmission to a lower gear to help slow the vehicle and take some strain off the brakes. Many of today’s pickup trucks have a tow/haul mode that, when the driver engages the system, will automatically downshift the transmission when it senses the truck is on a long downhill. Applying the brakes at intervals to keep the speed in check (as opposed to constant application on the brake pedal) will help keep the brakes from overheating.
Use a spotter when backing up. Have someone outside at the rear of the trailer while backing up whenever possible; mirrors—even wide tow mirrors—typically cannot provide all the visibility you may need, particularly in situations where there are other vehicles, objects, or people in close proximity.
Practice driving with a trailer. “Before hitting the road, it is a good idea to practice accelerating, backing up, braking, making wide turns, and using your sideview mirrors. This is especially important if you are brand-new to the art of towing a trailer behind your vehicle.
Disconnect wiring before launching a boat. Disconnect the trailer’s wiring from the tow vehicle before backing the trailer into the water at a boat launch. This will avoid any electrical problems that might arise from submerging the trailer’s lights in the water.
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