How to tow a trailer — It can be a bit scary getting behind the wheel with something in tow for the first time. Don’t worry. That’s natural. It is a big adjustment. For your first time towing a trailer, everything can feel unfamiliar to you. The good news is that you’ve come to the right place for all your 5th wheel to gooseneck adapter needs. We’ll also go over a bunch of towing tips that will help you get started on the right foot so you can hit the road with confidence. Let’s get started!
Relax And Drive Safe
It is always important to follow safe driving guidelines, but it is even more essential when you have got something in tow. For starters, use common sense. Remember, you will be much better off to reach your destination later than you wish than to not get there at all. The most important part of driving is to maintain an appropriate speed. Keep in mind that every vehicle/trailer combo has a certain speed where it becomes dangerous. (There are speed limits as well). Exceeding these speeds make your trailer harder to control and more likely to sway as you drive.
With all of the extra weight you have behind you, braking will be an adjustment. Anytime you accelerate or slow down, it should be gradual. Just assume that you are doing everything at half the speed you would with no trailer. This means you’ll need to be paying extra attention farther down the road ahead to give yourself time to adjust if there is any sudden braking needed. Changing lanes can be a lot tougher as well. You will need a lot more room to make a move like that. When it’s your first time towing, leave the music and phone calls to someone else inside the vehicle so you can concentrate solely on the road ahead.
There is nothing wrong with driving slow and steady. You’ll probably have other drivers on your tail. Don’t let them cause you to drive faster than makes you feel safe. The best thing to do is to identify a safe spot to pull over if you’ve got a line of vehicles waiting on you. Generally, if there are five or more cars behind, pulling over is a good idea. With that being said, here are some more specific suggestions for when you are on the road with a trailer in tow.
When In The Right Lane
There is a good chance that wherever you are going to be driving has the requirement for slower and bigger vehicles to use the right lane of the highway whenever it is possible to do so. This is the safer thing to do and will be better for the flow of traffic as well. If you aren’t sure about the best spot for you to be on the road you are one, one thing that you can try is to keep an eye on what the truck drivers are doing. Follow their example. Chances are, they drive the same roads frequently and know where to be for the easiest transportation.
When Your Trailer Sways
Having your trailer sway as you drive can be a dangerous thing when you are towing a trailer. Once it starts happening, it can be difficult to stop. And it can lead to a disastrous crash. The best thing to do is to prevent it from happening in the first place. This starts with the weight distribution of your trailer. The best way to load your heavier items toward the front — just ahead of the trailer axle. Keep the bulk of the weight in the center and secure it to prevent any shifting that will throw off your balance.
If you can, avoid driving in high-wind. Wind will usually push the trailer harder than the tow vehicle which can make it start to sway. This is also a reason that you will want to drive slow and steady — do not go too fast. The faster you go, the more it will sway. One thing that can cause sway that you don’t have much control over is other drivers. For example, a vehicle that passes you at a much higher speed will cause a bunch of air to hit the trailer — especially if it is a large vehicle.
So when it starts to sway, what do you do? Don’t try to correct it by counter steering. This can actually make it worse. You will want to remain calm and follow these tips to get going back in a straight line. You can use your manual trailer brake on your brake controller. This will make the trailer engage its brakes and pull on your tow vehicle. It should get them back in line. It would be helpful for you to practice this in a parking lot or some other open area. After all, nothing will help you in a situation like that as much as experience will.
However, braking is not always the safest thing to do. For example, if there is another vehicle right on your tail, hitting the brakes can lead to an accident. So, another method you can try is to keep driving straight ahead and hit the gas. Doing this should create a strong pull on the trailer and help straighten it out.
When You Turn
Turning might be an intimidating part of this process, but it doesn’t need to be. The main thing that you need to do is increase the width of your turns. The longer your trailer, the wider your turns will need to be. Maintain the maximum width as the road will let you in your turns and you’ll be fine with any turns that are 90-degree or larger.
Where you might run into difficulty is on a turn that is sharper than 90 degrees. Do your best to avoid those situations and if nothing else, just take the turn as wide as possible. And take your time when turning. Hitting your turn too fast could cause a trailer to tip.
When You Back Up
Backing up is the thing that would be the most helpful for you to get some practice doing before you take your trip. The bigger the trailer you have got behind you, the more difficult backing it up can be. The proper technique for backing up takes some getting used to. Before you head out for real, go find a parking lot or some other open space and practice backing up so you’ll feel confident in your ability.
When You’re On A Hill
Another challenge you may face is going up or down steep slopes. But as long as you know what you should do, there shouldn’t be much of a problem. For starters, stay in the right lane. Let other drivers go by. If you are going to be much slower than other traffic, use your hazard lights. Going downhill requires a little more care. Engine braking (putting the engine into a lower gear and taking your foot off the accelerator) is a helpful tactic if your vehicle has the capability.
This works by the drivetrain running the engine and the mechanical resistance will slow your speed down the hill. But you will still need to be ready to use your brakes. If you are turning while going downhill, do not brake very hard or it could lead to a jackknife situation. Do your best to keep a steady and under control speed for a safe ride down the hill.
When You Park
This can be the toughest part for a lot of drivers — especially if it requires backing-up. The process is going to require patience. Make sure that you have your mirrors set up correctly. And get help if you can. Knowing how to and where to park can be one of the most important parts of learning how to tow a trailer. With the advancements in technology such as rear-view cameras and digital monitors, this has become easier through the years.
Before You Go
The thing that is going to help you the most is preparation. Especially when it comes to the capabilities of yourself and the equipment that you will be using.
One of these things to know is your weight compatibility. In fact, this is probably the most important piece of information for consideration before you take the wheel to tow for the first time. Whatever your vehicle is, it has got a towing weight limit. Make sure that your vehicle can handle the amount of weight that you need to tow. You can find this information in your owner’s manual and on the manufacturer’s website.
Match Your Vehicle And Trailer
If your setup is overloading your vehicle, it is also overloading your brakes. That is just asking for trouble. You also need to be aware of your maximum tongue weight — the amount of weight on your hitch. This is something that should be planned well as you can because too much weight on the tongue may overload the rear tires of your vehicle. Not enough weight will cause your trailer to sway and be difficult to control. The ideal setup for tongue weight is from 10-15 percent of the fully-loaded trailer weight. Depending on the type of trailer you are going to be pulling, you will need a compatible hitch — whether it is a gooseneck or something else.
Check Your Brakes
It will give you some extra peace of mind to double-check that your brakes and brake controller are set up correctly before going out on the road. Your brake controller is what activates the brakes on your trailer. You can test it out to make sure everything is up to par. Pull your trailer out and get it up to about 10 mph and then come to a normal stop. You may feel a little tug from your trailer and this is what you want. On the other hand, if you don’t feel it pulling or do feel it pushing you, then you will know to adjust your brake controller to a higher setting. The goal is for your trailer to be braking slightly more than your vehicle.
Check Your Tires
It can be easy to do but don’t forget about checking all of your tires. Remember, under-inflated tires reduce your handling while causing a greater amount of the tire surface to rub on the road. This creates more friction and a greater chance of overheating and having a blowout. Plus, having your tires inflated correctly will give you better gas mileage.
Many people don’t know about this, but you should also be sure to check the speed rating on your tires. Make sure you stay under that maximum speed when you are on the road!
Check Your Visibility
Your rear view is going to be limited. You will need to rely on the side mirrors of your tow vehicle — unless you have a rearview camera. Give yourself some peace of mind and confidence by making sure that you can see the end of your trailer on both sides. You may consider investing in some side mirror extensions if you want to increase your visibility.
It is always a good idea to use safety chains to attach your trailer and tow vehicle — in addition to your hitch. Something that you may want to try is to cross the chains under the trailer’s tongue. This makes it less likely that they will separate from each other if disaster strikes. You’ll want to make sure that the chain has enough slack to turn but not so much that they drag along the ground.
Get Some Help
Doing everything you should do before hitting the road will be much easier if you can get a second pair of hands and eyes to help. It is always a good idea to have a second set of eyes (especially when you are learning about how to tow a trailer) on your hitch, safety chains, and to make sure your lights and signals are operating correctly.
One More Thing
You should consider investing in a navigation system that has a trailer or RV setting. This will help you to stay away from some difficult situations. It will let you know where low bridges are. It will let you know about narrow and one-way roads. Plus, you’ll get some helpful information about the right speed to be going and you can make a good plan for your route.
Wrapping It Up
Successfully towing a trailer for the first time also requires a good idea about the route you’ll be taking. The distance you are going to travel, road conditions, and other environmental factors should be considered when planning your route. Learning how to tow a trailer safely takes time and experience. The most important part of knowing how to tow a trailer is safety. Think safety first and you should be fine.