OK so you have done all the preparations for your trip, the trailer is loaded, route planned, reservations confirmed and your tow vehicle is serviced.
It is just as important to check the systems on your trailer, many trailers sit for months or even years between trips. Even small utility trailers need attention although it may only need the tires and the wheel bearings checked.
You have probably seen some unfortunate trailer sitting on the side of the highway with a wheel missing the result of a blow out or worse, a seized bearing.
Bearings are probably the most neglected system on a trailer and can cause the most expensive repair bill if they fail.
Several years ago my wife and I met her cousin and husband for a fishing weekend 4 hrs from our home. Disaster struck on the way home when one of the bearings on our boat trailer failed. It seized destroying the hub, tire and axle spindle. After the towing bill and repairs I was down more than $1000.
This experience could have been avoided if I had made sure the bearing was receiving grease through the bearing buddies. I did grease them before the trip but at the time I remember noticing that one of the bearing buddies was much more difficult to pump in the grease than the other. I should have taken the wheel off and checked the bearing.
Brakes are another invisible system that need attention from time to time. Click here to check out my article on RV Maintenance and bearings & brakes.
Before you take off, it’s important that all items are in good working order and properly attached. Once you have the hang of it, towing is fairly simple, but one forgotten step can lead to disastrous results. Making a personalized checklist and carefully going through it every time you tow is a good way to make sure nothing is forgotten. Here are some items you may want to include.
- Tire pressure & condition.
- Check all fluid levels. Coolant, oil, wiper fluid, etc.
- All lights are working correctly
- Ensure that your brakes are in good working order
- Brake controller is properly connected (if applicable)
- Tires properly inflated and in good shape
- Brakes (if applicable) are in good working order
- All lights (brake lights, turn signal lights, running lights) are properly connected and working correctly
- Check to make sure that all windows and doors are closed and secured. Also, is everything properly tied down and secured?
There are 3 common sizes of hitch balls 1 7/8″, 2″, & 2 5/16 “, make sure the size of the ball matches the tongue size on your trailer, The size is usually marked on the top of the ball and on the tongue.
- Hitch ball is tightly secured.
- Coupler or socket is secured and locked over the ball with a pin and clip
- Safety chains are properly attached and secured
- The tongue jack is fully up and properly stowed
- All electrical wiring have been properly attached and are working correctly
- Brake-away wire attached to tow vehicle.
Safe Towing Tips
When you’re hitting the roads with a trailer, safety is one of the most important focuses. Stay calm, alert and try not to overreact. Nothing ruins a trip faster than a towing mishap. And, in the world of towing little mistakes can quickly turn into big problems. This list of tips should help you to get to your destination without an unfortunate experience.
- Drive at moderate and reasonable speeds. Not only does this place less strain on your vehicle and trailer, it also helps to prevent trailer sway. If the speed demons find it infuriating that you insist on safe driving, let them rush up ahead and find the waiting highway patrol cars.
- Avoid sudden stops and movements. When you’re pulling a trailer, the movement of your tow vehicle will be exaggerated in your trailer. Sudden movements of the tow vehicle can cause sway.
- Be aware of your trailers’ position. The wheels on your trailer are closer to the inside of a turn, so you will need to make wider turns in order to avoid running over curbs or other obstacles. Leave plenty of space between other vehicles when changing lanes and passing.
- Control sway. Trailer sway can be caused by several factors, including air pressure change and wind buffeting from passing vehicles. Reacting properly is the key to regaining control. When your trailer begins to sway release the accelerator pedal to reduce your speed. Do not apply the brakes – this can make the sway worse. The trailer should come under control as you slow down. If you have significant sway problems, a sway control system is a good solution, also if your trailer is equipped with brakes, you may apply the brakes manually (not with the brake pedal).
- Properly balance your load. Ensure that the bulk of the weight resides over the axles of your trailer. If you are unable to get the load to level, a weight distribution hitch may be a good solution to your problem.
- Follow all manufacturer instructions. Never exceed the manufacturers recommends GTW (gross towing weight). Also, use the driving gear that is recommended by the manufacturer for towing whenever possible (you may need to shift up or down on hill climbs and descents).
- Give yourself space. When you’re towing the extra weight, it’s going to take longer to stop. Make sure you always leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front.
- Anticipate movements. Try to anticipate and plan for your movements. The best way to reduce your speed is to shift into a lower gear and then press the brakes lightly.
- A brake controller can also help in sway conditions. By gradually applying the trailers brakes (not your vehicles) it can help slow down the trailer and get it under control.
Downgrades and Upgrades
- Save your brakes. On long downgrades make sure to downshift and apply your brakes in intervals. Brakes that are left on for extended periods of time may overheat and fail.
- Watch that temperature gauge. Climbing hills can cause your transmission to overheat, a steady slower speed while keeping your engine revolution moderate will help. A heavy-duty transmission cooler will also help with this problem. If your tow vehicle tends to overheat make safe frequent stops to let it cool down.
Before you begin, if possible get out and establish a plan in your mind before you begin to back up.
Backing up with a trailer attached is something that a lot of people struggle to learn and is a common fear among newbies. One of the easiest ways is to place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, from this position moving your hand left will make your trailer turn left and moving your hand to the right will make your trailer turn to the right. It’s important to always back up slowly and if possible, have someone outside to help guide you. Also, keep your movements small and controlled. Exaggerated movements can cause the trailer to move more than you want it to.
Back up cameras can also be a big help in successfully getting your trailer into place. Click here to checkout backup cameras on Amazon.
I have created a comprehensive list of equipment and items you may need for your RV travels click here to check out my list.
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I hope this article is of some help to you.
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