RV Information from Kampgrounds of America, Inc.

Trailering hints

Ford Bothwell

Any veteran trailer camper will tell you that once you get the knack of it, there's really nothing to fear about towing a trailer put fear itself. Millions of practicing trailer towers, ranging from young drivers to senior citizens, will attest to that. For example, the most feared trailer maneuver for novices is backing up. But it's not so difficult if you do it like this:

  • Before starting to back, don't look at the trailer, look at the steering wheel in front of you. Grab the wheel with one hand at 6 o'clock. Whichever way your hand moves is the direction the trailer will move.
  • Once the trailer starts to jackknife, turn the steering wheel the opposite way as you look behind you to guide your car behind the path of the trailer.
  • It's easier to back to the left, where you have greater vision, than to back to the right. When backing right, try to station someone behind you to shout directions. If necessary, get out and look before you back.
  • Pull ahead of the parking spot and point the car on a right angle when backing left, and on a left angle when backing right.

All aspects of trailer towing require know-how and practice, not superior driving ability. Best way to learn is to practice near home on quiet roads and in vacant parking lots.

  • Place a few empty cardboard boxes in a parking lot and learn to back between them.
  • Also practice turning, the second trickiest trailer maneuver. Trailer wheels track tighter than a car's in a turn. you have to compensate by making sweeping turns to avoid scuffed trailer tires, or worse.

Don't judge trailer clearance by what you see in front of you. Your trailer may be wider. And remember that all trailers have blind spots. Be cautious when you pullout to pass or turn right. Watch both side mirrors for vehicles creeping up on you. Tree limbs in campgrounds wait for the unwary. Allow for trailer roof vents and air conditioners when gauging your clearance.

Stopping distances increase with the added weight of a trailer. Even so, other drivers will pull in front of you, not realizing you have reduced . braking .power. Learn to expect the unexpected.

Climbing hills on hot days may increase water temperature. Drop to a lower gear to speed up the fan and water pump; turn on the heater, if necessary, to cut engine heat. Going downhill, put the tow car in the same gear you would use if coming up.

Trailer hitches

There's really no reason for hitch failure if you match the hitch to the trailer. Hitches come in three classes: Class I for light trailers up to 2,000 pounds and 200 pounds tongue load; Class II for medium weights, 2,000 to 4,000 pounds and 500 pounds tongue load; and Class III for heavyweight trailers, 4,000 pounds and up, and 750 pounds and up tongue load. You should match a hitch's maximum weight capacity with the trailer tongue weight (10 per cent of a trailer's weight up to 2,000 pounds and 12112 per cent of the total weight of trailers over 2,000 pounds).

There are two types of hitches: frame hitches, which carry both the trailer tongue weight and tow car weight, and axle hitches, which support the tongue weight only and are not affected by car weight but have less clearance underneath. Bumper hitches should be avoided.

Trailering accessories for safety

Overload springs and air shocks are often needed on cars with frame hitches to keep both vehicles level. Equalizing hitches, or torsion bars, should be used on trailers over 2,000 pounds. They throw one-third of the tongue weight back on the trailer and transfer two-thirds between the car's two axles. Sway bars, which reduce dangerous sway, are needed on trailers 17 feet or over. And it's best to have independent trailer brakes on all trailers over 1,000 pounds.

Additional tips

Properly equipped rigs may sway if the tow bar isn't rigid (often detectable oily under actual towing conditions), if the trailer is loaded with too much weight in the rear or on one side, if the tow car's front wheels need alignment or if there is uneven air pressure in the car and/ or trailer tires.

Never paint the ball on a ball hitch, since it serves as a ground for the electrical system. And if you hear unusual static on your radio, stop and check your trailer wiring. It may mean a ground wire has worked loose in the car-trailer hook-up.

When loading a trailer, place 60 percent of the weight in the front, 40 percent in the rear, with heaviest items on the floor just ahead of the rear axle and lighter goods overhead. The weight of an empty trailer differs substantially from one that is fully loaded. Don't exceed your trailer's GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating). Overloads mean danger.

Towing and backing a trailer doesn't have to give you headaches, heart failure, or make you feel like you should have stayed home. With a little practice and preparation, you could become as expert at towing a trailer as the "good buddies" driving their 18-wheelers down the highway.

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