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How to Tow a Trailer - Chapter 10

How to Tow a Trailer - Towing 101 - CURT

How to Tow a Trailer

10 Tips & Rules for a Safe Journey

Safely towing a trailer means using the right towing equipment, hitching up correctly, staying alert on the road and thinking ahead. It also requires some practice and a healthy amount of confidence.

In this guide, we will cover the common-sense trailer towing rules, including towing a trailer tips and how to tow various types of trailers.

Pickup Truck Towing Travel Trailer

10 Common-Sense Trailer Towing Tips

The leading cause of accidents both in towing and in normal driving situations is driver error. It is not faulty equipment. Some of the main reasons people get into accidents is because they are not paying attention, they are driving too fast, they are tailgating the person in front of them and so on.

The following are some simple safety rules and precautions to help promote safe driving while towing a trailer.

Tip 1: Choose the Right Equipment

Having the right tool for the job is paramount in towing. The weight capacity of your vehicle and equipment must be enough to handle your trailer and cargo load.

The size of your hitch and other components is also key to ensuring a secure fit.

Trailer Hitch Towing Accessories Hooked Up

Tip 2: Hitch up Your Trailer Correctly

Before towing, make sure you have followed the proper procedures for hooking up your trailer. Double check all connections, including the coupler and wiring, and make sure your safety chains are crossed under the trailer tongue and securely connected.

How to hitch up a trailer
Hitching Up a Trailer

Tip 3: Allow Plenty of Stopping Distance

You need to increase your following distance when towing a trailer. This means increasing the amount of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. It takes longer to stop with a trailer than it does with your vehicle alone.

Also, it will help prolong the life of your vehicle if you can avoid sudden acceleration, braking and maneuvering.

Truck Towing Utility Trailer on Highway

Tip 4: Anticipate Problems Ahead

Since it takes longer to accelerate, stop, change lanes and turn with a trailer, scan the road ahead farther than you normally would. You can see many problems developing a long way off.

Observe traffic flow and be ready to react if needed.

Truck Towing Boat Trailer in Rain

Tip 5: Watch Out for Trailer Sway

Crosswinds, large trucks, downhill grades and high speeds can all lead to trailer sway. If you are not careful, your trailer can start swinging back and forth like a pendulum behind you. The best way to address this problem is with a sway control unit.

If you experience trailer sway, you can also take your foot off the gas and manually apply the trailer brakes with the brake controller. Press the button once and your trailer should align with your tow vehicle.

Truck Towing Motorcycle Trailer Sway
Without Sway Control - Diagram

Without sway control

With Sway Control - Diagram

With sway control

Tip 6: Be Extra Careful When Changing Lanes

Changing lanes on a highway is a challenge, even when you’re not towing. With a trailer, your blind spots increase, and you can't accelerate as quickly. When changing lanes with a trailer, make sure you have plenty of space and move slowly from one lane to the other.

You can also install tow mirrors to increase your view.

Truck Pulling Enclosed Utility Trailer

Tip 7: Be Patient When Passing

While towing, you have to allow more distance and time when passing another vehicle or being passed by a vehicle. Passing on a two-lane road should almost never happen. Make sure you have plenty of room to get your vehicle safely up to speed with the trailer in tow.

When being passed by another driver, be patient and remain calm, even if they don't return the favor. Relax! You'll reach your destination soon enough!

Car Passing Truck Towing Trailer

Tip 8: Stop Gradually Whenever Possible

Towing a trailer requires extra work from your brakes. You can help prolong the life of your vehicle and trailer brakes by easing into stops as much as possible. Anticipate stops and begin braking sooner than normal.

It is also important to keep your trailer brakes maintained and your brake controller properly adjusted.

How to use a brake controller
Dually Truck Towing Heavy-Duty Flatbed Trailer

Tip 9: Don't Pull in if There's No Way Out

It is easy to get stuck or blocked in with a trailer. For example, you might pull into a small parking lot easy enough, but to get out, you'll have to perform a complicated backup maneuver.

Make sure wherever you pull into that there's plenty of space to make a complete turnaround. Choosing a parking spot that's farther away may be the best option.

SUV Towing Kayak Trailer in Parking Lot

Tip 10: Add Security with a Coupler Lock

Trailer theft is a serious problem and is always unexpected. A trailer left unattended on its own or even coupled can easily be uncoupled and stolen while you are away.

Use a coupler lock when towing, as it not only keeps your coupler secure while driving but also deters theft.

Trailer Coupler Lock for Theft Resistance
Pickup Truck Pulling Boat Trailer

How to Tow a Boat Trailer

Towing a boat trailer is very much like towing any other trailer. Boat trailers, even with a boat in tow, are relatively lightweight, unless you are towing a yacht or pontoon boat. Whatever the case, the same rules apply. Stay alert, be patient and drive carefully.

When towing a boat, it is important to secure the boat before travel. You may need to invest in the right hand winch to pull the boat onto the trailer. Also, make sure you drain water from the live wells and any other reservoir before driving away.

How to Launch a Boat Video

Jeep Towing Travel Trailer Camper

How to Tow a Travel Trailer

Towing a travel trailer has its challenges and advantages. Travel trailers are relatively larger trailers, and larger trailers can be easier to back up with.

However, large trailers create more wind resistance and usually weigh more. Make sure your vehicle is equipped with the right weight distribution hitch and sway control before towing.

How to Tow a Utility Trailer

When towing a utility trailer, you will need to be conscious of your cargo. Follow the common-sense rules of hitching up correctly, driving carefully and being patient.

If you are towing an enclosed utility trailer, make sure items are secure even with the door shut, especially heavy cargo. If you have an open utility trailer, tie down all cargo with ratchet straps before travel.

Work Truck Towing Enclosed Utility Trailer

Towing 101 Table of Contents