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Ultimate Trailer Towing Guide

Chapter 1

Ultimate Trailer Towing Guide - Towing 101 - CURTUltimate Trailer Towing Guide - Towing 101 - CURT

How to Tow a Trailer Safely

10 Common-Sense Trailer Towing Tips

Towing 101 is the ultimate trailer towing guide. It is designed to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to successfully tow a trailer with your vehicle.

This tow guide is perfect for any first time trailer owner, as well as seasoned veterans looking for a refresher. It offers some of the most helpful information about trailering because it is written by industry professionals -- your very own CURT team!

Let's begin with proper trailer towing practices.

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.

Learn more about choosing the right towing equipment or look up your vehicle to find a receiver hitch.

Trailer Hitch Towing Accessories Hooked UpTrailer Hitch Towing Accessories Hooked Up

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.

Learn more about how to hook up a trailer.

Hitching Up TrailerHitching Up Trailer

QuickPin No-Latch CouplerQuickPin No-Latch Coupler

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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 HighwayTruck Towing Utility Trailer Highway

4. Anticipate problems ahead

The leading cause of accidents both in towing and in normal driving situations is driver error. 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.

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 RainTruck Towing Boat Trailer Rain

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 some kind of hitch stabilization device.

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

Learn more about how to use a brake controller.

Truck Towing Motorcycle Trailer SwayTruck Towing Motorcycle Trailer Sway

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 TrailerTruck Pulling Enclosed Utility Trailer

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 TrailerCar Passing Truck Towing Trailer

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 properly adjusted and your brake controller calibrated.

Dually Truck Towing Heavy-Duty Flatbed TrailerDually Truck Towing Heavy-Duty Flatbed Trailer

9. Don't drive 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 Parking LotSUV Towing Kayak Trailer Parking Lot

10. Keep your towing setup secure

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 trailer lock to keep your coupler protected against theft and a hitch lock to keep your trailer hitch secure.

Learn more about how to choose the best lock.

Trailer Coupler Lock Theft ResistanceTrailer Coupler Lock Theft Resistance

Towing a Trailer Tips!

Throughout this tow trailer guide, look for our Towing Tips! These snippets of advice are helpful for the first time trailer owner and seasoned towing professional alike. Plus, they're free!

Car Towing Teardrop Camper Tow GuideCar Towing Teardrop Camper Tow Guide

Towing a Trailer for the First Time

Perhaps you, like many drivers, are reluctant to tow a trailer. When towing a trailer for the first time, things may feel heavier, slower and unfamiliar behind the wheel. However, even though several aspects of your normal driving experience may change, trailering does not need to be stressful. In fact, with the proper know-how, towing can become as comfortable as normal driving.

Whether you're pulling a travel trailer for the first time or simply hitching up a cargo carrier, it is important to be prepared. This is hauling 101! Consider the following questions about your own specific towing situation.

Jeep Jet Ski Trailer Towing for BeginnersJeep Jet Ski Trailer Towing for Beginners

1. What will you be towing?

First, you should know what kind of trailer you plan to tow. Will it be a utility trailer, boat trailer or maybe something heavier, such as a travel trailer? Knowing your trailer weight is essential for safe towing.

Based on your trailer type, will you need a receiver hitch or a heavy-duty 5th wheel or gooseneck hitch? Also does your trailer have its own set of brakes?

Learn more about hitch types here and trailer brakes and controllers here.

Be sure to think through all factors before towing any type of trailer.

Pickup Truck Towing Guide Trailer PullingPickup Truck Towing Guide Trailer Pulling

2. How will you be towing?

What kind of vehicle will you be driving? Will you be towing with a heavy-duty pickup truck or a small passenger car? Does your vehicle have a factory tow package or will you need to install your own towing equipment?

Each vehicle has different capacities, and each may require different equipment to tow safely and legally.

Learn more about installing a hitch here and towing capacity here.

Boat Trailer Towing Guide CURTBoat Trailer Towing Guide CURT

3. Where will you be towing?

Successfully towing a trailer also depends on the distance and road conditions along your route. For example, towing a utility trailer across town is one thing; towing a large 5th wheel trailer to a remote destination is something else.

It is likely that you will tow different trailers with the same vehicle. You will need to consider how best to equip yourself for these changes.

Learn more about different types of towing here.

Additional Towing Help

The information in Towing 101 will help answer all of the basic questions about towing a trailer. You can move through the guide one chapter at a time or jump directly to a specific topic of interest.

For help beyond the towing basics, please know that the CURT team is always here for you. You can send us a message or call our Product Support team any time during normal business hours!

Pulling a Travel Trailer for the First Time - CURT Towing 101Pulling a Travel Trailer for the First Time - CURT Towing 101

Towing Specific Types of Trailers

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.

Need help launching?

Towing a Boat TrailerTowing a Boat Trailer

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.

Jeep Towing Travel Trailer CamperJeep Towing Travel Trailer Camper

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 TrailerWork Truck Towing Enclosed Utility Trailer

Not sure where to start? Look up your vehicle to find a custom hitch!

Towing 101 Table of Contents

Looking for more?

Discover more great tips and how-tos on the Lippert blog -- your destination for all things RVing, towing, boating and beyond!