For most drivers, simply keeping a car or truck moving straight down the highway doesn't require much effort. Add a trailer to the equation, and the same task becomes a bit more difficult. Acceleration slows down, braking distances stretch out, and even the vehicle's steering feels a little different. But perhaps one of the most dramatic differences that a driver will experience is when turning while towing.
Depending on a number of variables, such as whether you typically drive in a rural or urban setting or the average distance that you drive, you may be required to make dozens of turns every time you get behind the wheel. After a while, you probably don't give turning much thought at all. It's just something every driver deals with -- it becomes second nature.
Turning while towing a trailer is another story altogether. What was once a rather simple undertaking -- an ordinary right- or left-hand turn -- now becomes a task that requires a bit of advanced planning on the part of the driver. It may sound a little dramatic, but until you've actually been in the position of having to negotiate your way around a crowded street corner while towing a trailer, it's difficult to accurately describe the feeling. A veteran trailer driver, although still cautious, might be a bit more at ease in that situation, but it wouldn't be a stretch to say that a rookie driver would likely feel some anxiety and maybe even a little fear as he or she approaches that same turn.
Why the trepidation over a simple turn? What's the difference if you have a trailer attached to your vehicle? On the next page, we'll find out why turning while towing can cause even an experienced driver to grip the wheel just a little bit harder.
Maneuvers for Turning While Towing
Turning while towing isn't impossible, but it can be rather difficult, even for an experienced driver. One of the most important points to keep in mind when you're turning while towing a trailer is that you must take turns significantly wider than you typically would. It's always a good idea to give yourself plenty of extra room for turning when you're towing. The outside edge of the trailer has to clear all curbside hazards while turning. Objects like mailboxes, street signs, other vehicles or even people can get in the way of a turning trailer.
The tires should also be a consideration. It doesn't matter what type of trailer you're pulling -- the trailer's tires will track toward the inside of the turn radius much more than the tires of the tow vehicle [source: RV Towing Tips]. To describe it in simpler terms, the trailer will always cut the corner sharper than the tow vehicle will, so the wider you can swing around a turn, the better the chances are that the trailer will make it around the corner unscathed.
The same tire tracking principles apply to the trailer as the speeds increase, but to a lesser extent. For example, if the trailer is being pulled through a series of turns at higher speeds, it would be a wise decision to keep the tow vehicle toward the outside edge of the turn radius (yet remaining safely within your lane) since the trailer tires will track closer toward the inside of the turn. The trailer tires will always track more to the inside of the turn at slower speeds and always track less to the inside of the turn at higher speeds [source: RV Towing Tips]. Either way, the trailer needs additional room for turning, so you should always be prepared to adjust accordingly.
Aside from planning ahead and giving yourself as much room as possible to make wide turns, there is one more turning while towing tip that anyone pulling a trailer might find helpful: Watch your mirrors. As elementary as this towing tip may seem, it's a point that can often be overlooked by novice drivers. If your mirrors are adjusted properly, they can show you exactly where your trailer is headed and where the trailer wheels are right now. They can also give you an overall sense of how to correct, if necessary.
Turning while towing doesn't have to be difficult; in fact, it may become relatively simple once you're familiar with the way the tow vehicle and trailer handle a turn. Just remember to have the foresight to plan for the corner early. Give yourself more room than you think you'll need, and don't forget to watch your mirrors. Practice helps, too, so bear in mind that every difficult turning maneuver that you make while towing is just another valuable learning experience.
To read more about steering, towing and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Ingle, W.H. "Trailer Towing Tips: Towing Your New Trailer." MotorPoint. (Sept. 18, 2008) http://www.motorpoint.com.au/trailer-usage.asp
- Pegg, Harry. "More to towing than meets the eye." Calgary SUN. June 15, 2007. (Sept. 18, 2008) http://www.calgarysun.com/cgi-bin/publish.cgi?p=187073&s=rv&x=articles
- RV Central. "Towing a Car." May 16, 2005. (Sept. 18, 2008) http://rvcentral.com/towcar.htm
- RV Towing Tips. "Ready to roll: Turning." Oct. 8, 2007. (Sept. 18, 2008) http://www.rvtowingtips.com/ready-to-roll.htm