How Travel Trailer Towing Works

Travel Trailer Towing Tips

If you don't distribute the weight evenly in your trailer, you may end up with too much weight bearing down on the hitch.
If you don't distribute the weight evenly in your trailer, you may end up with too much weight bearing down on the hitch.
Blaine Franger/UpperCut Images/Getty Images

Travel trailer towing isn't as easy as you may think. Learning how to tow can be as nerve-wracking as learning how to drive -- all over again. You may want to find an empty parking lot to practice driving maneuvers before you head out on the highway. Until you get comfortable with towing, a simple maneuver like parking can become exponentially more difficult. Here are some tips for travel trailer towing to get you revved up.

Getting hitched: First things first -- let's go over the basic process of hitching a trailer to your vehicle for non-5ers. Check the label on the hitch to make sure it can handle the weight of the trailer. If not, you will need a higher class of hitch. With the trailer raised on a jack, drive your towing vehicle in reverse so that the hitch ball is centered to receive the trailer coupler. Once you've got things lined up, put your truck in park and put the parking brake on. Lower the trailer onto the hitch ball until it's completely seated. Then engage the locking mechanism [source: Hedgepath]. After this, you can plug the trailer's wires into the towing vehicle's electrical outlet. Finally, attach the safety chains in a crisscross pattern, allowing enough slack for turns, but short enough to not drag.

Braking: Towing a travel trailer inevitably means lugging around a lot more weight. The heavier your rig, the more momentum you'll have, meaning slowing down gets more dangerous. On the road, make sure you always give yourself plenty of space for braking. The faster you're going, the more space you should allow between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.

Weight distribution: To avoid trailer sway and generally maintain more control over your trailer, make sure to load it properly. This entails spreading the weight around from side to side and from front to back.

Backing up: This is always frustrating for the first-time tower, but easy once you know this trick: Place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go. Turning the wheel clockwise will turn the trailer left, and counter-clockwise will turn it right.

Turning: Keep in mind that you are carrying a long rig. The wheels of your trailer will always make a much sharper turn than the wheels of your towing vehicle. So give yourself plenty of slack by making a wide turn. To learn more about this, take a look at "How to Turn While Towing."

Parking: It's always smart to have someone stand outside and guide you while you park, especially if you're unsure of the dimensions of your rig. Once you're in the right place, shift into park, apply the parking brake and let go of the brake pedal. Then have someone stick blocks behind the tires to prevent them from rolling [source: RV Basics].

If you follow these tips, you'll have a smoother and more enjoyable trip. To learn more about the maneuvers discussed above and other towing information, take a look at the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Bayliner. "Tow Guide." Bayliner, 2006. [Oct. 15, 2008]
  • Brown, Jerry. "Tow-able Choices: Travel Trailer vs Fifth Wheel."[Oct. 18, 2008]
  • Camping Earth. "Popup Campers." Camping Earth. [Oct. 18, 2008]
  • Camping Earth. "The Definitive Guide to Travel Trailers." Camping Earth. [Oct. 18, 2008]
  • Camping Earth. "The World of Teardrop Campers." Camping Earth. [Oct. 18, 2008]
  • Hedgepath, Albert. "How to Hook Up a Trailer to a Vehicle." Expert Village. [Oct. 18, 2008]
  • RV Basics. "RV Fifth Wheel and Travel Trailer Towing Safety Tips." RV Basics. [Oct. 18, 2008]