Tips for pulling a large trailer or 5th wheel

 I've been pulling trailers for years, started with a small popup camper trailer and eventually I pulled a 30' travel trailer to every state with the family.  Came across and article and thought it might benefit those who don't have much experience towing a trailer.

Remember trailers are heavy, pop ups can be 2-3000 lbs, boat on a trailer 5000-10,000 lbs and 5th wheels can easily hit 15,000 lbs.  This means everything happens slower.  It takes longer to accelerate and stop a trailer this large.  So take it slow, make sure you have plenty of starting and stopping distance.

Acceleration - It will take you longer to accelerate pulling a trailer, so make sure you have plenty of space before you pull out into traffic or make a turn.

Braking - Leave plenty of distance between the vehicles in front of you to ensure you have enough distance for stopping your tow vehicle and trailer.  If your trailer is equipped with trailer brakes, you should also make sure your your trailer brakes are working properly.

Turning - When you pull a trailer, you need to make wider turns to avoid dragging your trailer over a curb, through a ditch or into a pole.  The longer the trailer the wider the turn will need to be.  You'll also need to worry about the length of the trailer behind the wheels.  You back end pivots about the rear wheels and can swing into things, so be careful in gas stations where corners are tight.

It's Long - Remember when your driving you have a trailer behind you and it's long.  Leave more space before you merge or change lanes.  Use your turn signal to let others know your intentions.

Practice - If you haven't pulled a trailer start off slow and use less traveled back roads until you are comfortable.  Go to an empty large parking log and practice turns.  Set up cones and practice backing into spaces.  The larger the trailer, the more challenging this will be.

Up hill climbs - Use the right lane and make sure you vehicle is in Tow/Haul mode to help keep you vehicle in a constant gear.  Remember this is a lot of work for your tow vehicle.  Don't be afraid to take it slow.

Downhill - Again use Tow/Haul Mode, if it's a really steep grade, shift to a lower gear and let you vehicle engine help brake.  Try not to continuously apply the brakes, they can heat up and will not be as affective at stopping your vehicle.

Other Failures - You may encounter many other problems when trailering, I know I've encountered all of these except coupler failure.  Remember no sudden reactions or slamming on the brakes.  You will encounter high winds, large vehicles passing and causing a slight sway, blow outs, broken springs or maybe even you trailer decoupling from you tow vehicle.  

Plan your trip - To avoid stress you may want to plan out your trips with stops an known locations where you have plenty of clearance and easy out capability.

Return to Travel Page for more information on camping and trailering

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