Recreational vehicles, or RVs, are very popular around the United States. Some estimate that as many as 11% of all American households that are headed up by someone who is between the ages of 35 and 54 have an RV. For people who are 55 years and older, the percentage of RV owners is around 9.3%. When you include people who rent RVs and people who own them, the number of RV enthusiasts around the nation is about 30 million, according to the The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RIVA). Towing a trailer, however, is a skill that you need to learn and hone. From having the right brake controllers to knowing the best way to drive with a trailer, here are some things you can do to make the process easier.
- Know how much everything weighs. Your car or truck should have a tow rating. If you do not know what that is, you can find it in your owner’s manual and on a sticker inside your driver’s side door.. When you are looking at the tow rating and what you can effectively tow safely, you need to add the weights of the car or truck, the trailer, whatever you put in the trailer and the weights of everyone who is coming along. People sometimes do not take the weight of the people who will be traveling in the weight of the whole system but you have to.
- Know your tongue weight. The amount of weight that will sit on your hitch is called the “tongue weight.” You want to make sure this is no more than 10% of the weight of the trailer. It seems that 10% is a magic number of sorts. If you do not put enough weight on the hitch, you will see some swaying back and forth of the trailer. If you end up placing too much weight on the hitch, you will have a harder time steering the trailer. This is because too much weight on the hitch means weight is being taken off of the tires.
- You need electronic brakes and brake controllers if your load is heavy. If you find that your haul is really heavy, you will really need to have electronic brakes and electric brake controllers inside your car or truck. Some newer vehicles have brake controllers built in. If that is not the case with your vehicle, you will do yourself a big favor by forgoing the cheaper brake controllers and go for one that is a very good quality. If you spend a little more on proportional brake controllers, you will find using them a lot easier. The alternative is an expensive accident.
- Make adjustments to your brake controllers. Before you head out on your journey, you need to adjust the gain. You need to do this on all trailer brake controllers. What you need to do is get your vehicle, with the trailer attached, up to a speed of about 20 miles per hour. Once you get to that speed, ease your vehicle to a stop. You will need to adjust the gain from time to time. The goal is to get to the point where it does not feel like you are being dragged down by your trailer.
- Get the right hitch. You have to get the right size hitch for your trailer. While they may be close in size, there is a difference between a ball that is 1-7/8th inches and one that is two inches. If you need the smaller size ball, that is what you need. A two inch hitch ball will not work. If you go with the size of ball that is not the right size, you run the risk of having your trailer pop off the hitch when you are driving, which is a very dangerous thing to happen.
- Keep some distance. When you are driving your trailer, make sure there is enough distance between you and the other vehicles on the road. You will need more time for braking so stay back and away from other vehicles to be safe.
Driving while towing a trailer will take some practice but you can get the hang of it with some effort.