Now that summer is in full swing, travelers all over the country are hitching up their trailers and getting ready for their upcoming vacations. If you’re more accustomed to driving a motorhome or new to towing in general, you might be at a bit of a loss when it comes to safely driving your travel trailer. Never fear! Travelcamp has created this travel trailer towing guide to help with such a conundrum. We have locations in Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida, to best serve our customers.
Choosing The Right Towing Vehicle
When towing, it’s vital that you choose a towing vehicle with a sufficient gross combined weight rating (GCWR) to tow the travel trailer that you’ve chosen. Travel trailers have what is referred to as a bumper pull hitch, which most passenger vehicles are capable of handling, but some heavier travel trailers can’t be pulled by anything less than a half-ton truck. The GCWR describes the weight limit your car is capable of handling set by the manufacturer of your vehicle. This limit includes the weight of the vehicle itself, plus the towed vehicle, all its cargo and every passenger.
Exceeding the GCWR of your vehicle is not just dangerous, but can be illegal, so you could face a hefty fine if you’re caught — that is, if you don’t get in an accident first because your trailer is too heavy for your vehicle to be able to stop on time. Some other risks of a too-heavy trailer include tire blowouts and swaying that could knock your trailer into other traffic. Be smart and make sure your towing vehicle is capable of towing your trailer.
Distributing Weight Evenly
When you’ve got the tow vehicle down, your next task is to evenly distribute weight throughout your trailer to minimize strain on any one tire and reduce the risk of your trailer swaying in traffic. An unbalanced trailer is an unstable trailer, so you want to keep everything on an even keel. Distribute the weight evenly both from side to side and from front to back. A good guideline is to place 60% of your cargo’s weight toward the front of the vehicle near the hitch, with the remaining 40% at the back half. 10-20% of the weight should be placed as close to the hitch as possible, which could require some strategy while packing, but it’s doable and will help you to drive more safely.
Practice makes perfect, and towing is no different. Before you load up your trailer and hit the interstate, it makes sense to take your hitched-up trailer to an empty parking lot for a little practice. You can work on your braking, parking, reversing and turning skills without worrying that you’ll hit something if you don’t get the angle exactly right. Do this a few times until you’re relatively comfortable with the way your towing setup works, and do some slow laps around residential streets to become comfortable with the actual driving of your rig. Your driving skills simply have to change when you’re towing to accommodate the shift in gravity and extra weight behind your car.
After you’ve gotten good at these skills, choose a time of day when traffic is at a minimum to practice merging onto the highway and driving at the speed limit. You shouldn’t go faster than about 60 mph while towing. A little practice in advance will make you so much more confident when it’s actually time to drive on your trip!
If you’re looking into buying a new or used travel trailer, come down to one of our showrooms to see the array of travel trailers we have available for sale. Our experienced staff can answer any further questions you might have about towing your travel trailer, too. Travelcamp is located in Jacksonville, serving the communities of Orange Park, Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Daytona Beach, and St. Augustine, Florida.