Latest Industry News

rv trailer tow

RV Trailer Towing Tips

Losing control of your towing rig while you’re driving? That’s a nightmare you want to avoid. You know those times when your travel trailer starts swaying because of the wind or when big trucks zoom past? Well, you can make your driving experience a lot smoother and more enjoyable with just a bit of planning ahead.

rv trailer tow

Here’s the deal: you need to get the hang of picking the right equipment and figuring out how to keep your rig in top shape. That means understanding why the sway happens and how to keep it in check.

Now, let’s talk about sway control. These gadgets are designed to help when your trailer starts swinging around due to things like strong winds or those massive trucks overtaking you. But here’s the catch – if your trailer keeps swaying during normal towing situations, these sway controls probably won’t fix it.

The best way to tackle trailer sway no matter the conditions is by loading your trailer properly. It’s all about getting the weight distribution right. Check out the weight on the front end of your trailer (they call it the tongue weight) and the total weight of your whole trailer. For a smooth ride, aim to have the tongue weight around 10 to 15 percent of the total loaded trailer weight. Oh, and if you shuffle the weight around inside the trailer, you’ll likely solve most of the sway problems, especially if you’re using one of those weight distribution systems with built-in sway control.

Make sure to check out your weight distribution head and how those spring bars are set up. If the spring bars aren’t tightened enough, they won’t be very effective in reducing sway. Here’s a tip: by adjusting the angle of the ball mount, you can control how much pressure the spring bars exert and how the weight gets shared between your vehicle and the trailer axles.

When the back of your towing vehicle sags, it’s a common indication of having too much weight on the trailer’s hitch. This is risky because the front wheels won’t have enough weight, which messes with how you steer. It could even lead to the back tires or axle getting overwhelmed and failing from the excess load. On the flip side, when the back end of your towing vehicle rises, that’s a usual sign of having too little or negative weight on the hitch. This is also dangerous since it makes the trailer start swaying.

Optimal – For the majority of trailers and tow vehicles, it’s best if they travel level, meaning they’re parallel to the ground. Occasionally, certain vehicle makers might recommend a slight downward tilt at the back.

Safety Chains – Almost every state mandates safety chains. When hooked up, these chains should be loose enough to allow tight turns but shouldn’t scrape against the road. Also, they ought to cross underneath the trailer tongue. This setup helps stop the tongue from hitting the road if the trailer comes apart from the tow vehicle.

Stopping When Pulling A Trailer

Getting your truck and trailer combo to stop smoothly takes a bit of practice. You see, the electric brakes on your trailer work quite differently compared to the hydraulic brakes on your tow vehicle. These days, most electric brake controllers operate by starting with a gentle brake touch and then gradually increasing the brake pressure the longer you keep your foot on the brake pedal. This approach helps you slow down without causing your trailer’s wheels to lock up and skid, which is a situation you’d want to avoid. This technique works great when you have enough time to slow down and ease up to stop signs. Just make sure to leave some extra space between you and the vehicle in front of you. That way, you can gently apply the brakes and come to a smooth, controlled stop.

Now, let’s talk about the downside of electric brakes: unexpected situations. If you need to make a sudden stop, your trailer brakes might not fully kick in, and you’ll mainly rely on your tow vehicle to do the stopping. Even if you slam on the brakes, the trailer brakes will gradually engage, and it might take a couple of seconds before they’re fully active. Unfortunately, when you’re following closely, those precious 2 to 3 seconds aren’t available, and that could lead to some pretty bad outcomes. And remember, if you take your foot off the brake pedal, the trailer brakes will release. So, if you need them again, you’ll have that 2- to 3-second delay before they kick in fully.

Unite Truck to Trailer

When you’re using a ball hitch or a weight-distribution hitch, here’s what you do: use the tongue jack to lift the trailer until it lines up with your truck’s hitch platform. Keep the hitch unlocked, then gently lower the trailer onto the ball. To keep things secure, you can use either a padlock or a coupler safety pin to lock the tongue in place.

Chain It Up

Always connect safety chains between your vehicle and trailer. For added security, cross the chains under the trailer tongue to prepare for the possibility of the hitch separating. This precaution minimizes the chance of the trailer dragging in such a scenario. Ensuring the trailer doesn’t drag is crucial. Remember, it’s essential to leave some slack in the chains so that your truck can navigate corners without restricting the trailer’s movement.

Moving on, your next task is to ensure that your trailer’s turn signals and brake lights synchronize with your truck’s signals. Many modern trucks offer a convenient “plug and play” system, enabling a direct connection between the trailer’s wiring harness and the truck’s. This system simplifies the process of setting up the lights.

Trailer Hitch Classification:

Class I 2,000 pounds GTW

Class II 3,500 pounds GTW

Class III 5,000 pounds GTW

Class IV 7,500 pounds

GTW Class V 10,000 pounds

GTW GTW = Gross Trailer Weight (including car or boat together, if applicable)


Adding a trailer to your tow vehicle increases its weight and length. The extra weight causes your setup to have slower acceleration and longer braking distances. When towing a trailer, it’s important to consider the extended time needed for lane changes, braking, and passing other vehicles. Trailer brakes can significantly enhance your towing rig’s ability to come to a stop. The added length from the trailer can also present challenges during turns. Since the trailer doesn’t precisely follow the tow vehicle’s path, wider turns are necessary when navigating bends and corners.

To maintain fuel efficiency while towing, stick to moderate speeds. Higher speeds lead to increased wind resistance, reduced fuel economy, and additional strain on both the vehicle and trailer. When facing long or steep hills or driving on gravel roads, opt for a lower gear to alleviate stress on the transmission and engine. Shifting out of overdrive into a lower gear might even improve fuel efficiency.

Stay vigilant for potholes and large bumps, as they can cause damage to the tow vehicle, trailer hitch, and trailer itself. When towing, prioritize cautiousness and take your time. If, for any reason like a sudden gust of wind, a downhill slope, or a larger vehicle passing by, the trailer starts swaying, the driver should carefully assess the situation and decide on the appropriate action. Here’s a compilation of things to consider and avoid:


  • Attach trailer brakes for improved stopping power.
  • Allow for extra time when changing lanes, stopping, and passing.
  • Swing out wider during turns due to the trailer’s extended length.
  • Use lower gears on hills and gravel roads to reduce strain on the engine and transmission.
  • Be cautious of road hazards like potholes.


  • Don’t drive at excessive speeds while towing.
  • Don’t neglect the impact of wind resistance and added strain.
  • Don’t underestimate the extra time and space required for maneuvers.
  • Don’t disregard swaying or instability – assess and react appropriately.

Towing on the Road

Assuming you’ve followed all the correct steps, your initial impression might be that towing is simpler than anticipated. However, it’s important not to become overconfident, as that’s when problems can arise. The key point to keep in mind is that a vehicle towing a trailer takes longer to accelerate and significantly longer to come to a stop. Even with the assistance of trailer brakes, the added weight from the trailer—equivalent to a few tons—still affects your setup. Abrupt stops become quite challenging when the trailer is pushing from behind. Therefore, the golden rule is to maintain a calm and composed demeanor at all times. Accept that you’ll likely be the one sticking to the right lane, allowing for generous following distance, and signal lane changes well in advance. If luck is on your side, fellow drivers will provide you with space and a signal when it’s safe to switch lanes.

When navigating tight corners, aim to execute the broadest possible turn. Extend your entry into the intersection and then execute a sharp turn. This strategy ensures that the trailer follows the rear of your towing vehicle, preventing any collisions with curbs or parked cars when making a turn. Exercise caution by driving slower than your instincts might dictate, especially on curves. If the trailer isn’t loaded correctly, it could start swaying side to side during curves or downhill descents. This is where your trailer brakes become crucial. Gently press the brake actuator, and the increased resistance will align the trailer behind your vehicle.

Another aspect to consider when descending hills is the preservation of your tow vehicle’s brakes. Brakes can cease functioning if they overheat. Therefore, when tackling long downhill slopes, it’s essential to adopt a slow and gradual approach. Downshifting your vehicle’s gears will help control your speed. Avoid constantly riding the brakes, as this practice will lead to a loss of brake effectiveness over time.

Backing Up and Handling Parking Lots

Reversing a trailer requires a unique set of skills. While it might seem effortless when observing experts, it’s quite challenging. The fundamental principle is that the trailer’s rear moves in the opposite direction of the wheel’s turn. A helpful technique involves gripping the lower part of the steering wheel. Whichever way you shift your hand is the direction in which the trailer’s rear will pivot. The ultimate tip is to proactively seek parking spots that don’t necessitate backing up. It’s wise to avoid situations where you might drive into a space without a clear exit, as this could lead to the stress of maneuvering the trailer in reverse around tight corners and confined spaces.


Inspect the rearview mirrors and ensure you indicate your lane changes before overtaking. Once you have safely moved ahead of the other vehicle, proceed to signal your lane change and revert to your initial lane. Certain truck drivers might use their headlights to signal your clearance for a secure transition back to the right-hand lane. In return, numerous trailer-towing drivers extend the same courtesy to larger truckers on the road.

Leave comments

Your email address will not be published.*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>