Have you ever watched someone who's an expert at towing—a rancher maneuvering a horse trailer, a sportsman with a fishing boat, or a retired couple backing up their fifth wheel? Do you ever wish you had the confidence and finesse some of these more seasoned drivers possess? You can. A helpful tip for handling your tow vehicle and trailer with the cool skill of someone who knows exactly what they're doing is to take it slow and easy.
Slow and Easy
Going slow and easy is the best way to tow. A steady approach will pay off in safety and peace of mind. It will also help you develop the "feel" required to tow with savvy. Slow and easy towing is the key to stopping, making turns, and backing up like the experts.
Proper stopping technique is important, and the slow and easy approach can be the difference between success and failure. Allowing ample time to stop with the combined weight of your tow vehicle and trailer is essential. Trying to stop too quickly can result in an accident.
Give yourself plenty of time and space, and always ease into the brake. Practice regularly. Think the maneuver through from the moment you prepare to brake until you are completely stopped. This will help you develop the reflexes for an emergency stop. Give it a try on roads with less traffic first, before you head out onto the highway.
When making turns, going slow and easy is key. Many people don't understand how the trailer behaves during a turn. This is a common mistake. The most important concept to keep in mind is that the trailer always cuts to the inside of your turn. When turning, think ahead and compensate for the trailer behind your tow vehicle.
Use all of your part of the road when towing and turning. If you're turning left, for example, consider the other car at the stop sign. Swing wide to the outside of the turn, or the trailer may cut into the waiting car. If you're turning right, swing wide enough to clear the center line with your left front tire. This prevents you from running over the curb to your right.
Backing up requires a steady, patient approach. This maneuver may make you nervous at first, but you'll become more comfortable with practice. Keep these words in mind when shifting into reverse: "small movements of the wheel" and "wait for the trailer to react". If necessary, repeat them like a mantra. Too much turning action is a common mistake. If you crank the steering wheel to the left or right, without waiting to see how the trailer reacts, you're going to have to pull forward and try again. In fact, you may be alternating between drive and reverse in that seesaw action seen at too many campsites.
When backing, don't rely solely on your mirrors. Turn around in your seat and look at your trailer. It's a good idea to have a reliable helper standing by (well out of the way, of course) on the driver's side near the tail end of the trailer, so you can see them. Have an agreed-upon set of signals for stopping, reversing, distance, and other directions. This can go a long way towards alleviating miscommunication or hard feelings.
Whether you're new to towing or just brushing up on your skills, taking it slow and easy is the way to go. Be sure to keep it in mind when stopping, turning, or backing up with a trailer in tow. You'll be safe and secure as a result. And before you know it, you'll be the one everyone is watching with admiration as you skillfully maneuver your tow vehicle and trailer into that tight camping spot!