When you don’t have room in your car or minivan for what you need, the only option is to purchase a trailer.
Trailers are versatile and you can choose to haul everything from bicycles to cows. If you have a travel trailer, you can even sleep in it.
However, new owners may not know everything they need to know to safely travel in a trailer.
Not to worry, though. Here are the top 5 tips to help you drive your trailer safely.
Stay under maximum towing capacity
If you’ve never towed anything before, you may not realize that your car has a maximum towing capacity. If you’re learning to drive a trailer, there are two numbers you need to consider.
The first is the gross trailer weight rating, or GVWR, which indicates the maximum weight of the trailer. The second is the Combined Gross Weight Rating, or GCWR, which is the maximum weight of the car and trailer.
Exceeding either of these can be dangerous, and it is an offense if you are driving a vehicle that exceeds the maximum load capacity. Make sure you also take into account the weight of your cargo.
You also need to make sure that you adhere to the maximum size of the trailer that is required by your state.
Ensuring that you can legally tow a vehicle is just one factor to consider before purchasing a trailer. Learn more about other trailers to consider before buying.
Choosing the Right Direction
If you are towing a trailer for the first time, another thing to consider is the trailer itself. Your car needs to be able to tow the trailer properly, so the sling (and the sling ball on your car) needs to be heavy and large enough to tow the trailer.
The total weight of the trailer may also be a factor. Check for marks or indentations around the lasso ball to determine the maximum gross weight it can handle, or check the relevant service manual.
You also need to make sure the lasso ball is the correct size. They come in different sizes and you need to make sure that it is safe while you are driving.
You do not want it to wander off the road!
Try hooking up the trailer a couple of times before you drive too far and then separate it to make sure it’s safe.
Test the lights, tire pressure and load
When towing a trailer, you should remember to do a final check of everything before you leave. There are a lot of things that can go wrong that can be avoided by testing everything before you go.
We think that if you’re learning how to drive a trailer, you should pay attention to the lights, load, and tire pressure.
It’s pretty simple, but as we’ve already mentioned, the weight of the car matters, so don’t overload the trailer. The less the better – give yourself some breathing room.
Check your lights before you leave the house, too. You’ll need to get an extra person to do this – have them check your taillights, brake lights, and turn signals to make sure they’re working properly on the trailer. If they don’t work properly, you may need to double-check your contacts.
Finally, if your tires are heavier than usual, they may not have enough pressure. Make sure your tires are fully inflated and check the tread for wear.
Don’t forget to check your vehicle before you leave. Check out our other auto repair guides for more information on do-it-yourself repairs you can try.
Pack the essentials
Everything is a good idea before you go. That’s why we recommend that you bring some essentials with you on your trailer trip.
The first is an emergency repair kit. You may need to change a tire on the road, so a spare tire and jack can help you quickly change a tire on the side of the road. Bring a few other essentials such as bottled water, duct tape for quick repairs, and gasoline for petroleum supplies.
Depending on your state, you may also need to add some other elements to your trailer setup, such as a breakaway tool to prevent the trailer from separating on the road. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles to make sure you have everything you need.
Going on a road trip? Check out the top 10 car camping accessories you should take with you.
Getting Ready to Drive Your Trailer
If you’re confident that your trailer is ready to go, then the only step left is to drive it. However, before you do that, there are a few tips that you should keep in mind.
First of all, you should keep in mind that when you drive, you will be hitching the trailer in a more rearward position. You will need to change your driving technique to take into account the fact that you will need to stop, turn and deal with other vehicles.
You also need to remember that you cannot accelerate or decelerate without a trailer. Give yourself a few extra seconds to avoid overdoing it when you need to accelerate or decelerate, such as when merging or parking.
If you’ve been driving for a while, don’t be afraid to stop and double-check that things on your trailer are still working. Some bumps in the road can cause wires to come loose, which can stop your lights from working.
Use a trailer
A trailer provides you with more room and freedom of movement.