Trailer Towing

 
ADVANCED DRIVING TIPS FOR TOWING TRAILERS
 

There is a lot more to safe trailer use than learning how to back up properly. Cornering line, smooth driving, correct use of brakes, safe following distance, all the stuff that matters in normal driving becomes even more important when hauling a trailer. We offer precision driving schools for those who tow trailers, either for recreation or work. We also do precision driving clinics for RV owners, covering all aspects of safe operation.
 

Tongue weight is critical for safety. A utility trailer should have between 10 and 15% of the gross vehicle weight as tongue weight. Too little and the trailer may go into a dangerous sway or speed wobble. Too much and load is taken off the front tires, which significantly affects steering as well as braking.

Hitches must be of the correct specification for intended use. Safety chains should be crossed under the trailer tongue to form a cradle in case of hitch failure.

The National Safety Code sets out standards for fastening a load, whether in the bed of a truck or on a trailer. Consider these a minimum, many countries have tougher regulations. The bottom line is, tie the cargo down so it won't break loose even under extreme circumstances.
 
Check tire pressures regularly. Underinflation can lead to heat generated blowouts, aka. catastrophic failure. As the name implies, not much fun.

Reversing:

To get a feel for steering, start with one hand on the bottom of the wheel. Move the hand in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go.

Short trailers are usually harder to reverse with than longer ones.

Before backing up, unless you are 100% sure everything is clear, get out and take a look behind your vehicle.

Whenever possible, use a spotter for reversing. You can also set out a cone or two to help keep things lined up.

Take your time. If things go wrong, having to pull forward and try again is vastly preferable to creating expensive noises.

Stopping and Cornering:

Be aware of how your electric trailer brakes work. Even with good, properly adjusted trailer brakes, stopping distances will be longer than with the tow vehicle alone. Use a minimum four second following distance, more in bad weather.

In a corner, your trailer wheels are always pointed towards the outside. Hard braking will produce force in that direction, possibly causing the rig to jackknife. Slow down enough, in advance of the turn, to minimize the chance of having to adjust speed in mid-corner.
 
A late turn-in will allow room for the trailerís rear wheels to clear the inside of a turn. Hugging the inside of the road too soon is an excellent way to damage wheels and tires, and is not friendly to pedestrians or cyclists either.
 
Sherline Products (http://www.sherline.com/lmbook.htm) has an excellent trailer loading and towing guide, as well as some trailering disaster stories.
 
This is a UK website, with some useful diagrams. http://www.ntta.co.uk/law/driving/reversing.htm
 
The following site features a little game that shows the basics of reversing with a trailer. http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/games/reverse.asp