Driving with a trailer can be a challenging but rewarding experience allowing you to transport cargo, recreational vehicles or equipment. A trailer extends your vehicle’s cargo space, providing additional room to carry large, heavy or bulky items that may not fit inside your car or truck.
It allows you to efficiently transport everything from furniture, appliances and construction materials to landscaping supplies, recreational vehicles, livestock and agricultural equipment. With a trailer by your side, you gain flexibility, convenience and peace of mind knowing that you can easily haul your belongings or equipment. It becomes a dependable companion, expanding your capabilities and opening up a world of efficient and hassle-free transportation possibilities.
If you are driving with a trailer for the first time, prepare adequately to ensure a safe and smooth driving experience. Learning how to tow a trailer might at first be daunting, but with proper preparation, it can be a breeze!
Understanding your towing vehicle’s capacity and limitations is crucial. Consult the vehicle’s manual or contact the manufacturer to determine the maximum towing and tongue weight it can safely handle.
You can also determine if your vehicle is suitable by calculating the total weight of your setup, including the weight of the vehicle, trailer, cargo and passengers. This total weight must not exceed the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) specified by the vehicle manufacturer. The GCWR is the maximum weight that your vehicle can safely tow.
Here are some key points to consider when configuring your system:
There are many different types of trailers, and some are more suitable for certain uses than others. Some common types of trailers include:
A flat-floor trailer may be a good option if you need to tow a car, ATV or other items. A single-axle trailer is sufficient for lighter loads that weigh less than 2,500 pounds. We recommend double-axle trailers for heavier loads.
You can also decide between an enclosed trailer or an open trailer. Enclosed trailers are suitable for transporting general cargo, but they tend to be heavier than open trailers.
If you want to bring your home with you on your travels, a travel trailer, also called a camper, may be a good option. These trailers are attached to regular hitches and come in a range of sizes, from 2,000 pounds to over 10,000 pounds. Another option is a gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailer, which has a special hitch that makes it easier to tow.
There are five classes of conventional hitches, each of which is designed for towing a specific weight range.
If you have a car, it likely has a hitch that is no higher than Class 3. However, some larger SUVs and trucks have hitches that fall into the Class 3 to Class 5 range.
All conventional hitches have receiver tubes that accept the ball and ball mount. The hitch class determines the size of the receiver tube. Class 1 and 2 hitches have receiver tubes with a diameter of 1.25 inches, while Class 3 hitches have receiver tubes that are 2 inches in diameter. Class 4 and 5 hitches may have receiver tubes that are either 2 or 2.5 inches in diameter, depending on the specific configuration.
The trailer must sit level from front to back. If your trailer is not level, you can purchase an adjustable ball mount to adjust the height of the ball to the desired level. The size of the ball needed for towing the trailer is usually marked on the coupler and will depend on the weight of the trailer. Standard ball sizes include 1 7/8, 2 inches and 2 5/16 inches. Ensure that the weight capacity of the ball exceeds the weight of the fully loaded trailer.
If you need to tow a load that exceeds 12,000 pounds, you will likely need to use a heavy-duty truck and either a fifth-wheel or gooseneck hitch. In a towing setup with a fifth-wheel or gooseneck hitch, the ball and hitch are located in the bed of the truck, either in front of or behind the rear axle.
Fifth-wheel hitches are typically able to handle a maximum weight of 25,000 pounds.
Gooseneck hitches have a ball-type setup and generally have a maximum weight capacity of 30,000 pounds.
If you are new to towing, it is normal to refer back to this list multiple times before you get it right. Before connecting, inspect the trailer hitch and coupler for any signs of damage or wear. To safely attach a trailer to your towing vehicle, follow these steps:
Proper weight distribution is crucial when loading your trailer. If the weight at the back of the trailer is too heavy, it can cause the trailer to swing or sway side to side, known as fishtailing. On the other hand, if the front of the trailer is too heavy, it may cause your vehicle to sag, negatively impacting handling and braking performance.
In general, it is recommended that the weight at the front of the trailer (called the “tongue weight”) should not exceed 15% of the total weight of the trailer. This helps to ensure proper balance and stability when towing. Tongue-weight scales can help you determine the correct weight distribution, and some ball mounts even have a built-in scale to help you ensure that the trailer is loaded correctly.
Ensure the trailer’s weight is evenly distributed from side to side and front to back. Avoid overloading the trailer or placing too much weight on the rear, as it can lead to instability or sway. Refer to the trailer’s weight limits and follow manufacturer guidelines for proper weight distribution.
Some additional tips to consider include:
Now that you have properly hooked up and loaded your trailer, you’re almost ready to hit the road. However, you need to be extra cautious as you are now driving a much heavier and longer vehicle. Safe driving practices are paramount when towing a trailer to ensure the well-being of yourself, your passengers and other road users. If your vehicle has a tow/haul mode, make sure to activate it, as this will optimize the transmission and engine settings for towing. Learn how to drive with a trailer with the following best practices:
Begin by familiarizing yourself with your jurisdiction’s legal requirements and regulations for trailer towing. Research specific towing laws, including speed limits, weight restrictions and any additional permits or licenses that may be necessary.
You’ll also want to conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection before hitting the road and service the trailer and its components if needed. Here’s what to check:
Here are a few other tips to consider when preparing to tow a trailer:
Adjust your side mirrors for optimal visibility, given your towing setup’s increased length and width. Ensure that you can see the lanes beside and behind the trailer. Consider using extended mirrors or supplementary towing mirrors if necessary. Additionally, be mindful of unseen areas the trailer creates and make adjustments to compensate for reduced visibility.
When towing a trailer, you’ll need to adjust your driving technique to accommodate the increased length, weight and braking distances. Allow for longer stopping distances and avoid sudden or aggressive maneuvers. Instead of relying on the brakes, downshift the transmission to help slow the vehicle and trailer. This can help to prevent the brakes from overheating and potentially failing.
Handling and maneuvering a trailer requires a different set of skills compared to driving without one. Understanding the dynamics of towing and employing proper techniques will enhance your ability to navigate the road safely and confidently.
Backing up a trailer can be challenging but becomes easier with practice. Begin using open space to practice straight-line backing, aiming for a specific target. As you gain confidence, progress to more complex maneuvers, such as reversing around corners or into parking spots. Remember to steer in the opposite direction you want the trailer to go and make minor, precise adjustments.
Trailer sway or fishtailing can occur when the trailer’s movement influences the towing vehicle. To prevent or minimize trailer sway, ensure the trailer is loaded correctly with the heaviest items positioned low and towards the front. Distribute the weight evenly to maintain stability. Additionally, consider using sway control devices, such as sway bars or weight distribution hitches, to reduce sway and improve control.
If the trailer starts to sway or swing side to side, slightly reduce your throttle input rather than braking. Braking can sometimes make fishtailing worse, so it’s generally best to reduce power and let the vehicle and trailer slow down naturally.
Crosswinds can affect the stability of your towing setup. When encountering strong winds, reduce your speed, maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel and make slight adjustments to counteract the wind’s force. Anticipate gusts when passing large vehicles or driving through open areas prone to strong winds.
Many newer SUVs and trucks come equipped with technology that helps to improve the handling and stability of a trailer while towing. These systems may include features such as trailer sway control, which helps to correct for any lateral movement of the trailer or a trailer brake controller, which allows the driver to adjust the braking force applied by the trailer’s brakes.
Additionally, many automakers offer trailer tow packages that include the appropriate hitch, larger mirrors and trailer brakes specifically designed for use with their vehicles. These packages can be a good option for drivers who plan to do a lot of towing, as they provide everything you need in one convenient package.
Parking a trailer requires careful consideration and precision. With practice, you can maneuver into a parking spot, back up and navigate through tight spaces. Here are essential tips for parking and navigation when towing a trailer:
When starting on an incline, engaging the parking brake and releasing it gradually while applying the throttle can prevent the trailer from rolling backward. Practice this technique to gain confidence in hill starts and ensure a smooth transition from stationary to forward motion.
If you are new to buying a trailer, you may have many questions. To assist you, here are answers to some common questions that first-time towers often ask.
With Brechbill Trailers’ extensive selection of high-quality trailers and unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction, we are your trusted source for all your trailer requirements. Whether you’re searching for a dump trailer, equipment trailer, utility trailer or any other type, we have you covered. Our live inventory ensures you’ll find the ideal solution for your hauling needs.
We offer a wide range of trailers and provide exceptional customer service and support. Our team of dedicated professionals ensures that your trailer remains in top condition with our expert repair services and an extensive online parts store.
At Brechbill Trailer Sales, we are here to help you with any questions you may have about our trailers or delivery options. You can reach out to us through our contact form, and we will respond promptly. You can also speak with one of our knowledgeable representatives by calling (717) 262-6383.
In addition, we invite you to browse our extensive selection of towing accessories on our website.
Request a quote today to start your trailer ownership journey!