Purchasing your first travel trailer is a very exciting life event. The ability to see this beautiful country and cut down on the costs of lodging and food is certainly a wonderful prospect.
However, when purchasing a travel trailer, it is important to know how to travel safely with your bumper pull or fifth wheel. Below are some tips on traveling with your camper. By following these safety tips you will help keep your family and fellow drivers as safe as possible.
1. Ensure proper weight
It is important to know how much weight your truck can safely pull and follow those guidelines carefully. Otherwise, you could end up with a trailer pushing you around.
When looking at trailer weights, it is best to go with the gross vehicle weight rating rather than the dry weight. The gross vehicle weight rating is the most your trailer should ever weigh when fully loaded. After making sure your truck and trailer are well matched, be sure to weigh your rig on occasion so you don’t exceed the proper trailer weight.
2. Weight distribution hitch
For larger bumper-pull trailers, you will need to get a weight distribution hitch. While expensive, a hitch like this helps spread the weight of the trailer to both sides of the truck, making for a safer ride that is better for your vehicle.
3. Distributing weight inside
In addition to the hitch mentioned above, it is important to make sure your things inside the trailer or fifth wheel are distributed fairly equally in all areas in order to ensure a balanced weight throughout. If you must carry heavy items, it is best to store them near the axles of the trailer.
4. Anti-sway bar
An anti-sway bar is a tool you can add to your hitch setup to help reduce sway. This is especially important for long trailers, but can be helpful no matter the length of your trailer. This item is not necessary for fifth wheel trailers.
5. Hitch up properly
If you are unsure how to hitch up properly, seek out help either online or in person. Often, it is possible to watch videos on YouTube to answer any questions you may have about your hitch. If you still need help after watching a video or two, your RV dealership should help you in this matter.
6. Trailer brakes
Without brakes, a trailer can easily push a vehicle right on through a stop sign, or worse, into another vehicle or other object. Because we never want a heavy trailer to be in charge, a trailer braking system is a must have.
Vehicles sold with a tow package may already have a trailer braking system installed. Otherwise, aftermarket systems can be added onto any vehicle.
7. Check lights and signals
After plugging in and hitching up, check all trailer lights and signals. Though it seems silly at times, it is important to check these every time you hitch up. Without these lights other drivers will not know your intentions which could lead to some seriously dangerous situations.
8. Replace tires on time
Pay attention to the tires on your trailer and tow vehicle. Make sure they are in tip top condition before you head out each and every time. A blow out when towing a trailer can mean big trouble.
9. Anticipate stops and leave space in front of you
Braking while pulling several thousand pounds is not a fast process. Even with trailer brakes, it takes much longer to stop a vehicle when a trailer is pushing it from behind, so make sure to leave plenty of space between your truck and the vehicle in front of you.
Always anticipate stops as well. If it looks like there may be a traffic jam ahead, begin slowing down right away. If you are in an area with stop lights, don’t hesitate to take it slow.
10. Take turns slowly and make them wide
Wide, slow turns are a necessary evil when pulling a trailer. Be especially careful when there are double turn lanes, and always pay attention to where your trailer is going as you turn.
11. Carry a spare tire and emergency kit
Always have a good spare tire in case of a flat or blow out. A small emergency kit is also important to have, and should include cones or lights (to let people know you are there), water, a flashlight, basic tools, and something to keep you warm in case it’s cold out.
12. Have a roadside assistance plan
High-quality roadside assistance that covers both your vehicle and your trailer is invaluable. Always keep your account current, and keep your roadside assistance card with you.
These are the basic things you need to know when pulling a bumper-pull or fifth wheel travel trailer. Of course, it is always important to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings while driving, whether you are towing or not.