4 essential trailer towing tips

4 essential trailer towing tips

Be a safer, smarter RVer with 4 quick tips from longtime RV expert Dave Helgeson.

Hitching up a trailer is trickier than most newbies think.

Safe towing starts with knowing how much weight your tow vehicle and trailer can handle. Get started with these 4 essentials:

What does your trailer weigh when fully loaded?


Know the maximum amount of weight your trailer can safely carry. It's called GVWR.

GVWR = Cargo + Fluids + Passengers +  Unloaded weight of the RV.

Your trailer's GVWR # is in the owner's manual or in an exterior decal on the trailer.

Never buy a travel trailer until you know its GVWR.  This tells if your current tow vehicle can safely haul it.


image by @KirkT, forestriverforums.net

Front wheel drive cars or small SUVs: up to 1500 lbs.

How much weight can a small SUV or truck tow? 

Mid-size all-wheel drive SUV or trucks: up to 3000 lbs.

How much weight can large SUVs & trucks pull?

Full size SUV or 1/2 ton trucks: up to 5000 lbs.

3/4 ton trucks: up to 14,000 lbs.

1 ton trucks: + 30,000 lbs

image by @stanleyz, irv2 Forums

Never exceed your tow vehicle's weight rating and trailer's GVWR

It can void the RV warranty If you wreck, you could be responsible for injuries to others.

image by @ivylog, irv2 Forums

Work your tow vehicle's transmission on downhills.


Downshift on steep grades.  This lets your engine keep your speed down,  instead of only  your brakes. 

Extended braking on long downgrades can lead to overheating of your vehicle and trailer brakes. It's a huge cause of brake failure crashes.

Trailer Sway is a real problem.  Know how to handle it.


Every trailer sways a bit. Causes include: * Side winds * Large vehicles passing you * Unbalanced cargo loads

Slow down when side winds happen.

Move over in your lane as far as possible from large passing vehicles.

Adjust unbalanced cargo in your trailer.

Take it easy out there on the road.

Don't be in a rush when towing. Give yourself time to learn, react, and get to your destination without problems.