[h=1]Some tips for Newbies Towing Trailers[/h]
I've towed travel trailers for 46 years from small ones to very large ones so I think I understand the basics pretty well. I've been across the entire U.S. in most every state multiple times and never had an accident. Here are some tips for newbies and maybe oldies too:
I had a GM truck and put a 900 lb. tongue weight on it and bent the factory receiver with a 30' travel trailer. I had to buy the heaviest type receiver on the road to correct the situation. Don't overload the tongue weight of the receiver. Make sure it is rated to take the full tongue weight and.... it is always nice to have a little extra rating for safety.
Sway Control & Spring Bars: I prefer the older style friction sway bars because they can be adjusted to conditions and then all the resistance taken off when backing up and parking. Backing up and parking if you have to make sharp turns can be a problem when you have a soft or slippery surface if the sway system is always engaged. It can cause the trailer to resist turning and simply having the wheels slide. The older friction type sway bars do require you have a brain and adjust them to conditions and not simply depend on them adjusting themselves. On the larger trailers I would use two sway controls with one on each side of the A frame.
Spring bars should not be heavier than necessary as they will hurt the ride of the rig! Heavier isn't better! Too heavy a spring bar keeps the rig from normally flexing when you hit soft dips in the road. The spring bars act as a spring as well so they can be too heavy. The spring bar just has to be heavy enough to bring the front of the trailer up to approximately level. More than that is a negative. Some RV stores will push too heavy a spring bar because that is what is in stock... or they are ignorant.
With ball and hitch types, make sure that the front of the trailer is slightly lower than the rear! Just enough that you can see it standing back at a distance. A ball & hitch setup up where the trailer is completely level or higher in the front will sway dangerously especially if you have to change lanes in a panic.
A ball & hitch setup is just as safe as a 5th Wheel, but must be setup properly. A ball & hitch setup tracks closer to the path of the tow vehicle and a 5th wheel cuts in closer to the turn so they require wider turning arcs not to hit telephone posts!
Easy on the grease on the ball and other parts! Too much grease attracts dirt/sand/rocks and causes wear. Clean the grease off regularly and reapply because it will get sand in it and wear parts! I put a little on all wear areas even on the hook the chain goes on. WD 40 on springs doesn't hurt now and then.
When backing up put one hand at the "bottom" of the steering wheel and then the direction that hand moves will be the same as the direction the rear of the trailer moves. I avoids confusion.
When pulling away the last thing you do is walk all around the trailer in a 360 degree circle. It will keep you from forgetting something safety wise, or leaving a camping chair you thought you loaded.
When unhooking a ball & hitch trailer the chains should come off last for safety so it can't roll away when un loading. You should unhook a trailer in exact reverse order of hooking it up! It will keep you out of trouble! The only exception might be putting on the safety chains if you are worried the trailer might move when hooking up.
When you put a chain link on the brackets first untwist the chain so it is straight and then hold the link you've chosen to put on the hook and let the links "before it" hang down as you put the link on the hook. It will avoid problems in the chain getting jammed up.
When backing up, parking, hooking up, etc. .... NEVER LET SOMEONE RUSH YOU.... let them wait! Nice people won't rush you and the hell with the rest! Getting someone irritated because you are taking too much time beats having an accident. DON'T LET PEOPLE RUSH YOU AND SAFETY FIRST!
If you have a wife, teach her to work with you helping you back up as a team. Remember she may have to do this stuff by herself too... so teach her everything in case you get sick or hurt on a RV trip! I find having someone point the direction have have to go and showing you how close you are by holding your hands apart showing the distance is better than saying "Go to your left.... or you have plenty of room!" The problem is.... whose left do you mean.... and what does plenty of room mean??? Pointing or showing the distance with your hands is less confusing. In backing up listen to only one person! Train you & the wife to use clear communication/hand signals that cannot be misinterepreted.
Have the wife stand so you can see her in the mirror & point the direction you need to go (not say Left/Right) and also show distances by gradually closing her hands until they touch each other like patty cake when rather than saying about 2 ft.!
If you are unsure.... get out and walk a route! It can save you having to back up a long, hairy distance after going someplace with no outlet.
Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and the direction your hand goes is the direction the rear of the trailer will go! Keeps you from getting confused!
Remember to loosen the sway bar when backing up sharply!
When the trailer starts going wrong it is usually easier to pull forward until your are straightened and then start over again.
For lining up with a hitch, put a sticker/mark on your trailer that is directly over the ball when you turn around “normally” and look through the rear window. Use it like a gun sight.
Ball & hitch trailers should always be “slightly” lower in the front. Being high in the front causes swaying!
Know EXACTLY the height of the trailer including the AC unit for going under low overpasses! In the East some can be very low.
I'd rather risk getting a ticket than always being in the extreme right lane when idiots are pulling in front of you getting on highways at 50 MPH in heavy traffic! They don't consider your stopping distances.
Watch the 18 wheelers! They usually know where to slow down to avoid tickets! Flash your high beams when they pull around you to let them know the have cleared the front of your rig and can pull in front of you safely. Most will do the same to you! Courtesy!
Remember to turn off water pumps as they may come on when water is low and you go around corners & can burn out!
Always walk around a trailer one last time before you leave a campground. You’ll lose less equipment & tools that way!
Be careful where you store trailers! I've seen mice completely destroy a trailer so it had to go to the junkyard!
Use GE Type 2 (Outdoor) Silicone for vents. etc. It lasts nearly forever where the RV putty dries out and then leaks down the road. Clean areas with vinegar as it makes silicone seal better. Just razor blade silicone off if necessary.
The new Sat Navigation units are nice as mine shows you how many lanes there are at interchanges so you can be ready and not miss the turn or worry about which lane you need to be in. When towing a trailer you need to think ahead because you can't just whip all over the place. Be ready for the next turn!
If you are buying a new truck, make sure it has trailer towing mirrors and built in brake controller. The Ford built in brake controllers are far smoother than after market ones.
Hope this helps newbies! Everybody is a newbie when they start! Have fun.... I sure have!
Say thank you.... this was a lot of typing! LOL!