It seems so simple — hook up the trailer to the truck, pack the family, and head out for numerous comfortable adventures at distant campgrounds. The reality, however, can be an exercise in patience, perseverance and luck. Only with some skill can these be used to successfully make your next RV trailer camping trip a real success, avoiding the obstacles that could leave you camped out at some distant RV repair shop waiting for a repair, or worse, at the side of the road waiting for a large-vehicle wrecker to come and pick you up.
Safety Inspection – Before you even hitch the trailer to the truck, there are a few things you need to check to make certain your trip is a safe one. First and most importantly, is your tow vehicle capable of safely pulling and stopping the trailer? Most full-sized pickup trucks and truck-framed SUVs today are, but mid-size SUVs and pickup trucks, not to mention cars, represent a grey area. Compare the GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating to the vehicle’s maximum towing capacity. Additionally, check the tongue weight rating of both the trailer and the truck. If your tow vehicle can’t handle the tongue weight or isn’t strong enough to pull the trailer, your ability to steer and maintain control of the vehicle could be compromised.
Operating Systems – The operating systems of the trailer that directly effect how it follows your tow vehicle as well as its legality include trailer brakes, if equipped, the lights, the suspension, and the tongue. These should all be checked for proper operation and damage before taking the trailer on the road.
The Drive – Today’s camper trailers are lighter and more comfortable than ever before. With all the comforts of home, many retirees choose to enjoy the open road throughout the year. While lightening these trailers has had a dramatic effect on fuel economy, it can also mean a ride that feels downright twitchy. The primary reason for this is crosswinds. The large surface area of the side of the trailer acts like a sail as it travels down the road. This means that even relatively minor gusts of wind can be cause for concern. Heavier winds can actually push you out of your lane of travel. To counteract these winds, it’s important to choose a good lane position and remain acutely aware of what you’re doing. In the mountains particularly, watch for large open areas where wind is likely to gust, and brace yourself before you reach that stretch.
Make sure that you have traveling companions with you as often as possible who are comfortable with handling the trailer and tow vehicle, even if for short stretches on the highway. Road fatigue can be as dangerous as drunken driving, after all. If you aren’t familiar with controlling a trailer, including performing tight turns and three-point turns, find a large, empty parking lot where you can practice. Before long, people will say you’re a trailering natural!
California Department of Motor Vehicles: Towing your Trailer safely: www.dmv.ca.gov
Farmer’s Insurance group: Travel Trailer/ Motor Home Safety: www.farmers.com