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Driving With A Trailer

If you’re new to driving with a trailer, or if you’ve done it for years, but still don’t feel comfortable doing it, then it’s a good idea to review some of the rules of thumb for driving your car or truck safely while towing a trailer. After you’ve selected the right hitch (rear-mounted, gooseneck, or fifth wheel) and tow bar, you’re ready to start driving with a trailer.

Pre-towing checks

Before driving with a trailer, you need to make sure that the trailer is properly connected to your car or truck, and prepare it for the trip.

1. Be sure to double check that your coupler is connected to your hitch.

2. Next, make sure that all of your trailer’s lights are working.

3. Double check that your breakaway cable is attached.

4. Make sure your safety chains are connected and crossed.

driving with a trailer
Doing your pre-towing checks and following the half speed rule can make driving with a trailer much safer and less stressful.

5. Make sure your cargo is secure on or in the trailer.

6. Check your mirrors to make sure you can see down the length of the trailer and beyond.

7. Make sure your seatbelt is buckled.

8. Check the tires and make sure they are properly inflated. You can find the proper inflation level marked on the tire sidewall in pounds per square inch (PSI).

9. Adjust your brake controller (if your trailer has electric brakes). You can do this by driving the trailer at low speed and testing the brakes, and then adjusting them to your liking.

10. Make sure you have enough fuel. Your vehicle will burn much more fuel when you’re driving with a trailer.

Tips for driving with a trailer

The half speed rule

When you’re driving with a trailer, pretend like you’re driving in slow motion. Do everything that you would normally do without a trailer at half speed. Turn half as quickly to allow the trailer to follow your steering. Slow down and start braking twice as early for stops. Accelerate half as quickly when you take off. This will save wear and tear on your car or truck, and will help prevent trailer sway and tire blowouts. Take your time. Take twice as much time when driving with a trailer. Patience is key.

The longer your trailer is, the longer it will take to follow your steering, and the slower your actions should be.

Backing up

Backing up a trailer can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. One thing that will make it easier is following the half speed rule while you back up your trailer. Be patient.

Finding a helper to watch the back of the trailer and warn you if you’re heading for trouble.

Don’t forget about the front of your truck. Make sure you check to make sure it doesn’t swing around and bump anything as you are straightening out the trailer.

Now look down at your steering wheel. Imagine that you are looking down at your trailer from above, with the back of the trailer at the bottom of your steering wheel, and the front of the trailer at the top. Now place your hand at the bottom of the wheel. If you want the back of the trailer to move left, move your hand to the left to turn the steering wheel (which will actually turn the wheel right). Make small, slow adjustments and take your time. Give your trailer some time to respond to the turning wheel. Back at the rate of a slow walk.

Remember: the longer your trailer is, the longer it will take it to follow your steering. 

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