Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Vintage Trailer Towing Tips (Or Any-Trailer Towing Tips, For That Matter)
Few things in a Girl Camper's life are more empowering than to be hooked up and on the road, with her very own trailer in tow.
And, few things are likely to be more terrifying at first for those who've seldom (if ever) towed anything until this point.
Learning to tow safely and with confidence is quite a bit like learning to ride a horse: It's normal to be anxious at first, because you're suddenly expected to be in charge of something that's very big, and that you aren't sure you can control. Confidence comes with experience, but in the meantime, getting the experience can be pretty nerve-wracking.
Whether learning to ride or to tow a trailer--a few basic lessons do help. I'll pass some along, in tip form.
These are towing principles that were taught to me for towing horses--e.g., live cargo that can lose its balance, and even be injured from erratic driving or flat-out driver error.
'Caution' is the byword. When you have a load of expensive horseflesh behind you, the very, VERY last thing you want to do is get into an accident, or break down on the side of the road. You learn to think ahead, minimize risk, and above all, protect the cargo.
Which is just what you'll want to do when towing your precious trailer.
* Minimize lane changes. By keeping to a steady track, you reduce chances of having your load shift and possibly put the trailer off balance.
* Stay in the slow lane (note where the trucker is here), and let the rest of the traffic go around you. That car in the picture is going to be much more nimble at changing lanes than you will be, with your trailer, so leave that to the other driver.
* Minimize the need for stepping on your brakes. When going down a steep grade, for instance, take your foot off the gas, and shift into a low gear instead of riding your brakes. This will slow the tow vehicle and the trailer behind it and save wear and tear on the brakes.
* When approaching a stop sign or stop light, take your foot off the gas early enough that you can coast to a stop with little or no braking. Always leave plenty of stopping room between you and the vehicle up ahead--no tailgating!
* To avoid damage like that above--note the crease running the length of the trailer, and the huge paint scrape on the door--make all your turns wide and slow. With the trailer behind you, you need to make a wide arc as you turn in order for the trailer to make the turn, too.
* Invest in good equipment--this includes tires, hitch system, brake system, lights and wiring--and then inspect and maintain every piece of it like it's your religion. Do the walk-around at every stop: Tires good? Hitch secure? Lights and signals working? Gas tank topped off? Prevention is always your best insurance.
* Get roadside-assistance coverage, making sure you know what the towing coverage is before you sign up. Should you ever blow a tire or break down and need your whole rig towed (heaven forbid), price of the premium will fade and you'll be very glad you're covered.
* Don't make a grand cross-country adventure your first novice trailer-towing trip. Practice towing by taking short, local trips that'll help you get the feel for your rig--its acceleration capacity, braking behavior, corner-turning capacity, and so forth.
You can do it--just do it safely and smartly.