Wednesday, March 27, 2013
4 Smart Tips for Towing Your Trailer
Whether you're new to towing a trailer or not, everyone can use a quick refresher on towing tips now that spring's arrived with a new camping season. It's easy to get so excited about getting out there that we sometimes forget to plan for our safety.
Here are 4 smart tips for you. By no means a comprehensive list, but enough to stick in your memory and maybe save you from a costly and-or dangerous mistake.
1. Read/re-read the Towing chapter in the owner's manual for your tow vehicle. The better you know your vehicle's equipment and capabilities, the better off you'll be; know how to operate all the functions that enable or assist towing and follow any advice particular to your vehicle.
2. Don't tow in 'overdrive' with an automatic. Depending on the vehicle, the manual will tell you either to turn 'overdrive' OFF or to turn 'tow' ON. The names are different but the function is the same: It prevents your automatic from shifting into its highest gear. There's usually a button for it at the end of your gear shift lever. (See #1, above!) You may assume that 'overdrive' gives you extra power for towing, particularly when going uphill, but the opposite is true. 'Overdrive,' a higher gear than 'drive,' is for maximum efficiency--think of a bicycle geared to 'spin.' Your vehicle can't tow weight well nor get the load uphill if it's geared that high.
3. Use a lower gear, not your tow-rig brakes, to slow your rig when going down long hills. Unless you have a separate brake control for the axle(s) of your trailer, you should avoid braking as much as possible when towing down a long hill, grade, or pass. Instead of riding the brakes, downshift from 'drive' to the next-lower gear. This will cause your car or truck to slow considerably and help the whole rig handle better. Practice shifting on the fly, when you're not towing, the better to get the feel for it.
4. Drive attentively, with minimal distractions. When towing, you need more time for starting, turning, passing, and stopping than you do when driving 'empty.' But others on the road may not realize this, so you must do the defensive driving for all of you. Turn off the tunes, gag the gabby girlfriend, pen the pup, or whatever else you have to do to keep your mind on the road and your rig. Check your mirrors often so you know what's behind and alongside you as well as up in front--this is the only way to give yourself the added reaction/maneuvering time you might need.