11 important tips for towing a trailer safely

When towing a trailer, your vehicle will handle differently. The three main causes of vehicle-trailer accidents are driver error, excessive speed, and improper trailer loading.

Toyota Tundra towing – (photo by Toyota)

You should thoroughly review the towing section in your owner’s manual before towing a trailer for the first time.


Here are some things to keep in mind when towing.

  1. Do not exceed the posted towing speed limit.
  2. Before starting out, check the operation of the lights and all vehicle-trailer connections, and recheck them after driving a short distance.
  3. Backing with a trailer is difficult and requires practice. Grip the bottom of the steering wheel and move your hand to the left to move the trailer to the left. Move your hand to the right to move the trailer to the right. Turn the steering wheel a little at a time and avoid sharp or prolonged turning. Have someone guide you when backing to avoid the risk of an accident.
  4. Because stopping distance may be increased when towing, increase your following distance. For every 10 miles an hour in speed, allow at least one vehicle length and one trailer length between you and the vehicle traveling ahead.
  5. For optimum stability and control, avoid extreme braking and jerky steering or sharp turns, especially when traveling over wet or slippery surfaces.
  6. When making a turn, the trailer wheels will be closer than the vehicle wheels to the inside of the turn. You will need to compensate for this by increasing your turning radius.
  7. Crosswinds and rough roads will affect the handling of your vehicle. If swaying occurs, firmly grip the steering wheel and reduce speed immediately, but gradually. Avoid extreme braking and steering.
  8. Passing another vehicle when towing requires considerable distance. Be sure to allow for this and always check to see that you have plenty of room before changing lanes.
  9. In order to maintain engine braking efficiency, do not use the transmission in drive. Select an appropriate shift range in the S or sequential shift mode.
  10. On hot days, at temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius, driving up a long or steep grade with a trailer may cause your vehicle’s engine to overheat. If the engine coolant temperature gauge indicates overheating, immediately turn off the air conditioning, if in use, pull off the road and stop in a safe spot.
  11. Always place wheel blocks under both the vehicle and trailer wheels when parking. Apply the parking brake and put the transmission in park. Try to avoid parking on an incline.
Contact the author: denzilrey@wheelsjoint.com


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