Trailers offer the space you need for a big move or a weekend camping trip. But the extra space comes with extra responsibility and liability.
Whether you’re a first-time trailer owner or you’re simply renting a trailer for the week, you should know what to do before, during, and after a trip.
Before You Go
To prepare for your drive, check the brake lights and make sure you’ve fully secured the trailer.
You’ll also want to practice behind the wheel. When you tow the trailer, it will feel different depending on your car-trailer combinations. Before your trip, be sure to test out your specific car-trailer setup.
Perform this test in a big, empty space, like a parking lot. You can practice turning, backing up, and stopping.
You’ll need to make larger turns with a trailer, and you might find it difficult to tell just how much space your trailer needs without practice. If you don’t train, you risk hitting curbs, telephone poles, and even pedestrians.
Practice adjusting your turn as well. If you realize you’ve made a too-tight turn, you can back up and try again if there’s no one behind you in the road.
It takes time and practice for you to feel comfortable backing up a trailer. Give yourself plenty of time in a safe space to get a handle on the technique.
You will likely not be able to see as clearly when backing up with an extra load, so have someone help you back out whenever you can.
Back up slowly with your hand firmly on the bottom of the steering wheel. As you turn your hand left, the vehicle and tow will move left and vice versa.
Avoid big or sudden movements since they can affect your position more than you might realize. Instead, use small, deliberate motions. If you need to, pull back in, realign, and start over.
Jackknifing while backing up is a common problem, so take the time to learn proper technique. Jackknifing is the term used to describe when the shape of a vehicle and trailer move pass an L shape and form a V shape.
To avoid this, go slow and make small movements when backing out. Again, you can always pull back in and readjust if necessary.
Because of the added weight, it will take extra time and energy for your vehicle and trailer to stop. Test how long it takes you to stop in the parking lot, and pay attention to distance. This will help you know how far you should drive behind other cars.
On the Road
In our previous post (https://www.delstruckrentals.com/stay-safe-truck-rental-seattle-wa/), we talked about basic trailer safety. In addition to things like knowing your clearance and using your mirrors, you’ll also want to know a little about driving on the road and trailer sway.
Signaling and Passing
It’s especially important when hauling a trailer to signal well before you intend to pass or change lanes. And, of course, you should be extra cautious and ensure you have enough space for you and your additional load.
Pass or change lanes on level road whenever possible. Refrain from passing on uphill or downhill grades since it’s more difficult to control speed and movement.
Additionally, downshift when necessary on uphill or downhill terrain. When you drive downhill for long stretches, use your brakes in intervals instead of a constant application, which can cause the brakes to overheat.
Another good reason to avoid speeding, especially when you drive downhill, is to avoid trailer sway.
Trailer sway can be very dangerous and frightening to experience. This phenomenon can come from an unbalanced trailer load, jerky steering, wind, or speeding.
As the trailer moves back and forth, it gains momentum and the sway is further aggravated. To remedy the situation, apply the trailer’s brakes and slow down to a stop. If you apply the vehicle brakes, they won’t reduce trailer sway. In fact, doing so can make the situation worse.
You may also feel wind gusts from larger cars passing. To help control sway in this situation, try releasing the acceleration and steering firmly. If the trailer continues to sway, pull off and check to see if the trailer is balanced.
At Your Destination
When your trip is through, there are a few more practices you’ll want to use for safe and secure parking.
Whenever possible, opt for level ground instead of a slope. If you need to park on a grade, put parking blocks behind the wheels on the downslope (you’ll need an extra hand for this), apply the parking brake, shift into park, and then release the brake.
When you unhitch the trailer, place parking blocks in front of and behind the tires to keep the trailer from rolling away.
When it’s time to use a trailer, be sure you’re ready for the trip. Use these tips to prepare for before, during, and after your adventure.