How to Drive with a Trailer
The ability to haul a trailer is a driving skill that is extremely useful in a variety of situations. The ability to safely drive with a trailer comes in handy when moving, purchasing new furniture, transporting lawnmowers or ATVs, or hauling a boat or RV. Knowing how to successfully attach a trailer to your vehicle’s hitch is only one step in the process of driving with a trailer. There are several other things that you need to consider before hitting the road in tandem.
How to Proceed
Consult your owner’s manual for information about how much weight your vehicle can successfully haul. Some regular sized sedans are able to haul up to two thousand pounds, surprising news to many car owners. Large trucks and SUVs can tow considerably more weight; however, you want to make sure not to overload your vehicle. This can cause it to be difficult to handle and more likely to be involved in a wreck.
Do not underestimate the difficulty of driving with a trailer. You should practice pulling in and out of your driveway and navigating quiet back roads before attempting to drive in heavy traffic while pulling a trailer.
The size of the trailer is directly related to the number of adjustments you need to make as a driver. A small utility trailer might be hardly noticeable. Pulling a boat or large RV will require all of your attention and driving skills.
Make sure that the trailer is properly attached before hitting the road. Check the safety chains, lights, and license plate.
Keep a greater distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you when hauling a trailer. The extra weight behind your car or truck will make it more difficult to slow down or stop.
Take wider turns. Because your vehicle is now close to double its regular length, you will have to take turns significantly wider to avoid hitting curbs, other cars, or running off of the road.
Driving in reverse while pulling a trailer is a skill that takes quite a bit of practice to acquire. Turn too sharp and the trailer will jackknife, or turn sharply in one direction. Expect to make several adjustments the first couple of times you attempt to drive in reverse while towing a trailer.
Take it slow. It is often best to drive in the right lane while pulling a trailer, especially on the interstate. Acceleration will take significantly longer with a trailer. Drive a little below the speed limit for safety.
Parking may be difficult. Small parking lots may be almost impossible to use when pulling a large trailer. If you do maneuver your vehicle and trailer into a parking space, or several parking spaces, make sure that you have plenty of room to exit the lot. It is often advisable to park in a remote part of a parking lot with few surrounding vehicles.
Being able to drive with a trailer will allow you to transport a variety of items or other vehicles. If you are an avid outdoors person who enjoys boating or camping, driving with a trailer is almost a necessary skill. Remember to allow yourself plenty of time to practice driving with a trailer to build your skill and boost your confidence.
Andrei Zakhareuski is the founder of Driving-Tests.org. He has been writing for beginner US drivers for several years.
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