America's love affair with the open road has grown to become its love affair with recreational vehicles. Today, there are over 30 million RV enthusiasts, and more on the way. With more than 16,000 publicly and privately owned campgrounds nationwide, RVs give us the freedom to roam from coast to coast and any stop in between. But getting safely from here to there takes planning.
Be an Informed Buyer
Make sure your vehicle can safely tow an RV. Most full and mid-size family cars can pull a trailer, and so can today's popular vans, 4x4s and light-duty trucks. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association suggests that you discuss these basic factors with your RV and auto dealers when evaluating trailer/tow vehicle options: engine horsepower; transmission and axle capacity; cooling equipment; suspension; springs and shocks; power brakes; power steering; and battery capacity.
- Check the owner's manual to find the trailer types that your vehicle can haul and the maximum load weight it can pull. Obtain a "trailering guide" for your vehicle.
- You'll also want to follow your RV dealer's advice on the type and size of hitch and ball, tire inflation and anti-sway devices.
- If you tow a boat, get the right-sized trailer to minimize swaying.
- Make sure your trailer has the right tires. Never use automotive radial tires on a boat or other trailer. Carry a spare.
- If you're thinking of buying an RV, call 1-888-GO-RVING.
Towing A Small Trailer
Make a thorough check of your vehicle and trailer when you use it.
- Be sure vehicle and trailer are hitched correctly.
- Connect brakes and signal lights. Always check that the trailer's brakes, turn signals and tail lights work and are synchronized with the towing vehicle's.
- Check tire pressure, and lug nuts for tightness.
- Don't overload the towing vehicle or the trailer. Check the manuals. Place a slightly higher percentage of cargo weight toward the front of the trailer. This will improve the connection by increasing weight on the hitch.
- Balance the load from side to side, and secure it so it won't shift.
- Once the trailer is loaded, make sure all doors are closed and secure. Be sure safety chains are attached, in good condition, and not dragging on the ground.
- On the road, steer as little as possible to avoid swaying. Try to avoid applying the brakes suddenly. It's better to release the gas pedal and slow down naturally.
- Trailer tires can get very hot while in use, especially tires on smaller trailers. Follow the manufacturer's directions for recommended maximum speeds. On hot days travel under the speed limit.
- Check and grease your trailer's wheel bearings once a year, and after each immersion in water.
Whether driving a motorized RV, or towing a travel trailer, special precautions are required.
- Before leaving on a trip, sit in the driver's seat and adjust all mirrors for optimal road views. Equip a towing vehicle with large mirrors for the fenders on both sides.
- Check for leaks in propane gas bottles, heating equipment, and related tubing. Turn off all valves.
- Load tools and emergency and foul weather items in an accessible location in the towing vehicle.
- While moving, don't let anyone stay in the towed vehicle. It is danÂgerous and illegal in many states.
- Allow for your vehicle size when turning.
- Increase your normal following distance.
- Allow more time to brake, change lanes, and enter a busy road, since bigger vehicles take more time to accelerate and slow down.
- After passing, allow plenty of room before changing lanes again.
- Most trailering mishaps occur when going downhill and the trailer begins pushing the towing vehicle. When descending steep hills it is important to use a lower gear to achieve some braking action from the engine rather than depending solely on the braking system.
- Back up with care. Use someone outside the vehicle to assist the driver. If there's no one to help, get out and inspect the area.
- Always carry tire changing instructions when you travel.