Is there anything that I should do in advance?
If you have not driven while towing a trailer before, it is a good idea to practice turning,
stopping, and backing up in a low traffic situation before you begin your trailering trip.
What size engine should I have for trailering?
Refer to your vehicle's owner manual to determine how much your vehicle is capable of pulling.
If your trailer has a large frontal area that adds substantial air drag, it is suggested that
your engine be larger than the recommendation.
Do I need to adjust my tire pressure?
Check your tire pressure before you begin traveling. Underinflated tires heat up quickly and
can result in tire failures and possible loss of vehicle control. Overinflated tires can cause
your tires to wear unevenly. It is also recommended that you carry a spare tire for both your
vehicle and your trailer, along with proper tools to change a tire, if necessary.
How should the weight be distributed?
For proper weight distribution:
- Your trailer load should be balanced from side to side. This will ensure good handling
and normal tire wear.
- Place approximately 60% of your cargo in the front of the trailer and 40% in the rear of
the trailer, within the limits of tongue weight. Too much or too little tongue weight will
cause difficult steering and tow vehicle sway. A rough rule of thumb is 5% to 10% of boat
and trailer weight on the tongue.
- Firmly secure your load to prevent shifting during braking and cornering, which could cause
you to suddenly lose control of your vehicle.
What if I have an automatic overdrive transmission?
With some automatic overdrive transmissions, towing can result in excessive shifting of your
transmission between overdrive and the next lower gear -- this is especially true if you are
traveling in mountainous areas with a heavy trailer. If excessive shifting occurs, it is
recommended that you lock out the overdrive gear to eliminate the condition and provide steadier
performance (refer to your vehicle owner's guide for specific information). If you do not
experience excessive shifting, use the overdrive for optimum fuel economy. Your overdrive may
also be locked out on downgrades to obtain engine breaking.
What is the proper way to back up?
Have someone standing at the rear of the trailer to lookout for you since your visibility may be
blocked. Make sure that the stern drive will clear any obstacles that may be in your way. Back
up slowly, placing one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. Move the steering wheel in the
direction you want the trailer to go. Steer slowly -- small movements of the wheel results in
greater movement of the trailer than you might expect if you are not experienced at backing a
vehicle with a trailer attached to it.
Is braking different when trailering?
Braking is considerably different when trailering. You will need to allow quite a bit more
distance when stopping. For manual brake controllers, "lead" with trailer brakes, if
possible. To make a correction when the trailer is swaying from side to side, touch your trailer
brakes momentarily without using your vehicle brakes.
What about driving up and down hills?
When approaching a downgrade or and upgrade, downshift your vehicle. Downshifting assists
braking when going down a hill and provides extra power when going up a hill.
Are there any special parking tips when trailering?
If possible, do not park on a hill. However, if you are forced to park on a hill, place wheel
chocks under the trailers wheels as follows:
- Apply the foot service brakes and hold.
- Have someone else place the wheel chocks under the trailer wheels on the downgrade side.
- Once the wheel chocks are in place, release the foot service brakes. Make sure the chocks
are holding the vehicle and trailer.
- Apply your parking brake.
- Place your transmission into P (park) with an automatic transmission. Make sure the vehicle
is in park. If you have a manual transmission, put your transmission in R (reverse). With a
4-wheel drive vehicle, make sure the transfer case is not in N (neutral), where applicable.
How should I approach acceleration and passing?
Trailering can dramatically affect your ability to accelerate as normal. Use caution when trying
to pass another vehicle. You will need additional time with the trailer attached. If you must
pass a vehicle, be sure to allow extra distance. Remember that you have added the extra length
of a trailer to clear before moving back in to your lane and you will not be able to do so as
quickly. Pass on level ground and allow plenty of distance to pass. If necessary, downshift your
vehicle to provide some extra acceleration power.
Can I use my cruise control?
Using your cruise control will cause significant speed decreases when carrying a heavy load
while driving uphill. To maintain your speed, discontinue your cruise control until you resume
travel on level ground.
Do I need to stop and check things out periodically?
Stop about an hour after beginning your trip and check your trailer hitch attachment, trailer
wheel lug nuts, lights and electrical connections, and engine oil. Also, check the hubs. If they
are abnormally hot, the bearing should be inspected before you continue.
Does altitude affect performance when trailering?
Yes. A reduction in gross vehicle weight and gross combination weights of 2% per 1,000 ft.
elevation is suggested. This will help maintain performance since gasoline engines lose power
at a rate of 3% to 4% per 1,000 ft elevation.
What about backing my trailer into the water?
Before backing your trailer into water, disconnect the light plug from the towing vehicle. This
will greatly reduce the likelihood of blowing out your trailer lights when they become submerged
in the water.