Five Things to Check Before Towing an RV Trailer

Derrek Sigler
by Derrek Sigler

There are three basic types of RV – motorhomes, fifth wheels and trailers. While driving a motorhome and towing a fifth-wheel RV are one thing, towing a trailer offers up its own set of challenges that you should look into before setting off on any camping adventure. Here’s five things you should know before you hit the road.

Can You Handle the Weight?

There are two very important numbers to know before you even think about pulling out of your driveway. First you need to know the towing capability of your vehicle. On vehicles that come with a factory-installed towing package, this is pretty easy to determine. It should be listed in your owner’s manual exactly how much weight the vehicle can safely tow. You also need to be aware of your total payload capacity for the vehicle. After all, many of us will load up the RV and then pack the tow vehicle full of people and supplies. Putting too much weight on the engine of your tow vehicle can hurt fuel economy, or worse, lead to the dreaded breakdown.

The second number to know, of course, is the total weight of the RV. You can usually find this information posted somewhere in the RV, as well as through the manufacturer. Just know that if you have a vehicle rated to tow 6,000lbs. and you have an RV that weighs in a 5,500lbs. you need to be cautious of how much stuff you put into the RV, as you can quickly exceed the towing capability.

Pack Smart

When packing your RV trailer, be sure to centralize the weight. You want a minimum of a 60/40 split of the weight in front of the axle and the weight spread evenly between the sides. More weight behind the axle can add undo stress to your hitch, and lead to the trailer coming off if it’s too bad. Not evenly distributing the weight can cause the trailer to sway while traveling, leading to a harsh ride, damage to the trailer or much worse.

Vision Plan

Make sure you can see the trailer through your rearview mirror and the two side mirrors. It may sound crazy, but it’s not that uncommon, especially with expandable “pop-up” RV trailers. Mirror extensions are a great idea to not only see the trailer, but see around it too.

Know the Rules of the Road

If you’re traveling, especially across state lines, it is your responsibility to know the regulations. Does the state you’re traveling through require trailer brakes? Is there a reduced speed limit for vehicles towing an RV? This is another reason you need to know your total vehicle and load weight.

Lights On

This may seem silly, but it is always a good reminder to check to see if all of your lights are working. Make sure the running lights, brake lights and turn signals are all operating as they should and double check during your trip. Road debris can damage wires and lights, causing them to malfunction. This can lead to a ticket for you, or worse, an accident. Play it safe and check at every stop.

Have a fun and safe trip!