Are you looking for tips for driving with a trailer safely?
Rutgers University recommends always making sure that your hitch is tight and secure, doors are closed properly, and testing your lights. (1)
Here are nine tips that can help you stay safe out on the roads!
Table of Contents
- Maintain a secure connection
- Consider the trailer weight and the combined weight of the vehicle
- Stay alert on the roads
- Drive at slower than normal speed
- Maintain distance from other trailers
- Avoid collisions with overhand hangs
- Prepare for tire blowouts
- Avoid traveling at night
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1. Ensure The Trailer Is Hitched To The Vehicle
The first and one of the most important tips for driving with a trailer is to make sure that it is properly connected to your main tow vehicle.
After ensuring the hitch itself is not damaged and secure, make sure your safety features are also connected.
The best way to do this is by applying even tension to the trailer safety chains or cables through a tool called the “tension stick.”
Always keep an eye on this connection and double-check it to make sure your trailer is still safe.
Here is a video on some basic safety tips:
2. Keep In Mind The Weight Limits For The Trailer
Ensure that your trailer is not overloaded. Take time to check the maximum weight limit for the tow vehicle and that of the trailer before you start driving.
For example, many trailers have a vehicle weight rating of a maximum of 10,000 pounds. This means that you cannot exceed this weight limit even if the vehicle is capable of pulling more.
If you find that your trailer is overloaded by the towing capacity, make adjustments to reduce the weight before setting out on your journey.
While adding extra weight may not seem like a big deal, it can add a lot of burden on the trailer brakes. The trailer load weight on the towing vehicle can also impact your ability to drive safely.
According to GMC, thinking all vehicles and trailers are the same can be dangerous. (2) Do your research so you are aware of the needs and requirements for your specific trailer.
This video will help you understand how to find your actual weight limits:
3. Stay Alert And Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
When driving with a trailer, it is important to pay attention to your surroundings. Keep in mind that you are now pulling an extra load, and this will affect your driving.
For example, you may need to slow down the tow vehicle in order to take turns and curves safely without oversteering or losing control of your vehicle. Slower, smoother turns are also much better for your horses, reducing the risk of falling or stumbling.
In addition, you should be especially alert when changing lanes or merging onto the highway, as these are some of the most common situations where accidents involving trailers happen.
4. Drive Slowly When Towing Your Trailer
In addition to staying alert, it is also important to drive slowly when towing your trailer.
This will help you maintain good control over the vehicle and will allow you to react quickly in case of any obstacles or hazards along the way.
For example, it is a good idea to drive around at a safe speed of at least 5-10 mph, slower than the speed limit, when driving on the highway with your trailer. Some areas also impose a lower speed limit on trucks and trailers.
You should also avoid sudden acceleration and braking as much as possible in order to keep yourself, your horses, and other drivers safe.
5. Maintain A Safe Distance From Other Vehicles
Another important tip when driving a tow vehicle with a trailer is to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles on the road, even during heavy traffic.
This will give you enough space to react in case of any sudden movements or hazards, and it will also reduce the risk of collisions.
In general, you should try to keep at least 3-4 seconds between yourself and other cars. When driving with a trailer, you should also be especially careful about following other large trucks.
This is because the airflow from the rear of these larger vehicles can create turbulence along your lane. If you get too close to the vehicle in front of it, this turbulence can result in serious damage to your vehicle.
6. Keep An Eye Out For Overhang Hazards
Ensure that your trailer is not too tall or long, as this could result in overhang hazards.
This can especially pose a problem when driving in areas with signs, trees, or low-hanging power lines. If possible, it is a good idea to know if overhand hazards will be on your route and find a detour around them in advance.
You should also be careful about the height of your trailer’s vehicle hitch.
7. Consider Windy Conditions And Other Weather Issues
When driving with your trailer, it is important to keep an eye out for windy conditions and other weather issues.
Even if you have attached all the necessary safety equipment to your trailer, high winds can still cause it to sway and tip over, and icy roads can cause you to slip.
To help you stay safe when driving in windy conditions, you should avoid traveling during the day and should also plan your trip to travel on less windy roads.
In addition, you should always check the weather conditions before departing on a trip. If the forecast is predicting rain, snow, or heavy winds, you should consider delaying your trip until it is safe to travel.
8. Be Prepared For Tire Blowouts
When driving with a trailer, you should be specially prepared for tire blowouts. This is because a tire blowout on your trailer can cause you to lose control and flip or tip over.
In order to avoid this from happening, make sure that you regularly check the tires on your trailer, including the spare tire, if you have one, which you should. Make sure the tire pressures are at a safe level.
In addition, ensure that you always use a high-quality tow vehicle and trailer tires. You should also be aware that your tow vehicle may be more prone to tire blowouts than normal when driving with a trailer.
This is because the additional weight can increase the pressure on your tire’s sidewalls, and a lack of adequate weight distribution can cause serious harm and even tire failure.
9. Avoid Traveling At Night
One of the biggest risks when driving with a trailer is traveling at night.
This is because the reduced vision from low light conditions makes it difficult to see other vehicles, objects on the road, and hazards along the way.
In order to stay safe when driving at night, avoid traveling at this time whenever possible. However, having the right quality trailer lights can keep you safer.
If you have to travel at night, you can reduce this risk by using additional safety equipment like high-quality headlights and brake lights, lights on the rear of your trailer, and reflective tape.
READ MORE: How to Back Up a Horse Trailer
Where should you put the weight on a trailer?
Put most (60%) of the weight before the axle and the rest behind it.
Which lane should you drive in with a trailer?
When driving with a trailer, you should be in the right lane (slow lane) of the road. This is especially the case if you are on an interstate highway.
Driving with a trailer can be an exciting and enjoyable experience, but it is also important to keep safety at the forefront of your mind.
By following these tips for driving with a trailer and keeping yourself prepared for potential hazards on the road, you can safely enjoy driving and all that it has to offer.
1. Horse Trailer Maintenance and Trailering Safety | Equine Science Center [Internet]. Available from: https://esc.rutgers.edu/fact_sheet/horse-trailer-maintenance-and-trailering-safety-2/
2. Six Tips For Safe Trailering & Towing [Internet]. GMC. [cited 2022 Nov 30]. Available from: https://www.gmc.com/gmc-life/trucks/tips-for-safe-trailering-and-towing
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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