Travel Trailers: Tips for On the RoadMaddy Scheinost
Travel Trailer Safety Tips: On the Road
Here’s the thing. Driving a travel trailer is stressful. There’s no two ways about it. It takes skills you don’t normally use when you’re driving your truck to the hardware store, and it takes being present, and aware, at all times. But, experience helps. It gets a little easier every time you travel with your camper trailer, plus learning how to proceed safely will also help reduce the stress, while also giving you the ability to anticipate and react to the unexpected moves the idiots you encounter on the road will make. That’s why the tire experts here at Treadwell have put together these tips to help you get where you’re going safely when you’re towing an RV trailer, a teardrop camper, a toy hauler, a fifth wheel camper, an RV trailer or one of the small travel trailers.
Keep Right as Much as Possible
Slower moving and larger vehicles are required to stay in the right lanes of the highway whenever possible. The downside for you can be the many on and off-ramps because accelerating, decelerating and merging are more difficult when towing even lightweight travel trailers. The upside of being in the far-right lane is that you will usually have some extra room on the shoulder in the event you need to brake suddenly. It can’t hurt to keep an eye on how commercial truck drivers are handling their rigs, since they often drive the same roads and are familiar with the conditions. Follow their lead.
Use Appropriate Speeds with Tow Behind Campers
Take it easy when you’re towing a pull behind travel trailer. Safety trumps speed, and going too fast can lead to your trailer swaying, plus makes it difficult to react to situations that may develop along the way. Braking with tow behind trailers already requires longer stopping distances, but adding excessive speed to the mix is a recipe for disaster. Drive at a speed that keeps you comfortable maneuvering your rig—which likely won’t be the top legal speed, and may very well be 55 mph. When you need to change lanes or make a turn, use your signals early to give other drivers sufficient time to react. Be patient and give folks the time needed to make space for where you need to go.
Handling the Wind and the Pull of Other Big Rigs
The wind can prove to be a very tricky factor when you’re towing a travel trailer because it acts something like the sail on a sailboat. Headwinds and tailwinds are one thing, but it’s the crosswinds that you need to be most concerned with because they will push you right or left, forcing you to steer gently to remain going straight. There’s no big reveal solution for wind. If you’re not comfortable with the conditions, pull over and take a break until they improve. Or just slow down. Do whatever you must to feel safe. When you feel a crosswind pushing you left or right as you drive, you will want to steer into it gently to keep going straight. Depending on the size of your trailer, even minor crosswinds of 10 to 15 miles per hour can impact your steering.
Along with wind, you will also need to contend with the pull of RVs, semi-trucks, fifth wheels, and other large vehicles moving in the opposite direction—especially on two-lane roads with no center median. You’ll feel your rig pulled towards oncoming traffic. The trick is to not panic, and not over-correct—just make a slight steering adjustment as needed. Of course, this effect is intensified in windy conditions. In that case, passing a large vehicle will create a temporary break in the wind. Again, don’t over-correct. The idea here is to be aware and present in this situation. If you’re uncomfortable, slow your speed or even pull off until conditions improve.
Bad Weather Can Also Present a Challenge
First, keep informed and try to anticipate inclement weather. And then try to avoid any possibly stressful and even scary weather-related scenarios, if possible. You may want to familiarize yourself with a weather app so you can check weather for the areas ahead early and often. As is the case with wind, it’s better to pull out and wait out snow and rainstorms, and heavy fog, rather than to risk your safety, and that your friends and family. You may also want to tune into AM radio to get the latest weather alerts.
Getting Gas with a Tow Behind Trailer
Since towing an airstream camper or any travel trailer will reduce your gas mileage, you’ll likely get plenty of practice maneuvering in gas stations. Finding big-rig friendly gas stations is essential because many stations you’ll see along your way feature layouts that will make turning, backing up, or most importantly, getting back onto the road nearly impossible. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a station that offers enough room for you to pull in, gas up, pull out and around, and hit the road.
How to Navigate Steep Hills and Mountain Grades
Steep hills and mountain passes can pose a challenge, but it’s nothing to be worried about if you play it safe. Going uphill, you want to be sure not to over-stress your engine. Slow down, stay on the right, and consider putting on your hazard lights to make other drivers aware.
Coming down can be a bit more treacherous, and you need to slow down and focus on not riding your brakes. Instead, depress them to bring your speed under the posted limit before letting it off again. Continuous application of brakes can burn them up. Use your transmission to assist the braking systems on your tow vehicle and trailer, and if you have an electronic brake controller—an electronic device that activates and, as the word suggests, controls the electric brakes of a trailer—engage it to reduce stress on your vehicle’s brakes. If you have the option of engine braking—putting your engine into a lower gear as you go down a hill—do it. Resistance in the engine is transferred through the drivetrain to the wheels. It’s a good way to control your speed, and it eases the wear on your brakes. If you need to turn while you are going downhill, be certain you’re going slow enough to avoid jack-knifing.
Follow Travel Trailer Road Etiquette
Many of the largely unwritten road etiquette rules are just common sense and courtesy. If you’re on a no-pass road, and traffic is piling up behind you, pull over and let vehicles pass. Use the right lane unless you’re turning, passing, or entering/exiting a roadway. Avoid passing when you can. Signal lane shifts and turns earlier than you’re used to, to give other drivers a heads-up. Despite posted speed limits, plan on driving 55 mph—or at least slower than usual—to give yourself as much reaction time as possible when you need it.
Inspect Your Trailer Tires Every Time You Stop
You can’t check the condition of your trailer tires too often. Evaluate tire pressures regularly to avoid incorrect inflation that can lead to sidewall cracking, unusual tread deterioration and blowouts. It’s best to perform your check when the tires are cold, because hot air expands, which can give you a higher pressure reading than normal. As you drive, do what you can to avoid potholes, logs, curbs, and rocks, as the persistent scraping and impact will wear rubber down. Literally, everything is riding on your tires.
Easy? No. Can You Safely Drive Your Travel Trailer? YES!
For a successful—and safe—and relatively stress-free road trip towing your travel trailer, you’ll want to focus and be present, have patience and be proactive. Recognize that you’ll be traveling slower than you’re used to, and that it will take longer to execute driving maneuvers. Don’t force anything. For example, it’s safer to cruise past a highway exit than to make a frenzied, last-minute maneuver to get off on an exit that came up faster than you expected. Keep your eye on other drivers and anticipate the dumb stuff they might do. Stay in the moment and think ahead, and you’ll get to your destination safely.
When You Need Travel Trailer Tires, Let Treadworld Help
If you’re looking for replacement trailer tires or trailer wheels and tires, count on us here at Treadworld to provide you with exactly you want, from our wide range of styles and a huge selection of sizes. All our RubberMaster Trailer Tires are manufactured to strict tolerances from top rubber compounds, then triple-tested for quality, balance and uniformity before being X-rayed to be sure they’re perfect. Easy ordering, fast shipping plus your satisfaction is guaranteed with our no-hassle Ultimate Advantage Warranty. Don’t hesitate to contact our tire experts via live chat or email with any questions you may have, and to get the ideal trailer tires —or the perfect ATV tires, UTV tires, lawn and garden tires, and many others—from our extensive selection.