Recently, I had to move all of my belongings from Pennsylvania to Arizona for college. After narrowing down my options, I realized that renting a trailer to tow behind my truck would be the best option. The only problem was, I had never experienced towing a trailer rental before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. As an introduction to what college life would be like, I decided I should educate myself on the basics of towing a trailer and then learn by doing it, hands on. After renting a U-Haul trailer and making the trip from Pennsylvania to Arizona, I learned some helpful tips about safe trailering. In this post, I’ll pass on the most valuable lessons I learned to you.
Swerving, fishtailing, and swaying… No, these are not the latest dance moves to do at weddings. These are all words that describe what happens when you don’t load your trailer properly, and it begins to whip back and forth. While it’s unlikely to happen, it’s a scary situation that’s for sure. As it turns out, swaying is most often the result of driver error. So, here are the precautions you can take to avoid it:
U-Haul recommends loading 60% of your cargo weight in the front half of the trailer (near the tongue) and 40% in the back half. In addition to the 60/40 rule, these other tips will help you load your trailer so that it is safe and stable:
- Large items like appliances, heavy furniture and large tools in the front
- Strategically place boxes of books and other small heavy items as close to the bottom as possible and in places that will balance the load
- Pack tightly and efficiently leaving no voids
- Distribute weight evenly from left to right
BEFORE YOU GO
To ensure your trailer and vehicle combination is ready to go, take a moment to double-check the following:
- Inspect the hitch components of the tow vehicle for loose attachments and any other defects.
- Check tire pressure when the tires are cold
- Double check trailer weight. If a trailer is not equipped with brakes, the loaded trailer weight should not exceed the unloaded weight of the tow vehicle
- Get focused. The driver must be fully focused on driving and not distracted by technology like cell phones or a GPS system.
This checklist is a great way to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Even with a properly loaded trailer, driving mistakes can cause a trailer to begin swaying. To be safe, decrease normal driving speeds, increase following distance, and use a lower gear when going down hills. Here are some more tips for driving with a trailer in tow.
After following these tips if you end up in a potential sway situation, the best thing to do is release the gas pedal and steer straight ahead; do NOT BRAKE! Pull over in a safe area to check your load. Speeding up to try to correct the problem will usually make it sway worse. The only safe way is to gradually slow down.
Do you have a proven loading technique for safe trailering? Have you ever seen a trailer swaying on the road? Let us know in the comments below.