Millions of people across the globe haul trailers of various shapes and sizes. As long as you have a vehicle capable of towing, nearly anyone can tow a trailer. However, practicing safe towing is a different story. Trailers create a wide range of hazards for drivers, and it’s your responsibility to learn how to tow safely. Before you start towing a trailer there are several steps you need to take.

Check the Towing Capacity of your Vehicle For Safe Towing

Every vehicle has a maximum towing capacity listed in the owner’s manual. Surpassing this weight limit puts undue strain on your vehicle and may cause parts to break while driving. Additionally, check how much weight your hitch is rated for pulling. If it’s not strong enough, it may break while driving.

Check the Maximum Load Weight of the Trailer

Most trailers have a sticker on them that lists the maximum capacity it can hold safely. It’s important to not exceed this number or else you might bend an axle, burst a tire, bend the tongue or even cause a car accident.

It’s also important to take note of the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR. When you subtract the maximum capacity from the GVWR, you’ll be able to calculate the trailer’s weight without any load. This information is important to note for the sake of staying within the weight capacities of your vehicle and hitch.

Distribute the Weight of the Load Evenly

Loads in trailers need to be spread out evenly to prevent issues while driving for safe towing. Too much weight on either side can cause turning issues. Excess weight in the back can cause control problems and fish-tailing. Additional issues such as poor traction on either side of the vehicle, braking problems and even rollovers can occur if the load is poorly distributed across the body.

Once everything is properly prepared, you’re ready to start towing. This is where safe driving practices come into play.

Calmly Slow Down While Swaying

You will likely have to deal with swaying at some point. When this happens, stay calm. Take your foot off of the gas pedal, but don’t brake. If you suddenly brake, the momentum might force you out of control. Unlike when you’re sliding on ice, don’t try to steer into the direction of swaying. Instead, just keep the steering wheel steady and pointing ahead. Once you are at a slow enough pace, you can apply the brakes and pull over. Once you are stopped, correct the load distribution to prevent further swaying.

Frequently Check Your Mirrors

First and foremost, you should ensure that you have towing mirrors installed on your vehicle. Laws regarding the requirements of these mirrors varies from state to state, but it’s always safer to have them on anyway.

Secondly, remember to check your mirrors very frequently. Not only is this necessary for ensuring safe turns but it’s also vital to ensuring that safety chains are still latched while driving and that any items in open trailers are not falling out.

Be Wary While Braking

Towing a trailer creates a lot more momentum while driving. You will not be able to brake as quickly as you would with just a vehicle. Keep an extra ten feet of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Brake softly. If you slam on the brakes, you can easily jackknife into traffic.

Take Wide Turns

One of the most common problems people have when towing trailers is learning how to take turns. It’s not that turning becomes more difficult while towing, it’s that many people tend to forget that trailers can’t turn as sharply as a vehicle.

When you turn a vehicle, you only have a fairly short object to move into the curve. Additionally, the front wheels turn to guide the vehicle. Trailers create a much longer object to move into the curve. In addition, it has no turning wheels to help guide it into the turn. Trailers are simply following in the tracks of the towing vehicle. Cutting the wheel too sharply could cause you to hit a curb, building, street sign or other vehicle. Take slow wide turns, and keep a close eye on your mirrors while turning.

Slowly Traverse Hills

The added weight involved with towing makes going uphill more difficult on your vehicle. The instant you notice any strain on the vehicle, move into a lower gear.

Going downhill also requires downshifting. The added momentum from the extra weight can easily cause you to lose control, especially if you need to brake. Downshifting allows you to maintain better control without needing to brake more frequently.