Tips And Techniques For How to Tow Safely


Who doesn’t love a good vacation? You’re likely to love towing your boat and trailer to the lake or to the track on your dirt bikes and ATVs. It’s important to be able to safely tow. Towing is more complicated than simply towing a caravan or trailer behind your pickup. Towing a trailer requires planning, checking and balances and an understanding of the limitations and capabilities of your vehicle. This towing guide is concise and will help you understand the basics.

How to prepare for the Tow

Planning is the first step. Make sure your trailer and vehicle are properly prepared, serviced and roadworthy. To learn how to tow, renting a trailer is a great idea. It is important to know the ratings of your trailer and tow vehicle. You shouldn’t exceed the specified weight limit. This information should be clearly stated in the owner’s manual.

Learn all about the weights

There are some important numbers to remember when calculating weights.

  • When loaded, the practical towing rating for your vehicle
  • The caravan or trailer’s weight
  • Maximum tongue weight
  • All your hitch components must be weighed

Because you will be adding weight such as passengers or cargo, your practical limit may be lower than the vehicle’s maximum. The trailer/caravan’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) should be considered. This may be greater than your vehicle’s tow rating. The tongue weight should not exceed 10%. All three hitch components, the receiver, trailer ball, and ball mount, should be stamped with the weight limits. Based on these capacities, there are five classes of hitch: Class I (light duty – 2000 lbs) to Class V (heaviest duty–20,000 lbs). Remember, heavier loads require specialized equipment. You need to decide what type of towing device you require. Will you use a hitch to tow your trailer or a tow bar for another vehicle? A gooseneck or 5th-wheel connection is required if you plan to tow a large camper van.

What and how to connect everything

Once you are ready to hook up your trailer and tow vehicle, don’t load the trailer. It is easy to set up the hitch. Simply use the hand crank to raise the trailer’s level to the same height as the ball hitch at the back of your vehicle. If you require it, a weight-distribution shank can be purchased. Special weight-distribution hitches such as a shank or spring bar can be used to adjust for trailer height and ensure equal weight distribution.

Next, you need to chock the trailer’s wheels. Then line up your vehicle with the trailer. Backup cameras can help but it is best to have someone guide you. Before you lower the trailer hitch, make sure it is not locked. Make sure the pin or lock is secured to the trailer. Attach the safety chains from your vehicle to the trailer. Twist the chains if necessary. Attach the trailer’s guiding wheels to the neck by lifting it.

Next, check that your electrical connections are in good order – it is crucial that all signaling systems work properly. Before you drive off, make sure to check the trailer’s brake lights and regular running lights as well as turn signals.

You should thoroughly test the brakes

Heavy trailers do not require trailer brakes, but light trailers don’t need them. Your vehicle sends an electrical signal to your trailer brakes, and surge brakes respond to the hitch compressing when you brake. You must ensure that they work, regardless of what type, and that the brakes on your tow vehicle are in good condition.

How to drive when towing

If you don’t have the right knowledge, driving while towing a load can prove dangerous. These tips will help you to safely tow a load.

  • You need the right tow vehicle. You must ensure that the vehicle you choose can tow. The Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe are two of the most popular SUVs that can tow heavy loads. There are many other trucks that can tow, including the Ford F-150 pickup trucks and the Ram 1500 pickup truck. Both the trailer and vehicle’s tires should be inflated at the recommended pressures. Make sure to have spare wheels. You should always have enough fuel for your vehicle. It is also a good idea to get it serviced as soon as possible. If you have an older RWD vehicle, make sure the driveshaft bearings, and U-joints, are maintained.
  • Rules and laws. You should be familiar with all laws and regulations governing towing in your state as well as in the state where you are going. California’s law requires that motorists towing trailers must travel in the far-righthand lane. A towed vehicle cannot carry passengers in other states. In some states, however, it is required that a trailer have a fire extinguisher. Unregistered vehicles may need special permits to be towed. Make sure you are familiar with the laws in your state.
  • Speed. Speed is a sensible rule of thumb when towing. Drive slowly and as slow as you can. There may be lower speeds for tow vehicles depending on where you live. Keep it slow, enjoy the view, and brake early. Remember, you will need to respond sooner than usual due to the weight of the vehicle. It is important to be alert when towing heavy loads. Your usual response time won’t suffice if something goes wrong.
  • Handling. Handling. Towing can also affect acceleration, braking, handling, and handling. Therefore, ensure you keep adequate following distances. AWD/4WD and rear-wheel-drive vehicles provide better traction on uneven surfaces. These are the best options for towing in adverse weather conditions.
  • Planning. Planning. You should allow for maneuvering and turning ahead of time so that you don’t get stuck at a dead end. You can practice backing up before you go so that you are familiar with the trailer’s reaction. Keep in mind that a trailer with a high roof can be seen behind you if it is towed by a low car.

How to reverse when towing

These are some useful tips to help you back up. It is important to remember that a trailer should be reversed using a spotter. This is done slowly and carefully. The trailer will behave in the opposite direction of your car. Therefore, turning the steering wheel to one side will cause the trailer to move to the other. It is very easy for the trailer’s fishtail to appear, so this can be frightening. You may need to practice a few times before you can move forward again. When you are maneuvering into a spot, be aware of the car’s front corners. You may accidentally swing into obstacles looking back.


Keep in mind all the details, and tow truck operation requires your complete concentration. As you practice and learn, it will be second nature. It is better to be cautious for safety. Make sure you have the correct equipment and pay attention to local laws.


Can my car heat up when I tow it?

Overheating is not likely if your vehicle is in good shape and you have a tow rating. However, it could happen on very steep grades on very hot days. Slow down and let the gauge settle if it creeps up. Stop and allow the engine to cool down for half an hour. Remember to keep your load behind you when going downhill. If you have to, you should always be in a lower gear and at a slower speed.

What should I do if my trailer begins to sway or sway?

When it starts, lift your foot off of the accelerator. Do not brake as it could make the problem worse. Steer straight because steering corrections can exacerbate the sway. As you slowly slow down, it should stabilize.

How do I load my trailer?

Never exceed the trailer’s maximum gross vehicle weight (GVWR) or towing vehicle rating. The trailer should have 60% of the trailer’s weight in the front. However, the trailer shouldn’t have more than 10% on the ball mount. It is important to keep the bulk of your load weight near the hitch and distribute it evenly over the trailer axle. Lighter items should be placed towards the back. If you are using an open trailer, make sure everything is properly tied down.

What should I look for at roadside stops

You should inspect your trailer and tow vehicle when you travel long distances. Make sure that the tow components, safety pins, the safety chain and electrical connections are all tight. Make sure to check the tire pressures, lights, and cargo for any signs of damage. If necessary, secure the cargo using a rope or strap.

Updated 01/18/22