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How to Be Fearless When Towing an RV Trailer

How to Be Fearless When Towing an RV Trailer

Did you know that more than 80% of RVs sold are towable RVs? They aren’t luxurious motorhomes or small Class B vans. They’re fifth wheels, travel trailers, pop-up campers, and toy haulers.

But how do you learn how to tow an RV trailer?

It sounds daunting and can be scary if you’ve never towed anything before. But it doesn’t have to be.

Let’s look at how you can be fearless when towing an RV. 

Towing an RV Doesn’t Have to Be Scary

When you’ve chosen a towable RV instead of a motorized RV, it can be intimidating to hitch it up and hit the road for the first time. Rest assured, it does get easier with practice.

You do gain confidence with every trip. Don’t let horror stories or fear keep you from having adventures.

You’ll learn how big your turning radius needs to be. You’ll learn how quickly you can comfortably drive. And you’ll learn which way to turn when backing up. Towing an RV doesn’t have to be scary.

You’ll get used to the feel, but it does take some time.

How to Be Confident When Towing Your RV or a Trailer

Here are a few suggestions to help you gain confidence when towing your RV. As you do each of these, you’ll not only feel more comfortable driving, but you’ll also be driving more safely.

When it comes to getting your RV out on the road, make sure you know how to safely operate your vehicle for the sake of you and your passengers, as well as other drivers.

Person driving RV on highway
Towing a big rig can be intimidating when you’re new to RV life!

Do a Pre-Ride Inspection

Before you hit the road, complete a pre-ride inspection. Do this every time. Check the tire pressure. Make sure all antennas are down. Check the safety chains.

Make sure the hitch is connected correctly. When you know you’ve checked everything, you feel more comfortable pulling out of a campsite or leaving your house.

Always do a pre-ride inspection no matter how many times you’ve gone camping.

Keep in mind: Here are a few essential newbie towing tips.

Practice in an Empty Lot

If you’re new to towing an RV, it’s best to practice before hitting the road. Don’t endanger your life, the lives of your passengers, or the lives of other drivers by thinking you can just figure it out as you go. Take your RV to an empty lot like a school on a weekend or a church during the week.

Practice turning both right and left and learn your turning radius. Practice backing into a parking space and learn how to rotate the steering wheel. Practicing will help you feel more comfortable and help you get a good feel for your new RV.

Pack Your RV Safely

Towing your RV is one thing. Learning how to pack it is totally different. Knowing the cargo carrying capacity (CCC) and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is extremely important.

You can’t just put anything and everything inside your RV. You must stay below the CCC and GVWR in order to tow it safely. The frame of the RV can only hold a certain amount of weight. Your tow vehicle is only rated to pull a certain amount of weight. Staying within these limits is a huge deal for safe towing.

You also want to actually pack the RV safely. This means you need to latch the refrigerator and freezer. Use tension rods inside cabinets.

Put away plants, picture frames, candles, and other loose items. When the RV is packed safely, you won’t open up your door to find spaghetti or broken glass all over the floor.

You’ll drive more confidently knowing you stowed everything away correctly.

RV towing jeep down road
Tow with confidence by knowing how to hitch up correctly.

Learn How to Hitch Correctly

There are two types of towables. You might have a bumper pull that attaches to a ball and hitch system on the bumper of an SUV or truck. Or you might have a fifth wheel that attaches to a kingpin hitch in the bed of a truck. Whichever hitch you have, make sure you know how to use it properly.

This is another safety measure that will help you feel more confident towing an RV.

When you hook up a bumper pull camper, you’ll want sway bars and a weight-distribution hitch. This ensures the safest driving conditions as long as you’re under your GVWR and within the towing capacity of your tow vehicle. Make sure that your camper and tow vehicle are level once you hitch up.

You don’t want the back end of your truck sagging. Weight distribution bars have guidelines about how to move weight to the front of the tow vehicle.

If you have a fifth wheel, there’s less manual labor involved in the hitching process, but you still want to do it correctly. Because the kingpin slides into the hitch, you want to make sure your RV isn’t too high or too low. If you’re too low, you can damage the hitch. If you’re too high, it won’t latch properly.

Once the kingpin and hitch are locked, secure the latch and breakaway cable. You also want to do a “pull test” by holding the trailer brakes on. Give the truck some gas, and the RV should stay in place if you’re hooked up correctly.

Pro Tip: Make hitching up and heading out easier with these 7 Tips for Hitching up an RV Camper that Actually Work.

Know Your Tow Vehicle

Yet another safety measure to help you gain confidence in towing an RV is knowing your tow vehicle. You need to know the CCC and GVWR of the RV, but you also want to know the GCWR, towing capacity, and payload capacity of the tow vehicle. Most RVs are towed by a truck.

You have to have a truck if you’re towing a fifth wheel since the hitch attaches to the truck’s bed. Trucks have more towing capacity than SUVs, so if you’re towing a camper over 5,000 pounds, it’s safest to tow with a truck.

Many RVers follow the 80/20 towing rule. They stay below 80% of their towing capacity. So if their truck can safely tow 10,000 pounds, they want their camper to be around 8,000 pounds or less. This makes room for human error in calculations and makes driving less stressful.

When you know you’re under your towing capacity, you feel confident towing your RV.

Dad and son driving in RV
Knowing the ins and outs of your RV will help build confidence on the road.

Test Your Brakes

Most RVs come with trailer brakes. They help slow down the camper more effectively when combined with the towing vehicle’s brakes. So when you apply the brakes in your tow vehicle while driving, the trailer brakes also engage.

Before leaving a campground or parking lot, hold down the trailer brake controller in your truck. You should feel the truck and RV stop.

This means the trailer brakes are in good working condition. Obviously, this will make you feel more confident when towing your RV because you know you have extra braking power.

Plan Your Route

Finally, planning your route and knowing the potential challenges ahead on travel days will help you prepare mentally. Towing an RV can be exhausting. You have to be more focused, and travel days can be draining both physically and mentally for the driver.

If you can re-route your travels to avoid construction, narrow roads, or low clearance bridges, you’ll feel much more confident knowing you’ve eliminated as many challenges as possible. Sometimes things happen that you can’t control, but you can try to avoid potential problems by planning ahead.

Pro Tip: Make your travel days easier by avoiding these Don’ts of RV Travel Day | 7 Essential Rules to Follow.

Person sitting in front seat of RV
Come prepared with a planned route before you hit the road.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Your Towable RV

Towing an RV is much different from driving an RV. It can be challenging. But it’s not scary. If you’ve practiced, gone through your checklist, and planned your route accordingly, there’s nothing to fear. Doing those things is really important to gaining confidence and developing your skills as a driver. Don’t just hit the road thinking you can wing it. It’s not safe.

Also, remember to never be in a hurry. Whatever your GPS tells you is your arrival time, go ahead and add at least an hour. Towing an RV isn’t like driving a car.

As already mentioned, it takes more focus, but it also takes more time. Don’t hurry through the hitching process. Don’t hurry through your inspection process. And definitely don’t hurry down the interstate. Slow and steady wins the race.

Towable RVs Are Great

Towable RVs are the most popular RVs on the market. RV Trader has more than 45,000 towable RVs listed by private sellers and dealers. They’re very common.

So don’t fear if you’ve decided to purchase one. You can learn how to safely tow an RV, whether it’s 20-ft long or 40-ft long. Following these suggestions will help you gain confidence.

Do you have a towable RV? How long did it take before you felt comfortable towing it?

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Roy B

Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

Practicing in a parking lot is a great idea. Every single towing-related webpage and YouTube video says this. But unless that big parking lot is right next to your RV dealer you’re going to be pulling your very expensive purchase on the road with other traffic to get to your practice site. Would love to see some tips on how to adjust the mirrors, handle curves and intersections since 99.9% of the time that the rv is in motion you are going forward.

Every webpage/YouTube video seems to focus on backing up. Will agree that backing up is complicated and has many things that can cause damage to your RV and/or truck. But how about some videos and webpages that cover the other 99.9% of driving a towable RV. Have been driving for 42 years but have never towed a thing. The towing part of having an RV is one of the biggest hurdles that I need to get over. Don’t want to wreck a just purchased rv or even worse injure or kill somebody because I didn’t know how to properly tow an RV.

Paul Schneider

Saturday 8th of January 2022

Important concerns to check: Adequate and clean truck mirrors. Trailer brake and blinker lights working and spare bulbs with tools to replace. Camper spare tire and pressure check. Wheel blocks for safe parking and camper leveling jacks / stands.

Ken

Thursday 6th of January 2022

Its hard to remember if I was concerned about towing 35 years ago starting with a 10' pop-up but I doubt. That one was followed by a 17 foot HI-LO and then a 24 foot Oliver. Just like my suggestion about motorcycles... Start small and as you move up in size you will hardly notice it. I know there are people who start out with a 43 foot fifth wheel as their first. It can't be pleasant.

How to Be Fearless When Towing an RV Trailer - VanLifeAdvisors

Thursday 6th of January 2022

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