Tips for Travel Trailer Safety

They come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, from the rounded-off, vintage "teardrop" types to the mirror-shiny Airstreams and the clever pop-up models. Some are strictly no-frills, utilitarian shelters for lonely fishermen to park by the river for a few days; others are incredibly appointed bastions of luxury that seem as long as a city block and can keep a family of 12 comfortable and. Summer is at its peak, and it's not just the hot sunshine, sandals, and barbecues that remind us; it's the amazing assortment of travel trailers moving all over the U.S. highways. Families love to travel in the summer, and what better way to do it than with a mobile house on wheels towed behind your car or truck, providing all the comforts of home in virtually any new locale you desire?

Whatever sort of travel trailer you're towing around this summer, here are some tips to help ensure safe, trouble-free exploration:

  1. Evenly distribute weight. Make sure that weight in your trailer is spread evenly, rather than concentrated in certain areas. This will help prevent swaying and afford you more control over the trailer when it is in motion, so load thoughtfully.
  2. Hitch it up right. Make sure you have the right hitch for your trailer; its weight rating should be greater than the gross trailer weight. Back your vehicle up to the trailer so the hitch on your auto is aligned with the trailer's coupler. Put your vehicle in park and lift up the parking break before lowering the coupler onto the hitch. Then plug in all wires and attach safety chains in a criss-cross pattern.
  3. Brake early. The added weight of the travel trailer creates increased momentum when you try to break. To compensate, brake early, and keep a lot of extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Brake gently and slowly to avoid jackknifing.
  4. Master the art of backing up. Backing up is tricky for novice towers. The trailer always seems to go in the direction opposite to what you intend! Here's an easy rule of thumb: place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel; the direction you move it in is the direction the trailer will go.
  5. Make wide turns. Yep, this rule isn't just for the drivers of big rigs. Travel trailer towers should also make wide turns a habit, because the wheels of the trailer will always turn much sharper than those of your vehicle. Give yourself plenty of extra room.
  6. Have a parking assistant. Unless you're traveling alone, it's smart to have one of your passengers get out and help you squeeze into parking spaces, preferably using a pre-determined set of vocal commands and hand signals. Once your trailer is parked, put blocks under its tires to prevent rolling.
  7. Stay cool if it sways. If your trailer sways, do not increase speed or try to steer out of the sway. Instead, slow your vehicle down gradually, keep the steering wheel steady, and apply the trailer breaks.
  8. Rethink a persistent swayer. If your trailer continues to sway in spite of your best efforts, it might be best to reconsider your weight distribution, take everything out, and reload. There are also weight distribution systems for trailers that include sway control.
  9. Check tires. Keep a close eye on your tires' fullness and tread. Tires with too much or too little air can cause swaying.
  10. Keep your lights aglow. Your trailer's lights are safety tools that help other drivers anticipate your next move. Keeping them in fine working order is an act of consideration to others on the road as well as added protection for your vehicles and passengers.

For more information about auto insurance and safety, call or contact Mathews Insurance, Inc. today.

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