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Tips for Driving with a Trailer

For some of us, driving with a trailer is part of the daily work routine. For others, hitching up the trailer is the start to a great weekend on the lake. But no matter the reason for breaking out the trailer hitch, there is always one constant: driving changes when you’ve got a trailer in tow. For the seasoned trailer hauler, these tips will hopefully be a nice reminder and, for those who are new to towing their toys, these tips might save you from some serious damage to your vehicle or whatever prized possession you’re towing.

Here are three things to keep in mind when driving with a trailer.

Pick up with horse trailer parked in the forest

1. Take advantage of different gears in your tow vehicle.

Those of us who drive manual transmission vehicles are well aware of what different gears can help us do. But, for anyone who’s spent their life with automatic transmission, the importance of shifting gears while towing could be overlooked. Manufactures will often have suggested gears for towing a trailer and it’s important to know what that gear is. Shifting gears is also a valuable tool when ascending or descending hills and mountains. Riding your brakes all the way down a long hill is a recipe for overheated brakes. Down-shifting can slow your vehicle and trailer down while saving your brakes for when you really need them.

2. Respect the added weight and size.

Driving is a way of life for all of us – it’s practically second nature. We all have a good gauge on what our vehicles can do, how sharp they can turn a corner, and how fast they can stop. This all goes out the window when we attach a trailer. The added weight of a trailer changes almost every characteristic of how a car handles. For example, it’s important to allow significantly more distance for breaking. This means commencing a stop sooner and increasing your follow distance. Acceleration will also be reduced, so it’s important to allow extra time and space to pass slower vehicles. You need to allow extra space for lane changes and turns as well.

3. An extra set of eyes is a terrible thing to waste.

Chances are, your mirrors aren’t giving you the full picture of what’s going on behind you. When parking, launching a boat, or backing up to a loading area, don’t hesitate to have someone help guide you into place. It might be tempting to do it yourself, but using a second set of eyes will reduce the chance of an accident and speed of the process.

No matter the reason for pulling a trailer, it’s important to stay vigilant and aware. The handling and dynamics of your vehicle will be greatly altered. Taking advantage of gear shifting, being aware of the added size and weight, and using a spotter when backing up are just three ways to improve your driving with a trailer.

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