Towing an RV Travel Trailer Tip – Load Distribution

Once the weather starts getting nice, people all across North America hook up their travel trailers and head off on camping vacations. Sounds lovely. But one thing that most drivers don’t think about is how they load their trailer, which is hugely important.

Time and time again, RV camping trailers sway out of control, flip over and sometimes flip the vehicle being used to tow the trailer. These RV trailers can be massive. You are basically towing a small house behind you. All the amenities of home being towed behind you to your campsite of choice.

What drivers don’t realize is just how important load distribution is when it comes to towing any type of trailer safely. Most RV trailers have large holding tanks for holding fresh water, grey water and black water (human waste). When full, this could be hundreds of pounds already added to your trailer. Often some of these tanks are located behind the rear axles. This means that when you load your trailer with cargo, you need to load most of it forward of the rear axles.

Ideally, your trailer should be loaded with 60% of the weight forward of the axles and 40% behind them. This will minimize the dreaded “Trailer Sway” and make it easier to recover from when it enevitably happens.

Trailer Sway occurs when the trailer is hit by a gust of wind, or when the driver does a quick lane change, or even by going over bumps in the road. Even hitting a dip in the roadway can start the oscillation. If the trailer is properly loaded, the the oscillation will usually recover on it’s own. If the driver hits the brakes, it will get worse though. If the trailer is weighted heavier behind the axles, the sway will get worse, and often results in complete loss of control, and ending in a crash.

This is why your vehicle should also be equipped with a trailer Brake Controller within reach of the driver. When sway occurs, the driver can apply the brakes to ONLY the trailer, which acts like an anchor in the back, bringing the trailer under control. As a rule of thumb, if you’re towing a trailer over 1500pds, you should have a brake controller equipped in the tow vehicle.

Many drivers figure that if their vehicle can tow 5000pds (as an example), that they can safely tow a 5000pd trailer. But that is the maximum under ideal conditions and weight distribution must still be accounted for. Installing a brake controller for the trailer is always recommended, as well as anti-sway bars, or even a weight distribution hitch. It is also very easy to overload your trailer without realizing it.

If you are new to towing a trailer of any kind, but especially a travel trailer, start off by getting some sound advice from people in the industry. Your RV sales person isn’t usually the right person to take advice from. They are focus on sales, not safety, and if they showed the average driver videos about trailer sway, they would likely lose the sale.

Make sure your trailer doesn’t exceed the towing capacity of the tow vehicle. Ensure that the cargo is weighted more to the front of the axles than behind them. Install a brake controller and know how to use it.

Additional tips…Ensure your chains are crossed so that should the trailer break free from the hitch, the chains will cradle the tongue. Ensure your chains aren’t dragging on the ground. Make sure the ball hitch is the proper size for the receiver on the trailer. Don’t exceed the maximum tongue weight of the hitch, and make sure the tongue latch is secured, and locked. Ensure all your lights are functional prior to any trip. It’s a good idea to check them every time before you start any drive, even during a trip as the wires can be easily damaged by road debris. You should also check the trailer tire pressures to ensure they are properly inflated, and make sure the wheel lug nuts are tightened to the specified torque.

Hopefully these tips help ensure that your trip doesn’t end in disaster. Happy trails and be safe.

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