Starting out towing an RV can make you feel like a 16-year-old kid behind the wheel for the first time. Until you get some towing experience under your belt, you’ll likely be one part excited and two parts scared out of your mind. However, we’ve created a list of nine rules we think you should never break. Follow these rules, and you’ll maximize your safety on the road. Let’s get started!
Why Knowing Camper Towing Rules Is Vital
You can easily put yourself and others in a dangerous situation if you don’t follow basic towing rules. Not following these rules could also put you on the wrong side of the law, where ignorance isn’t an acceptable excuse. Towing a camper is a huge responsibility that you shouldn’t take lightly.
Prepare yourself as much as possible before you even think about hitching up your RV for a camping adventure. You’ll appreciate every YouTube video you watch and blog article you read. With a little effort, you’ll have all the knowledge necessary to be a towing expert.
10 Camper Towing Rules You Should Never Break
While there’s no official list of towing rules to follow, we’ve narrowed it down to just nine simple rules. If you follow these, you’ll stand a better chance of avoiding a serious situation while towing. Let’s take a look!
1. Keep your Distance
Driving a trailer means added weight and added stopping distance. If you drive like you would an empty car you are seriously increasing your chances of not being able to stop when needed. Even on the highway extra space means extra time to brake or maneuver.
Along the same lines as keeping your distance is driving slower. It’s ok to let people pass you for the sake of safety. Speed is the most dangerous part of driving and for every 10 miles per hour increase your risk of dying in a crash doubles. With a trailer it’s twice that risk. So slow down.
2. Follow Your Vehicle’s Tow Capacity and GVWR
Your vehicle’s tow capacity and GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) aren’t just suggestions. They’re the maximum amount of weight for your truck to ensure a safe towing experience. Exceeding these numbers can damage essential components of your tow vehicle and create an unstable towing environment for your trailer.
You should also know the towing capacity and GVWR for your specific vehicle. Many factors can go into a vehicle’s capabilities, and there can be a drastic difference from one car to another. Check the owner’s manual and the yellow sticker on the driver’s side door frame for your vehicle’s towing numbers. If you can’t find the numbers there, you can always stop by a dealership, and they’ll help you.
3. Tow with the Right Size Hitch
Hitches come with different ratings. Your hitch must match the weight of your trailer. It must be capable of safely towing your trailer weight. There are five different classes (Class 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) of trailer hitches that range from 2,000 lbs to 20,000 lbs. However, you’ll likely need a large 4×4 truck or SUV if you’re using a class 3, 4, or 5 trailer hitch.
If you want to purchase your first trailer, go bigger on the hitch than smaller. Many RVers upgrade within a year or two of buying their first trailer. If you don’t offer yourself room to upgrade, you’ll have to buy a bigger hitch for a larger RV.
4. Keep Your Tire Pressure Up
You must maintain the tire pressure on your RV’s tires. Check your tire pressure before every trip to ensure they’re at the appropriate pressure. Vehicle tires typically have their recommended max cold pressure stamped on the side.
Cold tire pressure means before driving at all and when the tires are not in the sun. It’s best to check this pressure first thing in the morning.
If you don’t check your tire pressure before hitting the road and it’s low, you’re risking a major tire blowout. Underinflated tires create more friction, which generates heat. This heat causes the rubber tires to break down and creates a risky situation. A tire blowout can leave you stranded on the side of the road and cause thousands of dollars in damage to your RV.
Pro Tip: Make monitoring your tire pressure easy with these Best RV Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems.
5. Follow the Recommended Trailer and Tire Speed Limits
You might follow posted speed limits, but the speed ratings for your trailer and tires may differ. Just because the speed limit says 70 or 75 mph doesn’t mean your tires can handle those speeds.
When you exceed the recommended trailer and tire speed ratings, you increase the chances of a blowout or trailer failure. So verify the maximum speed for your trailer and tires to stay safe while towing.
6. Use the Right Weight and Sway Distribution Bars
If you’re towing a larger RV, you’ll likely need weight and sway distribution bars. They’re typically a part of the hitching system and help to create a smoother towing experience. However, it’s crucial that your weight and sway distribution bars are set up correctly. If not, they’ll likely be counterproductive and create an unstable towing experience.
If you aren’t familiar with setting up weight or sway distribution bars, consider paying a pro to set it up correctly. If you’re purchasing your RV through a dealership, they can set up your hitch for you if you ask.
7. Keep Up with Maintenance
Your RV will come with various items that require regular maintenance, some of which are safety items. Verify that your brakes, taillights, and turn signals are all in good working order before each trip. It’s also wise to test your trailer brakes before pulling out onto the road.
Also, check and repack trailer bearings every year or two depending on how much driving you do. You don’t want a wheel falling off!
These are all safety mechanisms that help create a safer environment for you and other drivers on the road. Signaling your intentions to other drivers on the road is essential, especially when you’re towing a trailer.
Pro Tip: Towing a big rig can be intimidating, so we found 10 Ways to Make Towing a Big Rig Less Dangerous.
8. Use Safety Chains and Breakaway Cables
You hope you never need to use safety chains and breakaway cables, but you’re glad you have them if you need them. They serve as the last resort for preventing your RV from rolling away should it detach from your tow vehicle. The safety chains will catch the trailer and help prevent further damage.
However, if the trailer completely detaches from the tow vehicle, the breakaway cable will pull from the trailer. The trailer’s braking system will automatically lock up the brakes, forcing the trailer to stop. Doing so helps prevent the trailer from rolling out of control and causing severe injuries or property damage.
9. Know State Rules
If you plan to tow your RV through multiple states, it’s important to know the rules for that specific state. For example, California has a reduced speed limit for all towing vehicles. So even if you see a sign that indicates the speed limit is 60 or 65 mph, if you’re towing, you cannot exceed 55 mph.
Please remember that being ignorant of a state’s rules does not exempt you from following them. Law enforcement can and likely will enforce laws even if you haven’t done your research in advance. So familiarize yourself with any unique state rules to avoid issues while towing.
10. Insure Your Camper
Insurance is there to save the day when unforeseen circumstances of life happen to your RV. Whether it’s damage from a storm or another vehicle, you can’t always avoid these incidents. A storm or car accident can do massive damage to your RV. If you’re covered, you can prevent a hefty repair bill.
However, having insurance on your camper isn’t enough. Insurance is useless if it doesn’t cover the items you’ll need when an incident occurs. So if you’re traveling full-time in your RV, and it will sit in the shop for days or weeks, know if your policy will cover lodging while you have no place to go. Ask questions in advance to avoid any surprises when you eventually need to file a claim with your insurance.
Be Smart and Tow Safely
Being a safe driver while towing means being a competent driver. Knowing what you need to do in an emergency and responding appropriately is essential. You often hear the phrase, “knowledge is power.” When it comes to towing, knowledge of towing can help you follow these nine camper towing rules and keep you and others as safe as possible.
What’s a towing rule that you would add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!
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