Before you hit the open road with your RV, one of the important things to keep in mind is towing safety. Whether you’re towing a fifth-wheel behind a pick-up or hitching a vehicle or trailer to the back of your RV, there are a number of precautions to take. Recreation vehicles are large and require a bit more specialized knowledge to ensure safe operation, for both yourself and other highway users. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you head out on a trip.
1. How much weight can I tow?
There are two terms to know in order to establish the amount of weight your vehicle can handle – Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR). GVWR establishes the maximum weight you can safely carry, while GAWR shows how that weight needs to be distributed and how to set your tire pressure. You can find out these numbers from your vehicle manufacturer.
2. How heavy is my load?
To establish that your load is light enough to comply with your GVWR, put together a reasonable estimate including passengers and their possessions, as well as fuel and water tanks. You can check this number by visiting a highway scale.
3. Is my RV safely equipped?
Before stepping behind the wheel, walk around your vehicle and do a last-minute check. Is your hitch safely secured? Are all loads secured? Are your tires in good condition? Are all lights working properly? Are propane appliances and water valves turned off? Is the trailer or vehicle being towed free of passengers? Once in the driver’s seat, ensure that your mirrors allow for full visibility and that your brakes are operating adequately. Once you get on the road, stop every few hours to double-check towing connections and keep an eye out for any other issues. As a bonus, the quick walk around your RV will keep you fresh for a long drive.
Lastly, remember that practice makes perfect. Find a vacant lot or quiet rural area, and spend some time getting a sense of how your vehicle handles while towing. Pay special attention to turning, accelerating, braking, and reversing your RV.
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