learn how to load up, get hitched and hit the road
how to load your cargo
load heavy cargo first
Safe and secure towing starts with loading your cargo correctly. Uneven trailer weight can lead to problems with steering, braking and sway control.
Generally, 60% of your cargo weight should be loaded in the front half of your trailer and 40% in the rear half (unless otherwise directed by your trailer manufacturer). When loading cargo, you'll want to balance it evenly side-to-side, keeping the center of gravity low to the ground and over the trailer axle(s).
secure your load
After the cargo is properly balanced, you'll want to secure it in place. Unsecured cargo can shift while the vehicle is in motion, which can make your trailer unstable.
Use nylon rope or towing straps to tie everything down.
how to connect your trailer
Whether you're connecting a receiver hitch, fifth-wheel hitch or gooseneck hitch, these three videos will help you set up your trailer in a few easy steps.
Towing a boat or trailer up to 10,000 pounds? Learn how to connect a receiver hitch in four easy steps.
A fifth-wheel hitch looks like the horseshoe-shaped hitch on a big rig. It’s perfect for towing R/Vs. We’ll show you to hook it up.
how to drive with a trailer
If this is your first time towing a trailer, be sure to practice in an open area before hitting the road. Here are the basics.
When towing a loaded trailer, it takes more distance to accelerate and brake. So take it slow and give yourself room between your truck and other vehicles. Drive as you would on an icy road.
If you feel the trailer start to sway or whip, simply take your foot off the gas pedal. Do not brake or speed up.
As a rule, only pass when necessary and obey all laws. Remember to account for your trailer length when passing a slower vehicle. Check that you've cleared the other vehicle before returning to your lane. Also, the extra trailer weight will make acceleration slower. Be sure to use your turn signals and allow for plenty of clearance.
bring a full-size spare
Never use a compact spare tire when towing a trailer.
how to park
Always park on a flat, level surface. Look for a place to park where you can pull forward so that you can avoid backing out of a parking space. Always apply your parking brake and use chock blocks on your trailer wheels.
the longer the trailer, the wider the turn
Swing wide while turning and double check your mirrors to be sure your trailer clears all obstacles.
Always slow down before going downhill. If you're in a manual transmission vehicle, downshift when going both uphill and downhill.
how to back up
Start by putting your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move it right. Adjust your direction little by little. Slight turns of the steering wheel translate to greater movement of the trailer.
If your trailer ends up jackknifing, simply pull forward to straighten it out and try again. Backing up can take some getting used to so take it slow and have someone behind the trailer to spot you.
pro tow tip
Accelerating, braking and changing lanes all take longer when you're towing a trailer. Look farther down the road to be sure you avoid any potential problems.
what is tongue weight?Close
Tongue weight is the downward force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler. Incorrectly balanced tongue weight can lead to jackknifing and loss of control. By loading your trailer with 60% of the weight toward the front of the trailer, you're placing 10-15% of the Gross Trailer Weight Rating on the vehicle's hitch ball. For a small fee, you can weigh your trailer at a highway truck stop. Never exceed your truck's maximum tongue weight.
recommended weight distribution figures:
- tandem axle trailer9% - 15%
- single axle trailer10% - 15%
- fifth-wheel trailer18% - 20%
how to balance tongue weightClose
too much tongue weight
If the wheel well is crowding your tires, you have too much tongue weight. Solve it by moving heavier items toward the center of your trailer.
not enough tongue weight
If there is too much weight in the rear of your trailer, it can actually lift the rear of the truck a bit, resulting in negative tongue weight. Again, solve it by moving heavier items toward the center of your trailer.
balanced tongue weight
A correctly balanced tongue gives you full control of both your truck and trailer. If your trailer's tongue is parallel to the ground, it is balanced correctly.