Tips on Towing Campers and Trailers

Driving your vehicle with a camper or a trailer attached is a completely different experience. Read on to get some tips that will make your towing experience smoother, and may even save your life.


It’s summertime, and with that comes road trips, camping and other adventures. If you have a camper or trailer you’re probably eager to get it on the open road and discover something new. But towing your camper or trailer can be difficult even in the best of conditions, so here are some tips to make sure that you stay safe during your summer excursions. 

When it comes to towing a camper, it doesn’t really matter how much experience you have behind the wheel of your vehicle, the moment you hook up a camper and start driving, you’re handling experience changes dramatically. Your vehicle needs more throttle to get going, it needs higher revs, steeper uphill and downhill sections require some preparation and braking needs to start earlier. 

Here are a few tips that will prevent many beginner mistakes. 

Set the Right Tongue Weight 

Tongue weight is the weight that the hitch of the vehicle endures when a trailer is connected. If it is too low, the trailer may sway, which is a very dangerous thing that can cause you to lose control. If it is too high, the rear of the vehicle is pressed down which impairs your visibility, handling and braking, since most of the braking force comes from the front wheels. If these are not pressing on the surface hard enough, your braking power and control over the vehicle diminish greatly. 

In general, tongue weight should be about 10 to 15% of the total weight of the camper. Aside from the good old math, there are now aides that can help you set the right tongue weight, such as Weigh Safe drop hitch which makes use of a built in scale. 

Similarly, an equalizing hitch can help you if your vehicle’s rear spring rate isn’t heavy-duty enough. 

Check Your Tire Pressure 

Make sure you inflate your tires to the top allowed pressure and make sure you check the pressure more often. Aside from preventing damage to your tires, proper pressure will also give you more control and a more balanced ride. 

Don’t Haul Water 

If you can fill your camper tanks near the destination, do it there. Hauling full tanks all the way will make you use more fuel, put more pressure on the vehicle and hamper your handling, acceleration and braking.

Buy Vehicles with Tow Packages 

Depending on the model in question, tow packages can be pretty extensive but fit you out with all the goods you need to turn your vehicle into a towing monster. Just some examples of more heavy-duty parts include better brakes, sturdier suspension, bigger radiator for improved cooling and a differential transmission. If you’re towing a camper that is wider than your vehicle, you should buy some towing mirrors as well. 

At Okotoks GM, we have tow-ready vehicles like the Chevrolet Colorado, Silverado or Suburban, as well as tow packages to suit your needs. Contact us to learn more about what’s available. 

Safe Driving Tips for Towing 

Remember, you are driving something that is slower, heavier, and worse at cornering and braking than what you’re used to. This means you have to think ahead and prepare your actions before you need to perform them. 

For example, keep your distance. Tailgating is a terrible idea anyway, but if you’re towing, make sure you keep some extra distance. If the vehicle in front of you brakes unexpectedly, even if you notice it in time, you may not be able to stop your vehicle due to the added weight, not to mention the dangers of swaying or sliding trailers. 

When turning make sure you do it at a wider angle. You have to take into account the added length of your vehicle. You’ve probably seen truck drivers do this. 

Take into account the momentum and inertia that come with the added weight when braking. It is easy to let your mind drift away as you’re approaching a familiar traffic light and then find yourself in trouble with not enough time and stopping power to reach a halt. Make sure you take it really easy until you gain some experience and develop a feel for how much time and space you actually need. This is most important for familiar roads as we all tend to relax more in our own neighbourhood. 

Practice backing up before your trip. You can attach a smaller trailer at try to back into a parking space or a garage. It may be a bit counterintuitive in the beginning so make sure you don’t have to suddenly gain that experience when you’re already in trouble. Do not accelerate hard when going downhill. This may cause trailer sway and make you lose control. This is one of the most terrifying scenarios for anyone who tows and two of the easiest ways to get into this problem is sharp direction changes and hard acceleration when going downhill. 

Whether you need towing accessories like a GM or Curt hitch, or a brand new vehicle with a full towing package – Okotoks GM has everything you need to make this summer the best one yet. Come in to our car dealership near Calgary at 101 Northgate Drive in Okotoks, call us at (403) 938-7874. Or book a test drive online today.
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