Towing Your Camper Trailer

We want your towing experiences and practices to be safe and enjoyable.   Please take your time, avoid being in a rush and give special attention to all safety matters prior to and during the towing of your trailer.

We recommend that you practice towing your Cricket in, for example, an empty parking lot before going on your first camping trip.  This initial trial and practice is fun and will help you get accustomed to and familiar with Cricket®’s systems and operationPlease also make note of any questions, issues or problems that arise during your pre-travel towing practice, and then inquire with your dealer or email us hello@taxaoutdoors.com.

Safety ChainsWe have equipped your trailer with safety chains.  Make use of them.  Safety chains serve to maintain the connection between your trailer and the tow vehicle in the event of separation of the ball and trailer coupling.  Be sure to hook the safety chains to the frame of the tow vehicle (not the hitch), crossing them under the trailer’s tongue.  Also, remember to inspect the length of the chains once they are attached to the tow vehicle frame.   A proper chain length will allow turns and prevent the chains from dragging on the road.

Breakaway Switch … Your trailer is equipped with a breakaway switch. For the Cricket TREK and CAMP models the breakaway switch is wired to the Cricket’s internal battery. Breakaway switches are designed to activate the electric brakes in the event your trailer disconnects/uncouples from the tow vehicle. Your trailer battery powers this braking. Ideally, the safety chains will prevent your trailer from disconnecting if the coupler comes off the hitch ball. However, if the safety chains fail, the breakaway switch serves as a last line of defense against a runaway trailer.  The breakaway switch cable needs to be secured to the tow vehicle bumper or frame independently of the trailer safety chains. The following are guidelines for attaching the cable:

  • The cable should come straight out from the switch to attach to the tow vehicle
  • The switch and cable should be located and secured on the same side of the trailer and tow vehicle
  • Do not loop the cable over the hitch ball; the cable may bounce off while the vehicle is moving
  • Before towing you may test the breakaway assembly by pulling the pin out of the switch to confirm activation of the trailer electric brakes.

Tire Pressure … you are responsible for maintaining proper tire pressure in the tires of your trailer and tow vehicle.  Thus, always check your tire pressure and refer to the “Tires” discussion herein before traveling.

Brakes you are responsible for inspecting and maintaining both your trailer and tow vehicle brakes before towing.  Do not tow your trailer unless you have confirmed your brakes are in good condition and operating properly.  Be sure to have a qualified technician perform all brake adjustments, service and maintenance.  Please also refer to the “Brakes” discussion herein before traveling.

Lightsbe sure to check all electrical connections to ensure all lights on the tow vehicle and trailer are functioning properly before traveling.  The brake lights, and hazard and turn signals should be in synchronization with the tow vehicle.

Stay Levelthe trailer and tow vehicle must be level when hitched.  Dragging may occur if the hitch is too low.  Conversely, if the hitch is too high, the rear of the trailer is exposed to striking higher points in the road.

General Towing & Driving … drive defensively, anticipating stops, braking early, and never following closely.  We recommend maintaining a length of at least three cars and a trailer (approximately 65 ft.) between you and the car in front of you for every 10 mph of speed you are traveling (for example, at 60mph, you should maintain approximately 390 ft. of distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you).  This should give you adequate time to safely complete a proper avoidance maneuver (i.e. come to a safe stop, change lanes, etc.) in the event of, for example, an abrupt stop or emergency.

Longer stopping distances are required when towing a trailer so remember to start braking sooner than you would if driving without your trailer.  Begin slowing down well in advance of anticipated street/road dips and depressions.  It also takes longer to accelerate when towing a trailer.  Thus, remember to account for both the slower acceleration rate and the combined length of your tow vehicle and trailer when passing another vehicle and then safely returning to your lane.  In sum, always pass, allow others to pass, and change lanes with care.  We also do not recommend using cruise control or overdrive when towing/travelling.

Swaying / Fishtailing… excessive sway or fishtailing of your trailer can lead to the rollover of the trailer and tow vehicle, and thus, serious injury or death.  The tendency for the vehicle to sway increases with speed.  Thus, reduce speed as needed and in inclement or harsh weather conditions (i.e. high winds, rainstorms, slippery roads, etc.).  The following are a few tips for reducing sway or fishtailing if and when they occur and are not exhaustive: (1) slow down gradually …. do not jam/slam on the brakes or press on the accelerator, both of which may make the situation worse and result in severe injury or death.  Instead, remove your foot from the accelerator and reduce your speed gradually whenever possible;  (2) minimize and avoid quick steering movements …. Quick steering movements will actually cause increased sway and loss of control;

Keep both hands on the wheel, and hold the wheel as straight as possible until stability is regained; and

Regaining Control … pull over and check tire pressures and cargo weight distribution, and inspect the trailer and tow vehicle for any signs of failure or defect.  If you suspect a mechanical failure, recommend that you not tow until the problem is identified and remedied.  If you choose to travel, do so at reduced speeds and with heightened caution until the problem can be identified and remedied.

WARNING: Side to side motion (sway) that begins as you reach a certain speed will likely become whipping at higher speeds. As soon as you notice sway, slow your vehicle by letting off the gas pedal.  Then stop to check the trailer and tow vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so.

OTHER IMPORTANT TOWING SCENARIOS

Winding, Narrow Roads … stay in the center of the lane.  This reduces the likelihood of the tires/wheels dropping onto the shoulder, another potential cause of hazardous sway. Do not cross the center-line unless safely changing lanes.

WARNING: If a wheel goes off the paved roadway, do not steer sharply and do not brake. Let off the gas pedal, slow down below 25 mph and then steer gradually back onto the roadway. Proceed with caution entering traffic.

Sharp Turns …. minimize the suddenness of sharp turns by anticipating them, slowing down well in advance of them, and taking them at low, substantially reduced speeds.

Steep, Long Grades … like sharp turns, be sure to anticipate steep grades.  Down-shift into a lower gear or range in advance to assist your braking on a descent and to add power on a climb.

Note: avoid situations that require excessive and prolonged use of the brakes.  If unavoidable, apply and release brakes at short intervals to give them a chance to cool. Downshift your tow vehicle to reduce breaking needs on long down grades of highway.

Slippery, Icy Pavement … reduce speed and drive slowly. Remember that skidding/hydroplaning can occur with minimal moisture on the road.  If skidding occurs, remove your foot from the accelerator and then gently apply the trailer brakes only.

Freeways and Highways … try to pick and stay in the far right hand slow(er) lane.

Corner Turns … trailer wheels do not follow the path of your tow vehicle’s wheels during corner turns.  The trailer will make a closer, tighter turn than the tow vehicle. Compensate by moving further into the intersection before turning so that the trailer clears any objects in or near the road such as but not limited to the curb and parked vehicles.  Left turns require a wider than normal turn to help prevent the trailer from edging into an opposing lane. Use turn signals early for the traffic behind you and begin slowing down well in advance of your turn.

Mud and Sand … when going through mud or sand, accelerate gently, if at all, and try to remain In the path of the previous vehicles.  Let the momentum of the tow vehicle and trailer carry you through the problem area.  If stuck, the trailer and tow vehicle should be towed out while hitched.

Dirt, Gravel, Washboard Roads … go slow, use caution, your trailer will move an vibrate more than the tow vehicle, a good rule of thumb is 25 mph or less, MUCH less on severely rutted roads.

ParkingWhenever possible, avoid parking on a grade.  If unavoidable, turn the front wheels of your tow vehicle into the curb and set the parking brake.  For added safety, place wheel chocks under the trailer wheels.

Additional towing safety information … can be found on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/Cars/problems/Equipment/towing/Towing.pdf

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