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Towing Your Trailer for the First Time: 6 Tips from a Full-Time RVer

So, you’ve finally done it! You’ve bought the TAXA Habitat of your dreams. Already, you can envision yourself towing your trailer along mountain roads and parking up next to beautiful lakes and waterfalls. There’s just one teeny-tiny problem. You’ve never towed a day in your life! Now what?

The good news is it’s really not that hard to learn. Take it from me! I learned to tow my 22-foot RV in just three weeks before taking off on a full-time adventure. I’ve been on the road since September 2020 and have had an amazing experience. So, how did I prep for towing a trailer and how can you?

1. Get Professional Lessons

If you feel a little terrified about towing your trailer, you’re not alone. I was sure the only way I could do it was if I got professional lessons. Thankfully, you can find these classes all across the country. They are ideal for persons who might not have any family members or friends who can teach them how to tow.

The one downside is that these classes can be costly. So, you’ll need to decide how much you value the need to tow your trailer safely. I ended up not paying for lessons. Instead, I moved on to number two.

2. Ask Someone Who Tows

When I bought my trailer, I was lucky enough to find a seller who took a genuine interest in my travel plans. He even gave me the hitch setup I currently use for free. He originally towed the trailer with a 4Runner, which is a very similar vehicle to my FJ Cruiser. So, we felt confident it would match well — and it did.

He also took the time to show me how the hitch setup worked and how to connect everything. Then, he took me on a towing trip across the small Georgia town to a local Walmart. These are some of the many things he explained along the way:

  • What to expect when moving off after stopping with the trailer attached, at the top of a hill
  • What sounds to expect when the trailer hitch calibrated itself for turns
  • Why and how to safely dodge tree branches
  • How to adjust the trailer brakes for a safe stop

Find someone patient and experienced who can answer these and other questions you might have.

3. Practice Towing Your Trailer

After this experience, I felt more confident taking the trailer out on my own. Once or twice per week, I would drive 1 hour and 15 minutes to the acreage I stored it on. At first, I only towed the trailer around the property. On the second solo trip, I took the trailer back to that same Walmart.

When you take your trailer out for the first time, it’s normal to feel a little anxious. But, take a moment to appreciate that exhilarating sense of freedom behind it. Then, pay close attention to the following:

  • What your trailer weight feels like empty, so you can get a good guess of the difference when you pack the trailer
  • The fact that the truck and RV always move in opposite directions at the connection point
  • The turning radius of your truck and trailer

4. Practice Backing Up Your Trailer

If someone had told me that three days into my RV trip, I would be backing my trailer into a Nevada lot in the dark, I would laugh. It would not be a happy laugh. It would be a hysterical one. And, yet, that’s exactly what I did.

I knew I would have to back into the spot, so for my final practice run before leaving Georgia, I focused on backing up my trailer. I took out my tow strap and set it down on the ground to mark my fake campground site. Then, I proceeded to back the trailer into my fake lot.

5. Follow Tried-and-True Advice

There was one YouTube video that changed my life. It is half-an-hour long, but it’s worth watching. The video taught me the theory behind backing in, which made the practical aspect of it much easier. I watched it every day for a week before I first attempted to back up my trailer.

Some of these tips I learned from watching the video. Others, I’ve learned during my travels:

  • If possible, install a backup camera on your rig, but only use it to ensure you aren’t about to hit something. I have no backup camera installed.
  • When backing in, always start with the site on the driver’s side. This is much easier because you have better visibility.
  • If you’re backing up solo, do it at an angle. It’s easier to monitor the turning radius than it is to guess what’s directly behind your RV.
  • Even if you have the world’s best spotter, always get out and look at the site for yourself.
  • If you have a spotter, agree from the start what they mean by left or right. This might sound silly right now, but it will make sense once you try it.
  • Use the bottom of your steering wheel as a guide. If you turn from the bottom to the left or right, the back end of your trailer will do the same.
  • Your trailer will not turn immediately, so budget for it to go the wrong way first when getting into tight spaces.

6. Calm Yourself Before Towing Your Trailer

When you finally take your RV out for that first trip, you need to be calm. If you’re too tense at the wheel, you run the risk of over-correcting at the smallest provocation. This can be dangerous.

Once you’ve been on the road for about 15 minutes or so, you’ll likely start to relax. As further encouragement, check out the video below of me backing into this tight space in the ‘burbs:

Congratulations! You now have all the basic information you need for towing your trailer. Need some one-on-one advice? My DMs are always open on Instagram!