You've been planning your camping trip for a long time, and you're almost ready to go. You have your travel trailer stocked to the max with supplies, with your clothes for the journey stowed where they need to be. Your tire pressure is good, too. You're good to go, right? Well, not quite. You have one thing to do before you head out, and it's essential you do it the right way. If you don't know how to hitch a trailer, you need to learn how to do it well.
An improperly hitched travel trailer can be a danger both to you and others on the road. Even if no one gets hurt, the damage to your trailer can end up costing you a lot of money.
So, do yourself a favor, and continue reading to learn all about how to hitch a travel trailer. It's an important skill that will serve you well on every future trailer camping adventure.
Warning Signs of an Improperly Hitched Trailer
What are some key indicators, or signs, that a travel trailer is not properly hooked up to your tow vehicle? Here are a few examples.
- As you drive, you start to feel a slight pull or shaking. You can expect a bit of bouncing or swaying on roads that aren't well-maintained or on a windy day. If the weather is good and the road well-paved, your hitch needs a look.
- While driving, you could end up hearing some strange noises. This could be due to the ball, coupler, tongue, pins, fasteners, or chains not being properly connected. You don't want to hear those noises.
- Another thing to pay attention to is when you slow down or stop. If you get the sense that something is trying to push your tow vehicle, guess what? It's your trailer, which has a little too much give. While slight, g-forces take over where your hitch hookup is faulty.
What Can Happen When Trailers Are Not Properly Fastened
Why is it so important that a trailer is properly hitched to your vehicle?
The most obvious reason is you don't want your trailer to separate from the towing vehicle while driving. If there's something wrong with the coupler or chains, it might not take much - even hitting a pothole - to disconnect. Once that happens, the trailer will immediately lose control. Those driving behind you or to your side will then be in a lot of danger.
Proper hitching is also an insurance policy of sorts if something happens while driving. For example, let's say one of your trailer's tires blows out. It may take some fancy driving to maintain control, but you can likely do it so long as the trailer is securely hitched.
A proper hitch job can also help you compensate for sway on the road. A fully-loaded trailer is going to be a bit imbalanced despite your best efforts - especially on a windy day. But, if your ball, coupler, and chains are all properly installed, it will be easier to control your trailer.
How to Hitch a Trailer in 6 Steps
You've learned about the warning signs of - and what could happen due to - an improperly hitched travel trailer. Now it's time to learn how to hitch a travel trailer the right way.
- Prepare the ground. Be sure your chocks are solidly up against your trailer's wheels. You don't want that thing moving at all.
- Install the ball mount (lighter trailers) or hitch head (heavier rigs) to your tow vehicle hitch receiver. Lift the mount/head up carefully, and insert it into the receiver. Secure with pin and clip, and lock.
- Line up your tow vehicle with the trailer. Back up slowly. If you don't have a backup camera, have someone guide you. When done, the hitch ball should be right under the trailer coupler.
- Connect the open trailer coupler to the hitch ball, lowering the trailer down. When the trailer's full weight is on the hitch ball, lock the receiver.
- Attach any sway or weight distribution bars you have. Follow that up with the wiring harness and also safety chains crossed X-style under the hitch. Attach a breakaway cable, too.
- Remove the wheel chocks, check your mirrors, and that brake lights are functional on the trailer.
With that done, drive around a bit and test the hitch connection. If everything sounds and feels good, it's time to go.
Easy-to-Hook Up Trailers For Your Next Vacation
Now that you know how to hitch a trailer, it's time to find one - and Cruise America is ready to help. With a wide variety of RVs for rent or sale, Cruise has what you need for every camping outing imaginable. Want to show everyone you know how to hitch a travel trailer? Get in touch with Cruise America today!