Accelerating and braking aren’t the same when you are towing a trailer behind your vehicle. With the additional weight of your trailer and any cargo you are hauling, as well as the length of your trailer, acceleration is slower and your stopping distance is increased. In order to tow as safely as possible, it’s important to know the best practices for accelerating and braking while towing.
It will take longer to get up to speed when you are towing a trailer, so it is recommended that you take some time to adjust to these new variables so you are used to how long it will take you to accelerate when you hit the road. First, make sure your trailer and tow vehicle are properly connected and that your cargo is loaded properly. Then, find an open area with little or no traffic for a practice run.
- Make sure your mirrors are adjusted so that you can see your trailer and the area behind it.
- Drive slowly at first, going about 5 miles per hour (MPH) or so. Gradually increase your speed so that you get a feel for how much additional time it will take to accelerate with the added weight of your trailer and cargo in tow.
Once you’re ready to hit the road, remember to keep your speed at or below 55 MPH. Excessive speed is a contributing factor for trailer sway and combination disturbance, which can be dangerous situations. Never exceed the posted speed limit while towing, and only pass if you are able to do so safely while maintaining the advised maximum speed for towing.
When towing you will need to factor in that your stopping distance will be greater due to the added weight of the trailer. Similarly to accelerating, you should practice braking before you hit the road so you know how to adjust your driving to accommodate the increased stopping distance. Drive no more than 10 MPH for practicing your stops.
You also need to be familiar with your trailer’s brake system and the differences between how it and your tow vehicle’s brakes should be used. If your trailer is equipped with electric brakes, your tow vehicle will have an electric brake controller that sends power straight to the trailer brakes. Always be sure to test before towing to ensure this feature works. It is recommended to practice different braking combinations if your trailer is equipped with brakes so you are familiar with trailer/electric braking and tow vehicle braking. Be sure to take note of the effect when only trailer brakes are used. Your owner’s manual is your best tool for learning about the specifics of the braking mechanisms on your particular trailer.
If your trailer has brakes, it will also be equipped with a breakaway brake system, which applies the brakes on the trailer if it comes loose from the hitch. Be sure to familiarize yourself with this safety feature and how to properly rig it so that it works if the need arises. Be sure to test this feature before towing and to have it repaired or serviced if it is not working properly. Never tow if the breakaway brake system is not working.
Once you’re on the road, remember to always anticipate stops and begin braking earlier than you would if you were not towing to give yourself the time and distance needed to come to a safe stop. Never slam on your brakes. Never ride your brakes, especially when driving on a downhill grade that is steep or long, as this can cause your brakes to overheat and be rendered ineffective.
When planning to tow a trailer, be sure to factor in the increased time for acceleration and stopping. It may take a little longer to get where you are going, but towing safety is of the utmost importance not only for yourself but also for others you may share the road with. If you have questions about accelerating and braking or your trailer’s brake system, consult with your owner’s manual or your local Carry-On Trailer dealer.