Western Australia | Queensland

9 Tips for Towing a Camper Trailer | Sunshine Trail

Towing a Camper Trailer

Towing a camper trailer offers endless freedom and adventure, allowing you to explore scenic routes with the comfort of home right behind you.

It’s a whole new game compared to towing a small trailer or driving without a tow. Additionally, it requires proper preparation and a keen understanding of safety measures to ensure a smooth ride for you and your loved ones.

Hence, leave your doubts behind! Because…

Sunshine Trail understands the excitement and challenges that come with towing a camper trailer. As your trusted partner in adventures, we offer top-quality camping accessories and valuable advice to ensure your journey is safe and pleasant.

So, we’ve got you covered with all the practical tips you need for effective camper trailer towing across the diverse terrain of Australia. Here’s the checklist:

  1. Understanding the Weight Capacity of the Camper Trailer
  2. Determining the Right Weight Distribution on Your Camper Trailer
  3. Ensuring Proper Towbar and Hitch Setup
  4. Assessing Your Towing Vehicle’s Capability
  5. Taking Breaks and Vehicle Performance Checks
  6. Ensuring Practices for Road Safety
  7. Implementing a Special Braking System
  8. Enhancing Safety with Additional Equipment
  9. Seeking Professional Guidance for Safe Travels

To have a safe and unforgettable trip, let’s discuss all of the tips in detail:

Safe Driving Tips for Towing a Camper Trailer

1. Understanding the Weight Capacity of the Camper Trailer

Before hitting the road, it’s important to know the weight capacity of your camper trailer. No matter how cautiously you drive, if your trailer exceeds its maximum towing load or is improperly packed, it can cause serious risks.

Therefore, familiarize yourself with the following key considerations:

i) Determining the Tare Weight:

It is the weight of your trailer when it is unloaded and in the manufacturer-specified condition.

Knowing the tare weight provides a baseline for understanding how much additional weight your trailer can safely carry.

ii) Analyzing the ATM Weight (Aggregate Trailer Mass):

It represents the maximum safe weight of a fully loaded camper trailer.

Additionally, it includes the combined mass of the tare weight and all the items you pack into the trailer.

Exceeding the ATM weight can compromise the stability and handling of your trailer.

iii) Estimating Payload:

It denotes the total amount of gear and supplies you can pack into your camper trailer while staying within the safe weight limits.

Exceeding the payload capacity can lead to overloading and potential safety hazards.

iv) Knowing the Front and Rear Axle Load:

Understanding the distribution of weight between the front and rear axles of your trailer is essential to increase towing stability and balance.

The front and rear axle load figures guide how to distribute weight effectively within the trailer. Proper weight distribution helps prevent swaying and ensures safer towing experiences.

2. Determining the Right Weight Distribution on Your Camper Trailer

Once you’ve identified the safe weight capacity of your camper trailer, it’s essential to allocate the loads properly to maintain balance and minimize risks on the road.

Here are detailed steps to help you achieve optimal weight distribution:

i) Ensure Even Distribution:

Make sure that the weight is distributed evenly both from front to back and left to right across the camper trailer.

ii) More Front Weight:

It’s advisable to have slightly more weight at the front of the camper trailer. This additional weight helps to reduce trailer swinging and swaying while driving, especially during turns.

iii) Focus on Axles:

Load the majority of the weight over the axles of the trailer. Placing the weight over the axles helps to maintain balance and stability during travel, minimizing the risk of losing control.

iv) Settle Low Center of Gravity:

Keep the weight low to the ground within your camper trailer. This lowers the centre of gravity, reducing rollovers or tipping, particularly on uneven terrain or during sudden maneuvers.

v) Consider Water Tank Management:

Before moving to the road, check that your water tank is filled to maintain a low centre of gravity. A full water tank improves handling, especially on winding roads or adverse weather conditions.

vi) Confirm the Right Alignment of Towing Equipment:

Verify that your towing equipment is correctly aligned. Additionally, ensure that the coupling height and ball height are even, allowing for smooth and stable towing.

Misaligned towing equipment can lead to uneven weight distribution and compromise towing performance.

3. Ensuring Proper Towbar and Hitch Setup

Towbar serves as the connection point between your vehicle and the camper trailer. Make sure that it is securely attached to the vehicle’s chassis using high-quality bolts and fittings.

Additionally, it’s essential to have a heavy-duty towbar installed on your vehicle, designed to withstand the stress of towing heavier loads

Hitch allows for the attachment and detachment of the camper trailer to the tow vehicle. Choose the one that is compatible with your towbar and trailer coupling system.

4. Assessing Your Towing Vehicle’s Capability

Your tow vehicle plays a central role in the safety of towing a trailer, and overlooking its capabilities can lead to potential risks along the way. It involves the capacity and condition of the vehicle:

i) Check the Towing Capacity of Vehicle:

Ensure that your vehicle’s towing capacity aligns with the weight and demands of towing a camper trailer:

  • Check the size, length, and weight of the trailer to verify its suitability with your vehicle’s towing capacity.
  • If planning to venture off-road, ensure that both your tow vehicle and camper trailer are off-road compliant to navigate rugged terrain safely.
  • Longer, larger, and heavier trailers may require a four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle for best towing performance.
  • Consult with a camper trailer expert to determine the most suitable vehicle type based on your towing needs and preferences.

ii) Determine the Vehicle Condition

For safe towing, it’s vital to confirm the excellent condition of your tow vehicle, trailer, and all related components. Before leaving, conduct the following checks:

  • Service your towing vehicle, addressing oil, water, brake fluid, brakes, lights, indicators, and transmission, drawbar, and wheel bearings.
  • Inspect your trailer thoroughly, ensuring it undergoes comprehensive service and cleaning, with particular attention to trailer lights.
  • Assess the condition of all tires on both your vehicle and camper trailer, including spares, checking for damage, wear, and tread levels, and ensuring proper inflation. Don’t forget to inspect the wheel nuts.
  • Verify the proper connection, calibration, and functionality of the electric brake controller.
  • Examine your vehicle and trailer for any signs of cracking or rusting.
  • Confirm that everything is securely hitched before heading on your journey.

5. Taking Breaks and Vehicle Performance Checks

Taking breaks and conducting regular checks is an essential practice, especially during road trips, and becomes even more crucial when towing a camper trailer. Additionally, it’s a chance for everyone to rest, stretch, and maybe switch drivers if needed.

These breaks also serve as ideal times to inspect critical components of the setup. It offers a chance to examine the towbar and hitch for any signs of looseness or damage.

Moreover, it ensures that nothing inside or outside the trailer is loose and double-checks tire pressure and condition.

6. Ensuring Practices for Road Safety

Driving with a camper trailer presents unique challenges that require attentiveness and caution:

i) Adapt Driving Techniques:

When you tow a camper trailer, your vehicle’s size changes a lot – it gets longer, wider, heavier, and taller. Thus, it’s essential to adjust your driving techniques to accommodate these changes.

ii) Take Turns Carefully:

When you turn corners, remember to make the turn wider than usual. This compensates for the trailer’s tighter turning ability. Because the trailer follows your car’s path, taking a wider turn ensures it doesn’t cut the corner too sharply.

iii) Ensure Watchful Reverse:

When you need to reverse with a trailer, use your mirrors and move slowly. Quick movements can put you in a tricky situation. It’s important to avoid jack-knifing, which can be dangerous for you and others around you.

iv) Do Safe Parking:

When parking, try to find spots with extra room, like double bays. Make sure it’s easy to get in and out of the parking spot.

v) Exercise Cautions While Crossing the Bridges:

Before going under bridges or into places with low ceilings like petrol stations, car washes, or carports, think about the height of your vehicle. If you’re not sure if you can fit in, ask someone to check for you.

vi) Tackle Hills and Descents Wisely:

Driving up and down steep hills can be tough, especially when you’re towing a trailer. This goes for both big and small trailers.

When going uphill, try to gradually pick up speed before you reach the incline, if it’s safe. This helps give your vehicle some extra power and momentum for climbing. Using low gears while on the hill it can also make it easier to reach the top.

When going downhill, it’s best to go slow and steady. Again, using low gears helps you maintain a controlled speed. Avoid braking suddenly, especially when towing, as it can make your trailer unstable.

vii) Stay Distant from Other Vehicles

Since your vehicle is bigger and heavier than most others on the road, make sure you don’t drive too close to the car in front of you, even if another car is following you.

On average, it takes about 80 meters for a vehicle travelling at 100 kilometers per hour to come to a stop.

When towing a camper trailer, it takes even longer to stop safely. That’s why it’s important to avoid sudden braking, which could compromise your stability.

For safety, try to keep at least double the distance between your vehicle and the one in front when towing. Aim for a 5-second gap between vehicles as a general rule.

viii) Control Over Swings & Sways

Sways occur when your camper trailer starts fishtailing, snaking, or swinging from side to side.

Several factors can cause or worsen sways, such as:

  • Incorrect hitch height or ball weight
  • Wrong weight distribution
  • Air displacement caused by passing trucks
  • Wind or bad weather conditions

They can be manually controlled by,

  • Slowing down your vehicle without applying excessive brakes
  • Keeping the steering wheel straight whenever possible
  • Activating brakes only on the camper trailer
  • Using Trailer Sway Control equipment (as an add-on or a built-in feature in newer models) to enhance stability and reduce swing or sway while towing a trailer.

7. Implementing a Special Braking System

When camper trailers weigh over 750kg, acquiring a special braking system is mandatory. Moreover, for older trailers or those weighing less than 2000kg, mechanical or hydraulic override brakes should be installed on your vehicle.

Conversely, newer and heavier trailers are often equipped with electric brake controllers. These controllers enable you to activate the trailer’s electric brakes separately from your vehicle’s brakes, offering control features in some cases.

8. Investing in Additional Equipment for Added Safety

You can reduce potential risks and enjoy a smoother, safer journey by investing in the following supplementary accessories:

i) Wind Deflectors:

They offer various benefits when properly chosen and mounted on your tow vehicle’s roof. Including

  • enhancing towing stability
  • reducing fuel consumption
  • improving wind resistance
  • easing strain on your car engine

To ensure effectiveness, select a curved deflector that is larger at the front and securely mount it towards the rear of your car’s roof at an angle of 45 degrees or greater.

Additionally, ensure the deflector’s size, shape, and angle allow wind to flow over the top of your trailer. If you notice bugs on the front of your trailer after the trip, it suggests that the deflector may not be effectively redirecting wind past your trailer.

ii) Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS):

It continuously monitors the air pressure in your camper trailer tires and alerts you to any significant changes or tire abnormalities.

Maintaining optimal tire pressure is crucial for safe towing, as underinflated tires can lead to decreased handling and an increased risk of blowouts.

iii) Backup Camera System:

Installing a backup camera system on your camper trailer provides improved visibility and helps you move your vehicle safely, especially when reversing or parking.

It allows you to monitor blind spots and obstacles behind the trailer, reducing the likelihood of accidents or collisions.

iv) LED Lighting Upgrades:

LED lights are brighter, more durable, and have a longer lifespan compared to traditional bulbs. Therefore, upgrading your camper trailer’s lighting to LED lights offers several safety benefits, including:

  • increased visibility to other drivers
  • enhanced brake and signal light performance
  • reduced energy consumption

9. Seeking Professional Guidance for Safe Travels

Consulting professional advice before your trip, especially when towing a camper trailer, is essential for a safe journey.

Professionals like Sunshine Trail, offer valuable insights into towing capacity, weight distribution, road safety, and equipment selection. Their expertise ensures you’re well-prepared and informed, contributing to a smooth and trouble-free adventure.

Find Your Ideal Camper Trailer at Sunshine Trail | Start Your Adventure Now!

Visit our showrooms in Mandurah and Queensland and explore our range of caravans and campers, equipped with cutting-edge features and amenities.

We’re committed to providing a premium selection of camper trailers and expert guidance to make your journey convenient and memorable.

With Sunshine Trail as your trusted companion, towing a camper trailer has never been more effortless and exciting.

So buckle up, hit the road, and let the adventure begin!