Top 12 Towing Tips for Newbies

Friday, March 14, 2014

Our Silver Sisters Caravan. Towing is more fun with friends!

When I first got my Airstream, for some reason I relied on my man G to tow it. He was a love to tow it whenever I needed it for a show or wanted to camp somewhere.  He had experience towing, so it seemed like it only made sense... only it didn't. It was my trailer. I am a good driver. Why would I not be towing it myself? Soon there came a day that G had to work out of town and I had a jewelry show with my Airstream showroom several towns away. I had no choice but to tow the Airstream myself. As I was whining / freaking out about the situation, an older gentleman friend said to me, "You're a big girl, you can do this". He was right. I put my big girl pants on, and with my 1969 GMC pickup, I towed my 24' Airstream Trade Wind through one of the windiest sections of road I know to this day. I told myself, "If I made it through that, everything else will seem like a piece of cake".  Little by little it was.  I can still get worked up in certain situations when around not-so-lovely drivers, and so does anyone who drives. Now I have the philosophy, "If you can drive, you can tow".

My dog Osa and I traveled cross county round trip with that same 24' Airstream in tow on a two month journey. It was magical and I learned a lot along the way.

My truck and Airstream on a 2 month road trip with TLC

Here are some tips from me and other helpful trailer friends who shared on my Facebook page

Top 12 Tips for Towing a Trailer

1. Check your set up. Do a final walk around inside and around your trailer before you head out. Make sure items are stowed away inside, off counters and vents are closed and cabinets are latched. Walk around the exterior of the trailer and look underneath it to make sure you're in the clear. Most importantly, check the hitch set up and make sure everything is connected properly and in good working order. Check that your lights and signal flashers are working properly. A checklist is helpful for all of these items and more.

2. Be calm and focused. To this day, I make sure when I get in the truck to tow, I feel calm and focused. I like to sit for a couple of minutes and take a couple of deep breaths and clear my mind, while I have some sips of coffee. It's a big part of towing- to get your mind in the game, get excited for the trip, and to feel centered and calm. Breathe. This mindset with keep you cool and clear when you need to be. Once I'm on the road and on my way, I put on music and enjoy the ride, while staying focused.

3. Take your time. It's important that you don't feel rushed or pressure to go faster thank you're comfortable. The people behind you have a beautiful view!  Go the appropriate and safe speed limit. People will pass you when they can. On some smaller roads, when you're able to safely pull over let others pass if there's a stack of cars beginning to form behind you. Be considerate.

4. Think ahead.  Just as motorcyclists have to think and look ahead, so do you. Look far ahead down road in front of you and be aware of your fellow drivers around you. When towing, your lane changes and stopping are slower, so you need to think ahead for lane shifts, and slow down sooner. This will eventually come naturally. Sometimes I'll see truckers all merging into the next lane and I'll know that it is an exit only lane ahead or a short merge for entering traffic.

5. Fill up your gas at truck stops. This obviously depends on where you are traveling, but it you're on a route with truck stops, this will make entering and exiting the gas station much easier. Plus, they have some cool trucker stuff in some of the stores. If you don't have truck stops available, look for gas stations with plenty of space to pull in and out of.

6. Bring along a happy co-pilot. You'll likely be nervous behind the wheel the first few times. Bring along that someone who is encouraging and supportive (and perhaps brave) to be your navigator and cheerleader. If this is your dog, that that works too!

7. Have good tow mirrors on your vehicle so you have the best visibility possible.

8. Check your tire pressure on your tow vehicle and trailer before you head out. Inflate as necessary.

9. Take your turns wider. The trailer tracks tighter on turns, so check your mirrors and swing the turn(s) wider than you would if you didn't have a trailer in tow. Again, check your mirrors through the turn.

10. Put your hand on the base of the steering wheel when backing up the trailer. The direction you move your hand on the wheel is the direction the back of the trailer will move. It's easy to over think it. Do this, it works.

11. Ask for help if you need it. There's no shame in asking someone to help spot you when backing up, you may even make a friend. Ask them to use hand gestures you can see in your side view mirror. Have them tell you what the direction the back of the trailer should go (not which way to cut the wheel- that only gets confusing). Fellow Airstreamer, Neil Holman posted on my Facebook page: "Please do ask for assistance, especially when backing up. RV folks love to help...they were beginners once".

12. Enjoy the Ride! That's the whole point, isn't it? Thank the ones who are joining you, take in the sights (while keeping your eyes on the road), and be darn proud of yourself for rising up to the challenge of towing- facing your fear and doing it anyway. This new skill will lead you (and your trailer) to many beautiful places and experiences.

And there you have it. You've got this! Practice in a big wide empty parking lot to start. Drive around your neighborhood when you're comfortable (depending where you live!), soon you'll be ready to get on the road- we'll be cheering you on all the way!

(For you experienced trailer friends reading this, if there are any tips you'd like to add for a newbie reading this, please do. This is a growing list and we can all learn from each other's experiences).


Leigh said...

Great post! I would love to tow someday though I'd have to drug and blindfold Brian first.

Kristiana Spaulding said...


You crack me up! Maybe Brian could tow my trailer while I ride co-pilot in yours to our destination. I'll cheer you on the entire way! Good, right?!

Happy travels,


Leigh said...

Oooh that's a great idea!! He'd still be freaking out the entire time!

Ronald Morgan said...

I own an a 1968 Safari completely restored to original. Polished, polished propane tanks, awnings etc. Just can't understand why pull your bedroom?

I pull her with a restored 1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer silver as well. Lots of gawkers!

Kristiana Spaulding said...


Your truck and trailer sound like a beautiful shiny combination! I'll bet you get a lot of gawkers indeed.

Happy travels,


Unknown said...

I really like your silver trailer! It looks so shiny that you could probably use it as a mirror! My favorite tip that you mentioned was to think ahead. It's important to think about what you have to do when towing a trailer.
Jayden Eden |

Unknown said...

That was such a great article, Kritiana. I've only towed small boats a couple of times, but it wasn't too bad. Once I saw a tow truck helping someone with a flat, and then a company car was following, towing the person's trailer. It was like tow-ception.

Unknown said...

I'm in love with how those silver shuttles look! They almost remind me of spaceships! We've been thinking of getting a trailer styled like that. We need to know a little bit about towing first. Thanks so much for sharing!

Unknown said...

I think you're right: checking tire pressure is actually very important. It seems like such a simple thing but it can ruin your whole trip if you're not careful. It's much harder to tell when your trailer has a flat than when your car does. Thanks for sharing your tips with us.

Guy Gardener said...

That is an interesting philosophy. I remember my first time towing, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I don't disagree with your philosophy, for I could drive and I could tow.

Anonymous said...

Would any one tell me how much tire pressure I would need to put on my tires when doing a heavy towing? The last time my truck was used for towing was a couple of months ago and it ended up with me having to replace a tire. Somehow the tire that was used around that time just couldn't bear the weight of towing a big horse trailer.

Kristiana Spaulding said...

Yikes, sorry to hear about your tire. I'd say your safest bet is to look at your vehicle's manual for what they recommend for your tire's psi. Sometimes your vehicle will have an online forum for where you can find that answer that too.

Kristiana Spaulding said...

You're right, sometimes it's not as hard as we expect. It's getting past the anticipation that's probably the toughest!

Kristiana Spaulding said...

Thank you for your reply, Sergio.
What a difference a properly inflated tire makes for gas mileage too.

Kristiana Spaulding said...

I hope you find / have found just the right trailer for you! I love your comparison to spaceships. :)