Summer may be coming to an end, but September to November is often the best time to go camping in Florida. Towing an RV, boat or cargo trailer may seem simple but it is more than getting a trailer and hitch. Improper towing can lead to tipping or unattached cargo and cause serious damage to suspension and braking systems as well as strain to your engine and transmission. Make sure to avoid common towing mistakes before hitting the road.
You will find yourself dealing with a host of problems that can turn dangerous if you overload your trailer or vehicle. Towing specifications can be found in your vehicle’s owner manual and the inside of the driver’s side door. Your trailer’s unloaded weight and weight ratings can be found on its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate.
Some numbers to look up are your vehicle’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR) this is the total amount of weight allowed including the vehicle, loaded trailer, passengers, fuel and everything being carried. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is the max weight limit for your vehicle.
According to Popular Mechanics, another number to keep in mind is the tongue weight. This figure will tell you how much of the trailer’s weight can rest on the hitch. They recommend the number be about 10 percent of the trailer’s weight to prevent swaying and difficulty in steering.
An off-balance trailer can be difficult to control. Try to place heavier objects toward the front for greater support. Load cargo evenly from front to back as well as from side to side for equal weight distribution. Secure all items to prevent them from shifting during the trip.
Towing adds more weight causing your rig greater momentum which means it will take longer for your vehicle to reduce speed. Give yourself plenty of time and space to slow down. It is best to apply light, gradual pressure. Florida requires all trailers to have their own brake system if the load and trailer exceeds 3,000 pounds.
In Florida, any vehicle towing a trailer with a trailer hitch attached to the rear of the vehicle must have the proper connections. Safety chains or cables connecting from the trailer to the vehicle must be strong enough to maintain connection in the event that a trailer is separated from the hitch. Crossing the chains in the shape of an X will offer the greatest support.
Truck Trend Magazine advises to check your vehicle and trailer’s tire pressure before your trip. Tires that sit unused for a season are vulnerable to degrading faster than if they were on the road.
“Before you head out, make sure your auto insurance has you covered,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. “Not all car insurance policies offer the same protection, so it is best to read through your policy or get clarification from your insurance agent on exactly what is covered.”
The liability portion of your car insurance should cover the trailer if it causes damage to someone’s car or property in a car crash. You might discover you have no coverage for the trailer or cargo if it is damaged during your trip. Homeowner’s insurance does offer some coverage for trailers and boats but specific insurance such as RV insurance or boat insurance is recommended for full protection and compensation.