When it comes to driving a trailer successfully, there is no substitute for real life experience on the road. Provided that your truck has a towing hitch and you know how to safely hitch a trailer without losing a finger, the question is; how do you get that experience without crashing? Whether you are transporting a bike, or moving house, renting a trailer stands to save you a lot of money over getting a professional towing service. If you don't know what you're doing though, accidents will wipe out your potential savings and leave you wishing you'd called the pros!
Make Yourself A Course!
Find yourself a vacant parking lot and grab some markers. Fluorescent cones are great if you have them but you could easily make some flag markers by tying socks onto garden canes and sticking them into flower pots. Start by making two parallel lines.
It's almost impossible to back up in a straight line so don't even try, just practice reversing back between your parallel markings a bunch of times. Get a feel for how your trailer moves as you reverse.
Watch Your Hands
A good tip is to keep one hand at the 6o'clock position on the steering wheel when reversing. This helps some people relate to how every slight turn of the wheel is magnified into a much greater movement by the rear of the trailer. If you try this, the trailer moves in the opposite direction your hand does when you reverse and it makes the movement easier to visualize.
Mirrors Will Save Your Life
Extended or over-size mirrors are a must-have when you are driving with a trailer. You can rent a trailer but you can't rent these! Driving with just your vehicle's standard wing mirrors is very hard as they can't let you see the whole of your trailer. Use your parking lot course to make adjustments on your mirrors and ensure that you can see the entire length of your trailer easily. As only your stock truck wing mirrors will be electrically adjustable it really helps to have a mate who can angle the extended mirrors for you while you remain seated in the correct driving position.
Allow Yourself Extra Space
When you are ready, move you parallel markings into a curve and get a feel for how much extra space you need to leave yourself when you turn. Complete several turns in the parking lot and observe how wide you have to stay without hitting your markers. When you get onto the road, this means that when there are multiple turn lanes, you should stay wide.
The final step of your practice is to see how your trailer handles when you stop. Even if your trailer has brakes, you will always need extra stopping distance. Out on the road this translates to leaving extra space between you and the car in front.
Putting It All Together On The Road
Now you're ready to try driving on the motorway for the first time, good luck! However, your practice course will not have prepared you for the unnerving feeling of buffeting when a truck passes you at speed. A good tip is to remain vigilant and see other vehicles approaching in your mirrors, then ease off the accelerator pedal just before they pass, it will help prevent swaying. Always remember if your trailer is swaying continually you need to stop and make adjustments. If it is all too much hassle and worry then consider finding a local towing firm; you might be surprised how quick and affordable their services can be.