Towing Tips

Tips for Towing a 5th Wheel

Based on our experiences from pulling a 30’ fifth wheel all over the United States over the last 5 years, we offer the tips below. I have a buddy who owns a tow truck company and he says by far that backing up is the hardest of all the towing maneuvers.  He says he has been Towing Yuma Az people around for more than 10 years and still has to work the hardest when backing up in tight spots.  Here a tips for us laypeople:

 

Hitching and Unhitching

This is so universal these days, that you can get the best advice from watching a 10 minute YouTube video.  It’s vitally important to get both of these procedures right, so practice if you have to around in a field or other area with no traffic BEFORE you take your haul to the highway.

Pulling the Trailer

Imagine a right angle when you turn with a trailer.  Almost 90 degrees, like a big square corner.  The trailer’s arc will follow you through the corner inside the turn of the truck wheels. Again, watch a video and then practice this maneuver so you don’t take a car out when you do it for the first time.

When you near the intersection, drive as deep (straight) into the intersection as you think you can go with the truck before making the turn. This will give the trailer more room as it comes through the corner. Same with turning into a parking lot from a road – go as far “past” the driveway as you can before swinging into it.

Even more fun is when you get the the campground. Many have skinny roads and tight curves. In these cases you’ll often have the outside/front tire of the truck off the pavement and the inside/rear tires of the trailer off the pavement. This is OK – you aren’t the biggest rig that’s been here so there is room for you.

 

In Traffic

Take a deep breath.  Count to 10.  Remind yourself to be patient.  Other drivers are NOT patient when it comes to big rigs.  They will jump into the gap you leave in front of you, they will ignore your turn signals, and they won’t remember you need extra space for slowing down, or for turning, or for parking.  Just get used to it.

Remember, going slower than everyone around you is less stressful than trying to keep up with the flow.  Enjoy the ride.

In multi-lane highways, stay in the middle. The far left lanes are for those in a hurry and the right lanes are too accordion-like.  They start/stop and disappear too much into exit ramps and on ramps merging and so on.  Stick to the “middle of the road.”

Backing the Trailer into a Campsite

Your starting position is key. There are two important aspects to your starting position – side of the road and distance from your target site.

Pull past the site and align your truck and trailer to be on the same side of the road the campsite is on as you can. For example, if your campsite is on the passenger side (and they usually will be) pull along that side of the road.

You might think that starting with the truck and trailer on the opposite side of the road from the campsite would be easier by giving you a wider arc to push the trailer through. However the truck’s nose needs that room to swing around as it backs into the site.

 

 

Types of Tow Trucks

There are several types of tow trucks and they all work differently.  Here is a great summary of each:

Flatbed Tow Truck

Flatbed Tow Trucks have no chains or hooks that attach to your vehicle. Instead, the bed is lowered on one end to the ground and a winch is used to pull your vehicle up onto the bed.  Or a crane-like apparatus may lift your vehicle and set it on the flatbed. These are the safest types of tow trucks, with the least risk of damaging vehicles as with a hook or chain.

Boom Tow Truck

This tow truck has s boom winch that is used to pull damaged vehicles from ditches and other hard to reach places. This one show above (courtesy of kenworth dot com) is lifting an airplane.

 

Hook and chain/Belt lift Tow Truck

This type of tow truck uses a heavy-duty chain and hook. The boom that is on the back of the tow truck is attached to the underside of the vehicle that needs to be towed.  The boom is then raised so the back wheels come off the ground and the vehicle is ready to tow (backwards).

 

Wheel-lift tow trucks

These tow trucks use a lift yoke to move vehicles.  The yoke is lowered to the ground and placed under the back or the front wheels of the vehicle. Then the vehicle is then lifted using a pneumatic or hydraulic crane-like device.