Trailer Safety for Your Next Road Trip

By Graham Heeps

As road trip season approaches, many Albertans are dusting off their RVs and cleaning their boats for summer trips. Whether you plan to tow a camping trailer, watercraft or even a car behind your RV, here’s some helpful advice to keep you safe on the road.


All vehicles are rated to tow up to a certain weight, but more power doesn’t always mean better towing. Aerodynamic camping trailers and boats cut through the air better than boxy designs, which puts less strain on the tow vehicle. “You can downshift to climb a mountain, but you can’t cross the Prairies in second gear at 4,000 rpm,” says Andy Thomson of Can-Am RV Towing.


A good hitch setup puts the ball close to the rear of the tow vehicle. In general, the further it is from the rear axle, the less stable the combination will be as the trailer exerts more side-to-side leverage. This is the reason why vehicles with shorter rear overhangs tend to tow well, and why a fifth-wheel—with its pivot point over the rear axle—provides very good stability.


The configuration of the ball mount and hitch also impacts the effectiveness of a weight distribution system. This design specifically transfers weight from the trailer to the vehicle axles. “If the rear of the tow vehicle sits too low,” Thomson explains, “it’s more likely the ball mount is not configured properly—rather than it being a problem with the vehicle springs.” 

An RV prep guide to trailer rentals and sharing.


The trailer itself must be in good shape before you leave. Ensure that the tires have no inflation problems on both the tow vehicle and trailer. Check the trailer’s brakes, too. For electric brakes, roll forward slowly and activate the brake control on the dash to see if it stops the vehicle. For boat trailer-style surge brakes, backup uphill (on a driveway for example) to see if the brakes engage.


If you plan to tow a vehicle behind your RV, first check that the car is suitable for flat towing. And always use the correct baseplate kit for the vehicle in question to secure it to the tow bar. Heavier cars will also need a supplemental braking system. Never back up while having the towed car connected because it’s surprisingly easy to bend or damage the tow bar.