You’ve just bought your first teardrop trailer and you couldn’t be happier. Through the advice on this blog, you think you’ve chosen a fantastic and dependable vehicle that you and your family or friends can enjoy for years to come.
Now it’s time to tow it. Don’t worry too much, as tugging along a teardrop trailer is not nearly as difficult as it is with many other trailers. These are among the lightest-weight vehicles, giving you tons of towing versatility.
Still, it never hurts to be prepared. That’s why, in this article, I’m sharing my favorite towing tips. Everything you need to know, from selecting a towing vehicle to attaching a hitch and doing the actual towing will be covered in this article.
Towing Vehicle Tips
Almost Anything Goes When Towing a Teardrop Trailer
Teardrop trailers have a weight range that’s rather impressive, we must say. On the lower end, these can clock in at under 500 pounds. Larger teardrops might exceed 2,000 pounds, making them more akin to towing a camper trailer.
Depending on the weight of your teardrop, you either get tons of freedom with your towing vehicle or only some. If your teardrop is in the 500-puond weight class, then almost anything goes. Your motorcycle is eligible to tow trailers that are lightweight enough. With slightly heavier ones, you’re better off using your car.
If you already own a truck or SUV, you can still rely on these vehicles for towing a lighter teardrop trailer. It might feel like you’re towing nothing at all, so you’ll have to be careful with your driving techniques (more on this later).
Know Your Towing Vehicle’s Towing Capacity
How do you know if you should use a motorcycle or an SUV for towing your teardrop trailer? You must get informed on towing capacity. The best way to do this is to check your owner’s manual. You should find the towing capacity for your towing vehicle in there. Otherwise, get in touch with the manufacturer of your towing vehicle and ask.
The towing capacity is the max amount of weight your towing vehicle can pull. Motorcycles will be able to handle the least amount of weight and SUVs and heavy-duty pick-up trucks the most.
Once you know the towing capacity of your vehicle, it’s your duty to follow it as closely as possible. Here’s a secret: most vehicle manufacturers print a purposely lower max towing capacity than what your towing vehicle is truly capable of.
Why is this? If you exceed the max towing capacity, you can cause all sorts of damage to your vehicle. The engine and transmission will be the first to go, costing you up to thousands of dollars in repairs. To make themselves less culpable and to keep your vehicle running longer, vehicle manufacturers will print a somewhat lower towing capacity than your true max.
That doesn’t give you permission to push your towing vehicle to the limit. It just means that if you’re over the max towing capacity by 50 to 75 pounds or less, you shouldn’t panic. Listen to your towing vehicle. If it’s showing signs of straining, you might want to rethink your rig for the next trip.
Choose Your Hitch Wisely
Great, you’ve picked out your towing vehicle, but you’re not done yet. You must also select a hitch. While there are many hitches on the market, a lot of them aren’t suitable for your teardrop trailer.
Here are some you might consider:
- Weight distribution hitch: While typically intended for larger rigs, you can use a weight distribution hitch for a heavier teardrop trailer. These have a receiver hitch attachment that fits perfectly in the rear of pick-up trucks and other large towing vehicles. The hitch has spring bars for transferring tongue weight to your teardrop’s axles.
- Bumper hitch: For cars or trucks, there’s bumper hitches. These have a receiver tube opening that’s typically 2×2 inches. While you can often tow less weight with a bumper hitch, given that you own a teardrop, that’s not a big problem.
- Class 1 hitch: Then there’s the Class 1 hitch. Receiver hitches are classed by weight on a scale of one to five. A Class 1 hitch is rated for towing the least amount of weight, no more than 2,000 pounds. That’s suitable for a bigger teardrop. For some large models, you might need a Class 2 hitch. This is rated at 3,500 pounds.
Know Your Tongue Weight
Once you pick your hitch, you need to calculate its tongue weight. This is the amount of downward pressure that’s applied on the hitch.
To figure out your hitch’s tongue weight, you must first know your Gross Trailer Weight or GTW. This may be in your owner’s manual, so be sure to check.
Your trailer’s tongue weight is a percentage of your GTW, typically nine percent on the lower end and 15 percent on the higher end. You do not want to exceed 15 percent, as that means there’s too much weight on the tongue. This can cause the teardrop to come loose from the hitch and cause severe damage.
Do Hitch Maintenance Regularly
My final tip for your hitch is to get into a maintenance routine. Every week or so, get out there and take a look at all the hitch parts. Do any of them need lubrication? If so, then do it. Are any of the parts rusted or corroded? You might want to think about investing in a new hitch, especially if yours is a few years old.
Towing Teardrop Trailer Tips
Plan Your Trip Route Early
Are you feeling up for an impromptu road trip in your teardrop trailer? That’s great! Before you get gung-ho about leaving, though, you want to know your route down to the letter.
You may be very familiar driving your towing vehicle, but once you have a teardrop trailer lugging along behind you, the whole experience becomes an alien one. Everything you thought you knew about driving is pretty much thrown out the window.
The less you have to maneuver those first few trips as you acclimate, the better. That’s not to say you shouldn’t practice before you go, because you absolutely should. Still, there’s a difference between backing up in an empty parking lot and doing the same in one with cars on all sides.
To alleviate your nerves, prepare a trip with as little tough driving as possible. Tight turns and sudden stops aren’t all you want to look out for. You may want to limit highway driving, since teardrop rigs should go slower (keep reading for more on this).
If you must go on the highway, then maybe avoid four-lane ones for your first outing.
Measure Your Rig’s Clearance
Before you ever hit the road, you kneed to know the height of your towing vehicle with your teardrop attached. This is how you determine the clearance of your rig. You don’t want to find out the hard way when approaching a tunnel or overpass that you cannot fit through.
Since most teardrops aren’t particularly tall or fat, we don’t suspect you’ll have much if any trouble navigating through tunnels. Still, it’s better to be on the safe side. Having your rig’s clearance as a clear-cut number lets you know when you can pass through tunnels and when you have to plan an alternate route.
Readjust or Upgrade Your Mirrors
Your mirrors might be in the ideal position now, but once you add your teardrop trailer, that’s no longer the case.
It is of the utmost importance that you have full and clear visibility of what’s going on around you when on the road. If your teardrop is blocking your view from any of your mirrors, that needs to change ASAP.
That’s why I recommend you spend some time in the driver’s seat fiddling with your mirrors before you take off on your adventures. There should be no blind spots. Otherwise, you never know what’s coming up behind you, which is incredibly dangerous.
Some trailer drivers opt to install rear-vision cameras and extended side-view mirrors. Rear-vision cameras have their own cockpit monitor for drivers. This gives you a clear view into what’s going on behind you at any given time. While such a camera is not cheap, it greatly improves your visibility, so think about getting one.
Then there are extended side-view mirrors. For a less permanent solution, you can opt for the clip-on version of these mirrors. These attach over your current side mirrors for a short-term solution to little visibility. You can also buy a permanent installation.
Signal Your Intent
Are you the type of driver who’s been doing this for so long that you feel there’s no need to put on your turn signal? That’ll have to stop when you’re towing a teardrop trailer.
Your rig is now considerably bigger than it would be if it was just you in your towing vehicle. Other drivers might get apprehensive around you, so you want to make it as easy for them to get around you as possible, right? To do that, all you have to do is flick on your turn signal.
Don’t wait to put on the signal for a turn right as you approach it. That doesn’t help anyone. You want to begin signaling early to give other drivers plenty of room to shift lanes or do what they want/have to do. Just don’t signal so early that you confuse people on the road.
Prepare for Wide Turns as the Norm
If you’re signaling, it’s probably because you want to make a turn, right? Well, that’s another thing you better practice before you go, because turning isn’t as easy as it is without a teardrop trailer.
It’s not inherently difficult, either, but it will definitely take some time to get used to. Due to gravity, when you make a slow, conscientious turn, your trailer should naturally move with you. The only way that won’t happen is with hitch mismanagement, which we talked about earlier in this article.
One major difference in the way you turn is you’ll have to go much wider than what you usually do. This is to accommodate your teardrop and give it sufficient room to make the turn with you. It’s imperative you slow down when doing this maneuver instead of speed up.
Also, you want to keep away from very sharp turns. Those that are 90 degrees or more put you at risk of an accident if you attempt them. This is why planning your route is so necessary.
What if you find yourself facing an unexpected sharp turn? First, don’t panic. You can get through it with skills and pacing. You just want to do a wide turn as usual within the space that’s afforded to you.
Slow Way Down
If you’re a speed demon, you’ll find this next tip particularly hard. Still, you must accustom yourself to going slower than you ever have. You should stick within the speed limit, but don’t exceed it.
You’re pulling at least twice the weight of your usual setup, so speeding is not easy to do anyway. Even if your foot is lead on the accelerator, driving too fast means you can’t brake as quickly as you’d like. With a teardrop trailer attached to your car or truck, braking is an ordeal at any speed. You need to stop well before you’d like to so you can ensure your rig slows down enough at that predetermined point.
Another risk of driving too fast is you have to make turns quickly, which is scary. You also don’t get nearly as much time to react as you really need, putting you at a higher risk of accidents.
By slowing down your pace, you can be a safer driver. You can even improve your gas mileage, so going slow isn’t all bad!
Get Into the Habit of Checking
For your first trip, you might be obsessive with monitoring your hatch locks, tires, and the hitch itself. You want to make sure these crucial components are all okay and working as expected.
This is a good habit to get into. While you won’t have to check so obsessively on future trips, giving your locks, tires, and hitch a once-over before you disembark for the day is always a great idea.
Take Your Time Parking
Your days of quick parking are over now that you’re towing a teardrop trailer. You can’t just squeeze into a tight area. There’s no more rushing to beat someone to a spot, either.
Instead, you’ll spend more time than ever parking. First, you have to find a suitable spot for your rig.
Two vertical spots are ideal so you can park your towing vehicle in one and your trailer right behind. Don’t try to park in horizontal spots, as it will not go well. Avoid diagonal parking as well.
After finding a great spot, you’ll have to slowly inch your way in there without hitting other parked cars on either side. Leaving the spot is much easier since you can just drive forward in most instances.
Learn to Back up and Maneuver
Just because you don’t have to back up when parking doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to. This is one maneuver you must master sometime.
I recommend practicing in an empty parking lot before your trip.
To back up, you want to first check your mirrors. If you don’t have full visibility, the abovementioned rearview camera really comes in handy. Otherwise, you’ll have to adjust your mirrors until you can see.
Then, going very slowly, begin moving out of the spot backwards. You want to keep your teardrop trailer moving with you. If it begins to do its own thing, it could be fishtailing or jackknifing. Both are no good, as you could hit another car or anything else around you.
If your trailer is moving the same way your towing vehicle is, then keep going backwards, taking it incredibly slowly as you do. When you’re fully out of the spot, you can get yourself going forward again and enjoy the rest of your road trip from there.
Are you towing a teardrop trailer for the first time? It’s normal to feel apprehensive, but you’ll get over this this with time the more you drive with your trailer.
First, you need to pick your towing vehicle. This may be a motorcycle, car, truck, or SUV. Then, you need a suitable hitch for the weight of your teardrop. You also have to know the tongue weight so you can avoid jackknifing and/or fishtailing.
Next, I recommend you practice maneuvering before you go. This gives you a feel for what it’s like to tow your teardrop. Remember that going slow is best in your rig. Good luck!