Trailer Owner’s Manual

8 During Travel

8.1 Refrigerator Power

During travel, some refrigerators have the option of powering with either lp gas or 12 V dc electric power.

The 12 V dc refrigerator power option may be used during travel while the tow vehicle is running, but only if the tow vehicle is wired correctly and has sufficient alternator power available. This allows the lp tanks to be closed for maximum safety, and you do not have to worry about turning off the refrigerator before pulling into a gas station. Before relying on the 12 V dc option, test it for a day or two and monitor the refrigerator temperature to be sure that the system is capable of keeping up with the demand for electric power. Once you have arrived at camp and turned off the tow vehicle, it is necessary to turn off the 12 V dc refrigerator power to avoid quickly draining the batteries. LP or 120 V ac power options must be used at camp.

The lp gas option is usually more powerful and efficient, and may be required on especially hot days if the 12 V dc option cannot keep up. Monitor the refrigerator temperature on occasion, since the gas flame may be blown out during travel. It might be possible to monitor the flame by opening a small window in the baffle, or by feeling the chimney to be sure that it is still hot. Additional baffling may be available to prevent flame-out during travel. See the refrigerator’s owner’s manual or the dealership for details.

The 120 V ac option can be used in camp if the trailer is plugged into a 120 V ac “shore power” connection.

Some long tunnels require that lp tanks be closed before entering the tunnel. If using lp power for the refrigerator during travel, be sure to remember to re-open the valves and restart the refrigerator after exiting the tunnel.

8.2 Towing the Trailer
Route Planning

There are some things to consider when planning what route to take to your destination:

Toll Roads:

Toll roads usually charge extra for towing a trailer, sometimes significantly more than expected. Look up their rates beforehand to avoid price shock, keeping in mind the tradeoff in time of taking back roads instead.

Interstate v.s. Back Roads:

From the point of view of someone towing a trailer, the Interstate highway system offers quicker travel at the expense of less fuel efficiency, a steady supply of services such as fuel and food, and also a network of gas stations and truck stops which offer larger gas station fuel pump lots with more maneuvering room than a typical small town gas station. When starting travel with a new trailer, it is recommended that you begin with the Interstate system to get access to these easier-to-use gas stations.

Fuel Efficiency:

A low height pop-up or folding camping trailer does not cost as large a hit in highway fuel efficiency as a full height trailer or camper, but in stop-and-go traffic or while climbing mountains the trailer still has to be dragged forward and stopped again. Be aware of conditions, and plan to drive conservatively. Best fuel efficiency will be found while driving steadily at a moderate speed, such as a rural highway v.s. the faster speeds of the Interstate expressway.

Terrain And Switchbacks:

Tight mountain switchbacks can be a problem with a trailer in tow. In general, the trailer usually can be turned as tight as the tow vehicle, but it cannot do much of a three point turn without hitting the back of the tow vehicle. In the event of a very tight turn, it might be necessary to have someone get out and watch carefully to warn before something hits. It also might be possible to temporarily remove the propane tanks to gain a little more clearance in the hitch/bumper area, in which case it is best to set them out of the way by the side of the road during the turn, then reinstall them before continuing travel.

Maximum Speeds

While it may be tempting to try to get to your destination as quickly as possible, there are some real limits to how fast you should go while pulling a trailer. Pay special attention to the following:

Following Distance

While towing the trailer, maintain a larger than normal following distance behind the vehicle in front. Attempting a hard stop becomes more dangerous with a trailer, both in terms of controlling the vehicle and trailer, and in terms of the potential consequences of a collision.

Panic Stops

In the event of a panic stop, it is best not to try to swerve too hard to avoid hitting something. The trailer may swing out further than you expect, and pull the back end of the tow vehicle sideways, causing a loss of control.

Lane Changes

Use extra caution when changing lanes. It is hard to tell in the mirrors exactly how far back the trailer goes and whether someone is next to it. When changing lanes, use the turn signal for a few seconds, then move over slowly to give other people time to react.

Brake Failure

To avoid overheating the brakes, downshift the tow vehicle’s transmission to a lower gear and stay off the gas pedal so that the engine can help slow down the vehicle and trailer. It’s normal to go down a mountain road with the engine roaring at high speed while hardly touching the brakes. The engine and transmission are built for this, as long as the engine is not allowed to go into the “red line”. Modern vehicles have computers to control the automatic transmission, and they will keep the engine within an acceptable range. With a manual transmission, shift into the lower gear early and keep the engine out of the “yellow” or “red” RPM ranges. Press the brakes if necessary to slow down a bit.

Some mountain roads have “escape ramps”. These are short and deep gravel ramps next to the road which a runaway truck with overheating brakes can drive onto to come to a stop. You should never need these if you downshift the transmission to a lower gear to help slow down the vehicle and trailer.

Trailer Sway

Trailer sway is a side to side swaying motion which can occur while towing a trailer with too little weight on the hitch. This motion is most likely to occur at highway speeds.

When trailer sway occurs, one method to control it is to gradually slow down until it subsides.

To more quickly control trailer sway, slightly activate the brake controller by pushing its lever over a bit while coasting down in speed. This lever triggers the trailer brakes, causing the trailer to fall back into place behind the tow vehicle.

For information on how to pack the trailer to avoid trailer sway, see Section 6.5 (Packing the Trailer and Tow Vehicle).

It is possible to add an anti-sway hitch to the trailer and tow vehicle. This is a small shock absorber which rests next to the hitch and which resists left to right turning of the trailer hitch. An anti-sway hitch should not be necessary for a small pop-up or folding camping trailer, and can also cause problems on low traction surfaces such as snow or ice if attempting to make a turn. See your dealer for details.

Hitting the Curb

Swing a little wide when making sharp turns to avoid having the trailer hit a curb. The trailer tires tend to turn in a little closer to the curb than the tow vehicle.

Gas Stations

Extra care should be taken when attempting to refuel at a gas station. Look ahead and see if there is a sensible way to get to a pump with the trailer in tow, and then exit from that pump back onto the street. Keep in mind the length of your vehicle and trailer combined, which often means that you will take two or more places, or the trailer will be blocking parking lot traffic flow behind you.

Watch carefully while pulling away from the pump, so that the trailer does not hit something while you turn. It will be necessary to swing wider than normal around object to avoid hitting anything.

Truck stops and large gas stations generally have larger and easier to navigate pump lanes.

Backing the Trailer

For information on how to back up the trailer, see Section 9.2 (Backing into the Site).

8.3 Changing a Flat Tire

In the event of a tire blow-out while driving:

  • 1. Coast down to a slow speed. Do not use the brakes.

  • 2. Turn on the hazard lights as soon as possible.

  • 3. Continue at a slow speed until you can find a safe place to pull off the road.

  • 4. Set the parking brake.

  • 5. Keep the trailer connected to the tow vehicle, or chock the good trailer tire before changing the flat tire. The trailer must not move while it is jacked up.

  • 6. Remove the spare tire to have it ready.

  • 7. Before jacking up the wheel, use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts a bit while the wheel is still on the ground. When the wheel is up in the air it will be harder to keep the wheel from turning while trying to remove the lug nuts. Do not remove the lug nuts all the way while the wheel is resting on the ground.

  • 8. Jack the wheel off the ground enough that the fully inflated spare tire will be able to go onto the axle.

  • 9. Finish removing the lug nuts. If they cannot be removed, lower the wheel until the flat tire is pressing into the ground a bit, and loosen the lug nuts a bit more before raising the wheel into the air again. Do not remove the lug nuts all the way while the wheel is resting on the ground.

  • 10. Remove the wheel with the flat tire.

  • 11. Place the spare tire and wheel onto the axle and install the lug nuts to be hand-tight. Push into the wheel to seat it against the axle while tightening each lug nut.

  • 12. Before lowering the wheel to the ground, check once again that the wheel seated is all the way onto the axle and that every lug nut is hand tight.

  • 13. Lower the jack until the spare tire is on the ground. Remove the jack.

  • 14. Tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern to only medium tightness. See Figure 10. If using a torque wrench, set it to 50 ft-lb.

  • 15. For final tightening of the lug nuts:

    • • If using a lug wrench, tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern to full tightness.

    • • If using a 24″ flex handle (“breaker bar”), it is possible to over-tighten the lug nuts. To reduce the total torque, hold the handle approximately 1 ⁄3 of the way in from the handle end. While holding the bar here, apply full tightness to each lug nut in a star pattern. See Figure 9.

    • • If using a torque wrench, set it to 90 ft-lb and tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern.

  • 16. Put the flat tire into the spare tire holder.

  • 17. Remove any wheel chocks and stow the jack and wheel chocks.

  • 18. After driving a few miles, stop to check the tightness of the lug nuts.

  • 19. After driving a few hundred miles, again stop to check the tightness of the lug nuts.

Figure 9: Holding The Breaker Bar


Figure 10: Lug Nut Tightening Sequence — Star Pattern