So you're interested in purchasing or you've just purchased a new camper-trailer and you hope to embark on a family camping adventure. While camping in a trailer can be much more accommodating than sleeping in a tent, as your dealer might tell you, there are certain aspects not to be overlooked before making your excursion. Of course, you'll want to ensure your trailer is permitted at the campsite or park, but don't neglect to oversee these details as well:
1. Perform an Inspection Before You Drive
Do the trailer's lights and reflectors function properly? You'll want to be certain your trailer is highly visible, especially for night driving. Inspect the rear-mounted turn signals on the trailer as well.
Next, is the breakaway cable (safety chain) fastened securely and are you using a trailer hitch designed to support the weight of your camper/trailer? The safety chain should be properly mounted with hooks or clips. You should also be sure the hitch mechanism is properly greased before attaching your trailer to your towing vehicle.
2. Consider Installing Tire Chains on Your Trailer
If you're traveling in snow, the use of trailer tire chains is an important safeguard. Even if your towing vehicle's tires are equipped with chains, adding chains to your trailer tires will provide additional security and help you maintain control under bad weather conditions or uneven terrain.
3. Check the Trailer's Tire Pressure Before Departing
Your trailer tires need to be properly inflated before hitting the road. Read the trailer operation manual and be sure the tire pressure meets manufacturer's specifications. You can have a mechanic check the air pressure or you might do it yourself using a tire pressure device.
4. Adjust Your Towing Vehicle's Mirrors
This is an often-overlooked, but extremely necessary, detail. Be sure your car, truck or SUV mirrors are properly adjusted to allow a complete view of your trailer as you drive. You will want to watch your trailer for swaying and for proper alignment with your vehicle as you drive.
5. Retract the Trailer Awning (If Applicable)
Many trailers and campers are equipped with retractable awnings. These are great for protection against the sun and elements. They also add aesthetic value to your trailer as well. However, when you hit the road, you'll want to be sure the awning has been rewound and the knobs are nice and tight.
6. Detach The Roof-Mounted TV Antenna
If your trailer is equipped with a roof-mounted antenna, it's a good idea to detach it before you tow your trailer. This will prevent damage as you travel. Alternatively, you might simply lower the antenna to secure it.
7. Secure The Interior Before You Travel
While you may be focused on securing your trailer hitch, pay attention to everything inside the trailer as well. Jarring as you drive can disrupt many of your interior belongings, causing damage. If you have a TV set sitting on a table when the trailer is parked, secure it before you drive. You might want to place it on the floor, cushioned between soft foam.
You'll also want to safeguard your refrigerator before you take your road trip. Most camper/trailer refrigerators will have a control switch that should be turned on for the "riding position". This will secure the contents inside while driving. Also, if there's a safety latch on the refrigerator door, be sure to utilize this before you hit the road.
To keep the interior of your camper extra secure, be sure you have closed off all vents before you drive off. Shut and lock all windows as well. By failing to do so, papers and other items could become airborne, leaving your trailer a disorganized mess. In addition, shut all internal doors and closets inside your trailer before it becomes mobile.
Don't lose sight of the seemingly "small details" as you plan your camping trip. In addition to inspecting and securing your trailer and towing vehicle, pay attention to road conditions, stay within speed limits and minimize distractions while towing your trailer. All of these tips will help ensure a safe and pleasurable road trip.
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