Cavvy Savvy: Trailer Towing
March 2, 2017
Driving a truck and trailer is exactly like driving a regular truck, except with a twenty-plus-foot object dragging along behind it that can easily be snagged on curbs, caught on gas pumps, or jack knifed in the Taco Bell drive-through.
But, if you own horses and/or live on a ranch, you will have to drive a truck and trailer at least once, probably through a busy town at lunchtime, whether or not you have the skills and knowledge. Here's a cheat sheet of tips to help prepare the unsuspecting, legally licensed driver for such a scenario.
1) "Wherever you go, your trailer will follow right along behind you."
I can still hear my dad saying these words to me when I was 16 years old and learning to tow a stock trailer behind his '96 Ford. It sounds obvious, but it is reassuring to look in the rear view mirror and see that bam, the nose of the trailer is right there, just like it's supposed to be.
2) "You better be barely moving when you get to a stop sign."
Again, Dad's words of wisdom ring in my ears every time I approach a red octagon. Especially if I've been paying more attention to the radio than the road and am going a little bit too fast to make a smooth stop. That's when I say "Sorry, boys!" to the horses and cringe as I feel the whole rig shift too far forward as I stop just over the line. Oops.
Recommended Stories For You
3) "Ride the corner."
This metaphor means go wide on left turns so you don't wipe out any curbs, cars, or other objects you may encounter on the road that begin with "c." Dad was an avid heeler in his younger years, and now every time I make a left-hand turn I imagine I am covering up a steer a few hops for a solid shot. Because it's totally safe to visualize team roping runs while driving through town, right?
4) "When backing up a trailer, put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and turn your hand the direction you want the trailer to go."
This priceless gem came to me courtesy of my mom, one of the best trailer-backer-uppers ever to fire up a diesel engine, check her mirrors, and shift into reverse. It's a fantastic little trick that can get you out of a pickle when backing up a trailer. Or into a pickle, if you get a little over-ambitious.
5) When driving down a steep mountain pass with a super heavy load and/or no trailer brakes, put the truck in four-low at the top and use your drive train to slow your descent.
Don't be surprised if your white-knuckle grip leaves a semi-permanent indent on the steering wheel. This technique is effective, but hauling a heavy load with no trailer brakes is unsettling at best and borderline terrifying at worst. Try to avoid that scenario if at all possible.
6) When driving through a busy city with no trailer lights, try this technique to notify other drivers that you desire to change lanes: fake twice then go.
It sounds crazy, and it is. But, it is also effective, especially when driving through Reno during the summer on your way to your own wedding. Who drives a twenty-foot stock trailer through The Biggest Little City In The World to their own wedding? Who can never have a legally road-worthy truck and trailer at the same time? #CowboyLife
7) "Learn. To. Use. Your. Mirrors."
Ah, marital words of wisdom bestowed up on me by my husband shortly after we exchanged vows to love each other in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for jack knifed trailers or scraped wheel wells. He's right, though. If you're going to make a habit of backing up horse or stock trailers, it's important to kick the habit of twisting around to look out the back window (where all you can see is the front of your trailer, anyway) and Learn. To. Use. Your. Mirrors. They were put there for a pretty handy reason.
Plus, when you pull up to a crowded gas station towing a trailer skillfully back up to the only diesel pump available using nothing but your mirrors and get a thumbs-up from some random dude watching your efforts, you'll feel like a bad ass.
And really, that's what driving a truck and trailer rig is all about. F