Good Sam Camping Blog

The 3 Most Common Travel Trailer Issues

Travel Trailer at the Campsite. Photo by Steve Humphrey

While the description of a travel trailer may also fit a 5th wheel trailer, there are differences. Today we will focus on the bumper drawbar type travel trailer.  This type of caravan is available in a variety of lengths, generally ranging from 12 to 35 plus feet or so.   It is a popular choice RV as it comes in many sizes, floorplans and is priced very affordably. There are, however, three common travel trailer issues that are faced by the owners.  They are as follows:

  1. Weight and Balance – While the trailer’s weight and balance is manufactured as road ready, it does not account for the user’s loading of personal equipment and supplies. Unlike the 5th wheel design, the hitch weight of the tongue must be about 10% of the total trailer weight.  Too heavy a load may over-stress the hitch and tow vehicle.   This may seriously compromise the tow vehicle’s handling.  Not enough weight may cause “Tail Wag”, the trailer to swing left and right. So, correct placement of supplies, equipment, and liquids such as water, propane and holding tanks, must also be considered.  Leveling the trailer for equal trailer axle loads for towing requires using the correct ball height.  This is accomplished by selecting the correct drop insert needed to attain the desired height.
  2. Coupling Up To The Trailer – This is more difficult than a 5th wheel type as you are not able to view either the tongue or ball while backing up to it.  There are many devices such as mirrors, cameras, etc. that are available to aid in this task, however, using a spotter to help direct you is probably the simplest and most common.  Good judgment in this maneuver can be learned over time.
  3. Backing Into a Campsite or Storage Space – This is far more challenging than an over-the-axle mounted 5th wheel axis.  The leverage from the rear wheels to the ball multiplies the trailer’s reaction even with a small steering movement.  A tendency of “chasing” the trailer, that is to say, over-correcting in both directions, is a common issue.  Practice will help many to become very proficient at this maneuver, while some may never quite completely master it.  Be sure to use a spotter during this event.

Most newbie owners soon become very proficient at handling all the aspects involved.  It just may take some time to build the skills and confidence to make this all look easy.