Tips for Towing a Teardrop Trailer With Your Family Car
Have a teardrop? These are the tips and tricks you need to know!
Teardrops have become ridiculously popular in recent years. One of the main reasons behind their boom is that they are lightweight and easy to tow. So let’s take some time today to discuss tips for towing a teardrop trailer with your family car.
Check The Towing Capacity on Your Family Car
The most reasonable place to start is to understand how much weight your family car can safely tow. While teardrops are among the lightest and most compact towable trailers out there, they can range from as little as 500 pounds to more than 2,000 pounds.
If you find a trailer that is on the higher end of that spectrum, it is more like towing a regular travel trailer. So you will need to start off by making sure that your family car or SUV has enough towing capacity to handle the weight of your teardrop trailer.
Your vehicle’s towing capacity should be relatively easy to find in your owner’s manual. In the manual for my Tacoma, for example, my trailer weight rating is listed in an easy-to-find section labeled ‘Trailer Weight Rating’.
Get The Right Trailer Hitch
There are three basic types of trailer hitches that you can choose for towing a teardrop trailer with your family car. They are generally labeled as weight distribution hitches, bumper hitches, and Class I hitches.
A weight distribution hitch is usually only used when towing larger trailers. It helps to level out your towing vehicle to help you tow more safely and efficiently. Even though it is meant for larger trailers, it can be a good choice for teardrop trailers over 2,000 pounds if you are towing with a smaller family car.
Bumper hitches attach under the rear bumper of your family car. They are generally suitable for lightweight towing and come with a standard two-inch ball mount receiver as well as attachment points for backup safety chains.
Class I tow hitches are rated for towing trailers that weigh no more than 2,000 pounds. There are five total classes of trailer tow hitches, but you will generally need either a Class I or Class I hitch for towing a teardrop trailer.
Be Familiar with Tongue Weight
You will also need to know how the overall weight of your trailer translates to tongue weight. Typically, the tongue weight of your trailer will be anywhere between 9-15 percent of your gross trailer weight.
If you load too much gear into the front of your teardrop, you will increase your tongue weight. You never want the tongue weight of your trailer to exceed 15 percent of your trailer’s total weight. If it does, there will be too much downward pressure on your trailer hitch and can result in dangerous towing issues.
Be Smart When Planning Your Route
Avoiding towing issues is also easier when you plan a smart driving route. Some tips include avoiding steep mountain grades and roads with a lot of tight S-curves, if possible. These kinds of driving conditions will put extra strain on your family car’s transmission and brakes.
If you are new to towing a teardrop trailer, it can also be smart to avoid major highways with lots of traffic. Having to move over multiple lanes at the last minute to reach your highway exit is nearly impossible when you are towing.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there to help RVers and trailer owners plan better driving routes. Some of the best examples we’d recommend include the Good Sam Trip Planner, RV Trip Wizard, and Roadtrippers.
Upgrade Your Side-View Mirrors
Other than checking to make sure your teardrop trailer is still back there, your rearview mirror doesn’t have many purposes when you are towing. You will be reliant on your side-view mirrors when changing lanes, pulling into gas stations and rest stops, and wiggling your trailer into small campsites.
While teardrops are much smaller than travel trailers or fifth wheels, upgrading your side-view mirrors will make it much easier to navigate. Look for side-view mirror extensions to improve your field of view when towing a teardrop trailer.
Signal Early and Often
While this is a good driving habit whether you are towing a teardrop or not, it is more important with longer rigs. You should let other drivers know when you are turning or changing lanes well in advance of actually executing that maneuver.
Keep in mind that all driving maneuvers should be executed more slowly and with more care when you are towing. This is the case with all towable trailers and one of the best ways to guarantee your safety (and the safety of your teardrop) is to signal your intent early and often while driving.
Spend Some Time Practicing Reverse Maneuvers
There is an added amount of pressure that drivers feel when they have several other campers watching them attempt to back into their site. I was recently at an undisclosed state park in upstate New York and watched a driver attempt to back their medium-sized travel trailer into a site that was actually quite wide-open.
The whole “show” lasted for over 30 minutes and everyone involved became more and more flustered as time went on. Fortunately, other campers interrupted what they were doing to lend a helping hand after a while.
That being said, it can be useful to practice backing your trailer up before you have all of those eyes watching you. Find a large, empty parking lot somewhere near where you live. Hopefully, that parking lot has lined parking spaces that you can use to practice backing up.
You may also utilize this empty space to practice other important trailer driving maneuvers. This includes things like making a three-point turn and backing up straight over a long distance (which is harder than you’d think with a trailer). This practice will help you prepare for more of the real-life situations you will encounter on your camping trips.
Be Willing to Walk When Stopping to Resupply
Parking lots are notoriously unfriendly for trailer owners. While you shouldn’t have as much trouble as someone towing a larger rig, you should still seek out the easiest parking space available in larger lots.
Often, this means showing a willingness to walk a little farther from the outskirts of the lot to get into the store you need supplies from. This is always worth it to avoid parking accidents because you are trying to pull into a tight space towards the front of the lot.
Enlist the Help of Spotters
Until you are really familiar with the dimensions of your teardrop trailer, you should always stop and ask a family member to get out and spot for you. This will help you maneuver into campsites, parking lots, and other spaces where the risk of running into a stationary object increases.
There are always going to be blind spots when you are towing any kind of trailer. While teardrops have smaller blind spots than bigger trailers, enlisting the help of a spotter will always decrease your odds of hitting something and damaging your brand-new trailer or your family car.
Stay Proactive with Hitch Maintenance
The final point we’d like to make is how important it is to practice routine hitch maintenance. You need to visually inspect your hitch for rust and corrosion several times per year and don’t hesitate to invest in a new hitch if yours is beginning to look a little questionable.
Teardrop trailers are a great option for couples or even small families. They can be an affordable way to make camping more comfortable, even if it still means setting up a tent for the kids while Mom and Dad enjoy a more cozy sleeping space.
These days, there are also plenty of rugged teardrop trailers out there for off-road adventuring. So if your family car can handle less-maintained dirt roads, a teardrop is a great way to avoid the crowds during the height of camping season!