How To Hitch Up a Travel Trailer

How To Hitch Up a Travel Trailer: A Complete Guideline

Not to scare you or anything, but you need to know this. A man was killed by a detached trailer. This is among many other accidents an improperly hooked travel trailer can cause.

I don’t have to explain the importance of perfectly hitching up a travel trailer, but how do you do it? The process involves modifying certain parts of the car and the trailer.

Additionally, the process of securing involves certain delicate steps. This article offers the complete walkthrough you need. Although getting help from a pro is always a good option, it’s also fine if you want to do it independently.

Preparations You Need to Make

Take a deep breath and free up your schedule because the process will take a while. As long as safety is a concern, you shouldn’t compromise anything. And for this, you need to start with some preparations.

A sad truth is that mine, yours, and everyone else’s hitch weighs a ton and is covered in grease. This makes the entire process a tricky one. But don’t worry; you will not have any problem if you take the right steps.

The first thing to do for preparation is to ensure you have everything loaded and ready. I usually tour my entire RV, and when I say ‘entire,’ I mean it.

After checking every nook and cranny, I ensure I am not leaving any gear on the ground, nor is there any screw missing.

After making sure that everything is checked, do two things.

Always keep backup wheels.

Always try to use new tires.

Although it may not be possible to have new tires on every time, don’t use an old ragged one, and you should be fine.

Now get to the trailer and close all the vents, including windows, awnings, and vents. After this, put everything in the ‘off’ position. After shutting down the appliances and disconnecting the utilities, I always triple-check everything. You should do it too.

However, there’s no need to turn the refrigerator off if it’s running on LP gas. Finally, get out of the trailer and lock the door.

Now it’s time to call up your friend. You will need someone to help you back up the vehicle in the right position. Once the trailer is in place, unlock the hitch and carefully open the receiver latch.

For the next step, you need a jack. Use a jack to lift the front part of the trailer. You will need this height to guide the ball onto the receiver.

Don’t forget to put some lubricant on the jack piston while it’s open. This is your only chance. However, overdoing it can lead to trouble. Don’t apply too much lube; the jack piston can easily slip on the jack blocks.

I don’t bother doing anything further after this; you don’t need to do anything more. Everything is properly set at this point, and what’s left is the main hitching process.

How To Hitch Up a Travel Trailer

Hitching Up a Travel Trailer in less Than 10 Steps: The Way I Do It

Are you worried that the 10 steps will be complicated? Well, don’t worry. I keep the process simple. Hitching up your travel trailer will be a piece of cake if you follow my strategy. Here’s how I do it –

Step 1: Choosing the right hitch is the way to start

I always put a bit of extra time into choosing the right hitch. Why? Because choosing the correct hitch is essential for safe and effective towing.

For this, you have to consider the type of trailer you have. You may have a conventional travel trailer, a gooseneck, or a fifth wheel. Whatever trailer you may have, you will need the ideal hitch that matches your trailer’s loaded design.

Make sure the hitch’s weight rating matches your trailer’s loaded weight. It should also be compatible with your vehicle’s receiver size and class.

Where will you get these numbers? Check your trailer’s user manual/documentation; you will get everything you need.

Step 2: Aligning the two vehicles and trailer to make the hookup secure

You want your vehicles to perfectly fit the trailer. For this, you need to keep your two vehicles and the trailer in a straight line. Otherwise, there will be a misalignment, leading to issues of annoying jamming.

I always try to align the two vehicles and the trailer as parallel as possible. Keeping them straight is sometimes a pain in the neck, but I don’t mind putting in the effort. You should do the same because it’s a delicate and crucial process.

If you are wondering how I ensure the alignment is right, I use markers on the ground. It’s as simple as it sounds.

Step 3: Lowering the front part of the trailer on the hitch ball

This part is tricky. At this point, I use the trailer’s tongue jack and slowly lower the front portion of the trailer onto the hitch ball of my tow vehicle. The tongue jack’s handle or crank helps raise and lower the front end of the trailer.

After this, double-check and ensure the hitch ball size matches the trailer’s coupler size. The tongue jack should be lowered properly so the trailer’s coupler can sit securely on the hitch ball.

Step 4: Locking the trailer coupler and secure everything

There’s a lot of double-checking involved in the entire process. Again, I double-check to ensure the hitch ball is properly positioned inside the trailer’s coupler.

After ensuring this, I engage the locking mechanism. Most couplers have a latch handle that needs to be pulled and secured in the locked position.

Can you see any visual indicators or locking pins? If yes, follow the indication to make sure the coupler is properly secured on the hitch ball.

Likely, the locking process of your hitch is not the same as mine. This is why it’s wise to follow the instructions the trailer manufacturer provides for your specific coupler type.

Step 5: Connecting the safety chains from the trailer to the tow vehicle

The steps are simpler from this point. At this step, I simply attach the safety chains from the trailer to the tow vehicle.

Crossing the chains under the trailer tongue and creating an X shape is not mandatory. But arranging the chains this way offers an unbreakable connection between the trailer and the tow vehicle.

However, I also ensure the chains have sufficient slack to allow the trailer to turn slightly. But they shouldn’t be too flexible. Otherwise, the trailer will just drag on the ground.

Remember, the safety chains act as a backup if the trailer becomes disconnected from the tow vehicle. They’re the last thing that helps prevent a complete separation between the two vehicles. This is why you should complete this process with utmost care.

Step 6: Plugging in the electrical connections from the trailer to the towing vehicle

Now come some simpler steps. Connect the electrical plug from the trailer to the tow vehicle. This plug allows the trailer’s lights, turn signals, and brakes to synchronize with the tow vehicle’s electrical mechanisms.

You must match the plug and socket types to ensure a secure, seamless connection. I prefer testing the trailer’s lights before towing to verify that all the functions are working perfectly fine and that the tow vehicle supplies enough power.

Remember to double-check this as well.

Step 7: Raising the front end of the trailer with the tongue jack

You’re almost there. After getting the trailer securely set on the tow vehicle, I used the tongue jack to raise the front part of the trailer. This takes the weight off the hitch ball.

This step helps ensure that the hitch and the trailer are properly connected. It also allows the opportunity to adjust the trailer’s level. You can ensure proper weight distribution and stability during towing by getting the trailer’s level in the right position.

Do you need clarification? Your trailer may have a different mechanism. Feel free to seek help from the manufacturer’s instructions. They have all the information you need.

Step 8: Wrap it up with a final checkup

Now you’re done. But before setting off, take a bit of time to conduct a thorough safety inspection.

Firstly, ensure that all the trailer doors, windows, and compartments are securely closed. I don’t want anything to fall out during transit.

Most importantly, check the trailer’s brake system, including the breakaway switch. Finally, recheck all the connections as closely as possible.

And this is how I effortlessly and perfectly hitch up my travel trailer. 

My Final Thoughts

When you are planning to hitch up a travel trailer, it’s certainly an exciting time for you. But don’t let all the excitement of the upcoming tour distract you from what is important.

Hitching up a travel trailer is no child’s play. It’s a delicate, complicated process; most importantly, your safety depends on it. Fortunately, as you probably know if you have read the article, it’s pretty easy to get the travel trailer perfectly secured to your vehicle.

You just have to follow some simple steps and get the secure connection you need. So, maintain the instructions mentioned here and double-check before setting off. Safe Travels!

Eddie Burton - Senior Author
Senior Author: Eddie Burton

Eddie Burton is a passionate car enthusiast and a seasoned mechanic with over 15 years of experience in the automotive industry. He has worked with a variety of vehicles, from classic muscle cars to modern luxury cars, and has extensive knowledge of all types of auto parts and accessories.

Eddie’s love for cars began at a young age when he would spend hours tinkering with his first car, a 1967 Mustang. Since then, he has pursued his passion for cars by working in various garages and workshops, honing his skills and expertise in everything related to automobiles.

As a contributor to our website, Eddie shares his in-depth knowledge and experience with our readers, providing valuable tips and advice on auto parts, repairs, and maintenance. He’s committed to helping car owners get the most out of their vehicles by providing honest and practical reviews of auto parts, accessories, and tools.

With Eddie’s vast experience and expertise, you can trust his recommendations and insights on everything related to cars. Whether you’re a seasoned car owner or a newbie in the world of automobiles, Eddie’s articles and reviews will help you make informed decisions and keep your vehicle running smoothly for years to come.

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