The ‘open’ signs are popping up at campgrounds across Wisconsin. In 2016, approximately 37 million households went camping across the country. That means our Wisconsin roads are about to be clogged with cars or trucks and campers headed to the great outdoors. If you’re one of them, here are five checks to make now so your camping weekend is a safe and enjoyable one (without breakdowns).
Towing your pop-up camper or travel trailer that exceeds your maximum tow rating can be a recipe for disaster. Before you head out for your camping weekend, make sure your vehicle is rated to tow the camper safely. The tow rating can be found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and the weight of your camper can be found on the trailer or in the camper’s owner manual.
If you tow a camper that is heavier than your vehicle can handle, your stopping distance is increased and your vehicle handling may be compromised. Regular towing with a camper over your tow rating can wear your tires faster, stress your overworked engine and transmission, and cause an increased amount of breakdowns.
Your vehicle’s and camper’s tires are one of the most important safety features when you tow. Check the tread on every tire, especially if your truck or camper have been sitting idle. If the tire tread is worn (here’s how to test) or has cracks or other signs of damage, call your mechanic to get new tires on your vehicle before your big camping trip.
Don’t just look at your tire and assume your tire pressure is correct. Tires can be significantly low on pressure without showing they are flat. Check the tire pressure on every tire and make sure your tire pressures are at the correct pressure. If you find a tire is consistently low on air, head to your mechanic to get the tire fixed. For your vehicle, that pressure can be found on the decal on the inside of your driver’s side door. Do not rely on the TPMS sensor on your dashboard. A TPMS sensor may not activate a dash warning light until your truck’s tires are 20% or more underweight. Low tire pressure can cause premature flats, leave you stranded waiting for a tow, compromise your vehicle and camper ride, and decrease your vehicle’s gas mileage.
Before you head out to the campground, thoroughly check your trailer hitch. Check your hitch connection with this simple test: try to lift the camper hitch off your truck. If it lifts off, the connection is not adequately connected and you need to inspect your hitch, safety chains, and all wiring before you leave. No one wants to see their camper rolling down the highway without them.
Properly working camper lights are both a necessity and for your safety. When driving down the road, other cars and tracks use your trailer lights for visibility and to know whether you are turning. Before you head out, test your camper trailer lights (directionals and brake) and inspect your wiring and connections.
If you are towing a camper that is more than 2,000 pounds, trailer brakes are recommended for handling and stopping. Always check your trailer brake connections and test your vehicle to ensure it stops when you need it. If you don’t have trailer brakes as part of your truck package but haul on a regular basis, contact your mechanic to have a trailer brake controller installed in your truck so you and your camper get to the campground safely.