How to Tow a Trailer – Know Your Load

Motor home trailer on a mountain road

You’re ready to hit the open road with your trailer in tow. Whether you’re a sportsman, outdoor enthusiast, camper, or traveler, the key to towing with confidence and security is to know your load. Understanding how much weight your tow vehicle, trailer, and tires can handle, how to load and secure your cargo, and how to accelerate and stop is essential to your safety and peace of mind. It also ensures a more enjoyable experience!


How much weight can your vehicle safely tow?

Know the capacity of your tow vehicle. Tow vehicle ratings specify tongue weight and the individual, combined, and fully loaded weights at which a vehicle can tow a trailer efficiently and safely. This information is available in the owner’s manual. It’s also posted on the compliance certification label of your vehicle. To find the label, open the driver’s door. It should be visible on the sill. If you don’t have a manual for your vehicle, it should be available online. This information can also be obtained from the vehicle manufacturer.

Can your tires handle the load?

To ensure that your trailer and tow vehicle tires can handle the load, you must consider air pressure, tread wear, and wheel bearings. Tires have a load rating that specifies the weight they can safely carry. Prior to any trip, inspect the treads and sidewalls on all tires to make sure they are up to the task. Don’t neglect the wheel bearings. They must be greased and maintained. Forgetting to perform this messy ritual can leave you stranded on the side of the road with some very unhappy campers. Always have a spare for your tow vehicle and trailer.

Is your load distributed evenly?

Loading cargo and equipment correctly is essential to a smooth ride. Cargo weight should be distributed evenly along the entire length of the trailer. Make sure the weight is balanced from side to side. Secure all items to keep them from moving around during transport. As a final check, step back and take a close look to confirm that your tow vehicle and trailer are both parallel to the ground when hitched.

Are you towing live cargo?

Towing live cargo, like horses or cattle, is a specialized task. Account for the weight and number of your animals when sizing up your load. Going slow and easy is critically important when towing livestock.

Can you safely accelerate and brake with your load?

When accelerating and braking, it’s important to consider the combined weight of your tow vehicle and trailer. Keep the combined length in mind as well. Pay attention to the terrain and other vehicles on the road. When stopping, think ahead, go slow and easy, and allow ample time and distance. Shift to a lower gear and press the brake with a light foot. If you’re new to towing, practice on roads with minimal traffic until you are comfortable and develop a feel for accelerating and braking.


Knowing your load is vital to safe and enjoyable towing. Understanding how much weight your tow vehicle and trailer can handle, how to effectively load and secure your cargo, and how to accelerate and brake are skills that will equip you for traveling wherever the road leads.