Learn How-to Load Up, Get Hitched and Hit the Road

How to load your cargo

Load heavy cargo first

Safe towing starts with loading your cargo correctly. Uneven trailer weight can lead to problems with steering, braking and sway control.

Generally, 60% of your cargo weight should be loaded in the front half of your trailer and 40% in the rear half (unless otherwise directed by your trailer manufacturer). When loading cargo, you'll want to balance it evenly side-to-side, keeping the center of gravity low to the ground and over the trailer axle(s).

Secure your load

After the cargo is properly balanced, you'll want to secure it in place. Unsecured cargo can shift while the vehicle is in motion, which can make your trailer unstable.

Use nylon rope or towing straps to tie everything down.

Correctly loaded cargo

correct: evenly loaded trailer

Incorrectly loaded cargo

incorrect: uneven trailer

How to drive with a trailer

If this is your first time towing a trailer, be sure to practice in an open area before hitting the road. Here are the basics.

  • 'go slow' diagram

    go slow

    When towing a loaded trailer, it takes more distance to accelerate and brake. So take it slow and give yourself room between your truck and other vehicles. Drive as you would on an icy road.

  • 'maintain control' diagram

    maintain control

    If you feel the trailer start to sway or whip, simply take your foot off the gas pedal. Do not brake or speed up.

  • 'passing' diagram


    As a rule, only pass when necessary and obey all laws. Remember to account for your trailer length when passing a slower vehicle. Check that you've cleared the other vehicle before returning to your lane. Also, the extra trailer weight will make acceleration slower. Be sure to use your turn signals and allow for plenty of clearance.

  • 'bring a spare' diagram

    bring a full-size spare

    Never use a compact spare tire when towing a trailer.

  • 'how to park' diagram

    how to park

    Always park on a flat, level surface. Look for a place to park where you can pull forward so that you can avoid backing out of a parking space. Always apply your parking brake and use chock blocks on your trailer wheels.

  • 'wide turns' diagram

    the longer the trailer, the wider the turn

    Swing wide while turning and double check your mirrors to be sure your trailer clears all obstacles.

  • 'uneven terrain' diagram

    uneven terrain

    Always slow down before going downhill. If you're in a manual transmission vehicle, downshift when going both uphill and downhill.

  • 'backing up' diagram

    how to back up

    Start by putting your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move it right. Adjust your direction little by little. Slight turns of the steering wheel translate to greater movement of the trailer.

    If your trailer ends up jackknifing, simply pull forward to straighten it out and try again. Backing up can take some getting used to so take it slow, and have someone behind the trailer to spot you.

  • pro tow tip

    stay alert

    Accelerating, braking and changing lanes all take longer when you're towing a trailer. Look farther down the road to be sure you avoid any potential problems.

Before You Tow

Confirm Weight Rating

Look at the vin plate

To avoid overloading your trailer, you'll need to find your recommended weight rating. It's located on the VIN plate found on your trailer's frame, usually on the tongue. Confirm the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) before towing.

What is gvwr?

This is the total weight your trailer can handle, including the weight of the trailer itself. You could also refer to this number as the Gross Trailer Weight (GTW). Your tongue weight should be 10-15% of the GTW.

VIN plate illustration
How to Balance Tongue Weight
  • too much tongue weight

    If the wheel well is crowding your tires, you have too much tongue weight. Solve it by moving heavier items toward the center of your trailer.

    Too much tongue weight
  • not enough tongue weight

    If there is too much weight in the rear of your trailer, it can actually lift the rear of the truck a bit, resulting in negative tongue weight. Again, solve it by moving heavier items toward the center of your trailer.

    Not enough tongue weight
  • balanced tongue weight

    A correctly balanced tongue gives you full control of both your truck and trailer. If your trailer's tongue is parallel to the ground, it is balanced correctly.

    Balanced tongue weight

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