When I first purchased my RV I did a lot of research about the type of vehicle and RV I wanted. I debated on a drive-able or pull along (aka bumper hauler as a fellow RVer taught me this lingo). Towing can be stressful at first especially when you are alone. Not to mention the dealership just did a 5 minute how to tow a 9000 lb whip around – so I wanted to share some of the things I have learned thus far as my research shows others have a lot of the same concerns and questions as myself.
#1 Consider what type of vehicle you are using to tow
If you haven’t already purchased a car or trailer make sure to do your research before hand. I thought many SUVs would have the engine power to pull a travel trailer but I quickly found out that most do not. A big whip doesn’t mean a big engine too FYI. You are going to want to know what your vehicle’s towing capacity is so you don’t tear up your engine or find yourself purchasing a new transmission.
#2 Watch what you are doing and those around you
Watch everyone and check for clearance. Swing out is what I always yell. Keep in mind the back of the trailer can still not completely clear say a gas pump if you are not watching when you pull out. You want to check for clearance on the right and the left end of the trailer. I always do a walk around when pumping gas to see what is around me.
#3 Backing up is not the same is going forward
Remember the thing you are towing is going to go opposite of the vehicle when backing up. If you car goes right then the trailer goes left and vice versa. The trailer is your enemy not your friend when traveling in reverse!
#4 Get a second set of eyes
Invest in a back-up camera system if you don’t have one. I purchased the iBall 5.8GHz Wireless Magnetic Trailer Hitch Rear View Camera. The screen was clear, but the reception was distorted at times and just overall not worth $150-200 range it is priced at for what I needed. I am going to look into a hard wired system. But, if you are looking for a completely wireless backup camera this is an affordable option. And, it was the only completely wireless system I could find. It is made for the hitch of a truck to aim the ball for hooking up. And, the camera needs to be removed each time so it has its advantages and disadvantages.
#5 Expect to spend more at the pump and servicing your vehicle
As far as, Fuel consumption and expected maintenance I have learned a few tips:
- Stick to major highways and interstates. City roads and a bunch of twisty road will eat through your gas.
- Look for truck stops as they are usually RV friendly, spacious and packed with all the amenities you need while traveling.
- Fill up at 1/2 a tank. I noticed gas starts dropping after I reach 1/2 a tank and then by the time I need gas I can’t find it cheap enough. So, prepare for getting gas before you need it.
- Empty your tanks before towing your RV to lighten the load and save on gas.
- Expect to change the oil more frequently and let them know you use your vehicle for towing so they can provide proper care during any maintenance.
- Expect to get about 10-12 mpg while towing. A safe number to say would be about 1/2 of what your current mpg is without towing. This has been the feedback received from others towing as well, so I am still investigating and of course every vehicle is different.
- Use a lubricant additive when filling up to help increase fuel efficiency. I have noticed a dramatic difference in gas consumption. I gained about 50 extra mpg with and without towing.
- Do a fuel / transmission reset after towing to tell the car not to flush so much fuel through the engine. After towing the first time I noticed my car was still getting about 10 mpg and with the help of google I discovered I needed to disconnect my battery to drain the power for a reset each time. This isn’t the same for all vehicles, but something to keep in mind.
- Turn overdrive off when towing to help take stress off the engine. This will cost a little more in gas but save your car from costly repairs later.
- Consider not running the air conditioner while towing. Running the a/c does seem to effect the mpg I get. I can tell I get less but not sure how dramatic of a difference just yet.
- Reduce speed and use cruise control. If you have time to spare then I would stay around 60-65 mph to save on fuel. I have tried running up to 80mph and it obviously takes a hit on my wallet.
Other notes would be to plan your trip in advance. You don’t want to be in a hurry and you don’t want to overspend if unnecessary. Find gas stations and route before you head out on your trip.
Check out this article from KOA to help save even more money on fuel while towing: Simple ways to Improve Fuel Economy