When towing your boat or travel trailer, there's one place you want to avoid: the left lane on the freeway.
Generally, unless you're exiting on the left or using an HOV lane (which isn't considered the left lane), it's illegal to tow in the left lane. Washington and Oregon law spell out the restrictions, which vary slightly between the states. For example, Washington specifies freeways with three lanes moving in one direction (with specific stretches of road exempted), while Oregon specifies freeways with two lanes in one direction (with no roadways exempted).
Most trailer manufacturers recommend top towing speeds of 55 miles per hour (rarely fast enough to use the left passing lane). Some other safe-towing tips:
- When shopping for a tow vehicle, look for tow/haul packages that include the proper hitch, trailer brakes, larger mirrors and an updated cooling system to keep your engine from overheating. Make sure the vehicle is rated for the weight your travel trailer and/or boat and trailer combined. Study the vehicle's towing features and capabilities.
- Watch for excessive shifting. With the added weight of towing, an automatic transmission is shifting more often than it usually does. That creates heat that can lead to a breakdown. Unlike your engine, your transmission probably doesn't have a heat gauge on your dashboard display. Check your transmission fluid levels often and change fluid as scheduled. You might also ask your mechanic for recommendations about installing an external transmission cooling system or a deeper pan, which can accommodate more fluid.
- Fill your gas tank before you hitch up the trailer and keep an eye on the gauge. You burn more fuel when towing.
- Plan routes to avoid dense city traffic and steep hills.
- Brake early and gently – you have more weight to stop.
- If your trailer starts to fishtail, ease up on the gas, but don't hit the brakes, which could result in a further loss of control. If the trailer has electronic brakes, apply the manual brake controller while maintaining pressure on the gas pedal. The tension will help straighten the trailer.
NOTE: While we're experts in loss prevention and home/auto safety, we don't consider ourselves experts in traffic laws or their enforcement. Information shared here is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have legal concerns, we urge you to contact a law enforcement source or attorney in your community.