How To Safely Hitch And Unhitch Your Travel Trailer

Before you head out on your first camping trip with your new travel trailer, it’s imperative that you make sure you know the right way to hitch your rig to the tow vehicle. Rushing through this step or doing a shoddy job of it can end up costing you a lot of time and money so it’s worth the little extra care and attention it takes. Read on to learn how to safely complete the hitching and unhitching process. To look at some amazing new and pre-owned travel trailers for sale, visit Airstream of Montana. We’re located in Missoula, MT, and welcome all those coming from Bozeman.


Before you get down to hitching the two vehicles together, ensure that you have removed the hitch lock (if you have one). Then position the receiver latch into a vertical open position. Now use a jack to lift the front end of the trailer. When the jack piston is extended, you can lubricate it. If the trailer moves when it’s being lifted, stop raising it and check the wheel chocks.

Place the hitch close to the receiver and then slide it smoothly into the receiver. Some hitches have a removable sway control arm, which makes your hitch lighter and easier to maneuver. Check your manual to see if there are any special considerations that need to be taken into account for your particular hitch.

After this, insert and secure the locking pin. This is a crucial step that you must pay close attention to. If you do a half-hearted job, you may find your travel trailer separates from your tow vehicle and takes off on its own when you’re on the road. Needless to say, that’s a dangerous and costly mistake to make.

Now you have to align the two vehicles in a way that the hitch can join them. This is easier if you have family and friends guiding you along. Cameras can be of help to solo travelers but you’ll have to make adjustments keeping the camera angle in mind. Many RV drivers say they align their vehicles askew in the camera view, which actually aligns both vehicles perfectly. With a bit of practice you should be able to get the hang of it.

We recommend that most medium and big travel trailer owners invest in sway arms. These bars strengthen the vehicle connection and stop the trailer from swaying from side to side. If you have these, attach them before you lower the travel trailer onto the hitch. Once lowered, it’s hard to get the sway arms in their proper place.

Now lower the trailer so the hitch ball fits inside the receiver, and close the receiver latch. You can now raise the jack and remove the jack blocks. Also, make sure to connect the brake and light cable so the tow vehicle can send signals to the trailer while driving. Finally, connect the safety chains (which act as backup security if the hitch ball falls out of the receiver) and remove the wheel chocks.


Once you’ve parked your travel trailer in a safe and big enough place, snugly fit your wheel chocks into place on both sides of the travel trailer. Before using the jack, ensure that it’s on level ground. Then use it to raise the trailer a little off the ground.

First disconnect the brake cable, safety chains and emergency brake controller. Next, remove the sway bars (the trailer should be high enough to have lowered the tension of the sway bars, otherwise the chains will whip around when you remove them).

Now you have to lower the trailer until you’re confident that it’s putting some weight on your tow vehicle. Once that’s done, lift up the ball receiver latch and release the hitch ball. Now use your jack to lift the trailer up and off the hitch ball. This is a tricky step and sometimes the tension between the vehicles causes the trailer to lift up instead of uncoupling. Don’t raise it too high or everything inside will shift and break when the trailer suddenly lowers.

Now that the trailer is free, drive the tow vehicle forward and use the jack to position the trailer in a leveled way. Put your hitch away carefully for the next time you need it. Now go and have a fun camping experience!

We hope this guide helps you stay safer in your RV. To learn more or if you’re still looking for that perfect travel trailer, visit Airstream of Montana in Missoula. We’re here for all your RV needs, including maintenance and finance, so stop by today!

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