Tips for Towing Down a Steep Hill with an RV Trailer

Whether you are an experience RVer or towing an RV for the first time, there are steps you need to take to drive safely down an incline. Failure to do so might cause your trailer to sway and possibly even flip (the RV and your tow vehicle) while also endangering everyone else on the road.


When you plan ahead and allow yourself to go slow, you’re able to maintain control of your tow vehicle and your RV, protect your brakes, and maybe even leave the anxiety on the side of the road.

1. Go slow

This should go without saying, but when you are towing an RV or travel trailer, it is important to go slower than the speed limit. The posted speed limit is safe for non-towing vehicles, not truckers or RVers. Even meeting the speed limit, let alone exceeding it, could result in disaster – causing sway and destroying your brakes.


While going slow might drive you absolutely bonkers, to ensure the safety of yourself and others, you must let others pass you. It is not a race. Your destination will be there no matter when you arrive. Be patient and plan your trip around slower speeds.


If your RV or tow vehicle has a tow/haul mode, make sure that is engaged. The goal is to shift gears differently for optimum downhill towing performance.


Before you descend, start off at a slower speed and build up as needed. This method is easier on your brakes than starting out at a high speed.


I don't quite follow this. We say before that you should go when towing an RV or travel trailer. And then change and say it applies to non-towing vehicles instead of truckers and RVers.

2. Downshift

Once you have already slowed down before your descent, it is wise to downshift your tow vehicle. This is easy if your vehicle is a manual transmission, but if it isn’t, you can force your automatic vehicle to downshift by firmly pressing on the brake (but not too hard!) - or if you have a mode where you can tell it when to shift up or down.

By downshifting, your vehicle will do a lot of the slowing for you, sparing your brakes from annihilation due to prolonged use

3. Lay off the brakes

Because you have downshifted, there is little need to frequently use your brakes. As a rule of thumb, don’t brake for longer than fifteen seconds at a time or they will get hot, turn to mush, and prevent you from braking when you need it most.


Intermittent use is okay, but it is important for your engine to do the brunt of the braking.

4. Use hazard lights

With your foot off the pedal and your engine slowing your vehicle down, you should be going approximately 20-30 mph below the speed limit.


When you are going this slow on any road, but especially steep mountain passes, you need to warn other drivers by turning on your hazard lights. This signals that you and your RV are going exceptionally slow and that they should pass when they are able.

5. Enjoy the view

As you descend the hill or mountain pass, take advantage of this opportunity to take in the scenery when you can do so safely. It is possible that you were distracted other times during the drive and couldn’t just look around and marvel at how magnificent nature is. After all, that’s why you are RVing in the first place. If there is a reasonable pull-off where you can enjoy an over-look, allow yourself the time to stop and take in the view. 


Remember: your trip doesn’t start when you arrive at your campsite, and it doesn’t end until you get home. The journey is part of the adventure.