GMC Towing Guide Pt. 2: On The Open Road

Towing with your GMC - a guide

When you’re hauling anything, your GMC is capable of a LOT. Check out our Part 1 Towing Guide to see just how capable your GMC really is.

This week, we’re here to offer guidance for your time spent on the road driving.

Before You Go

Chains: Always attach safety chains between your vehicle and the trailer. Cross them under the tongue of the trailer so that the tongue is less likely to drop if the trailer should separate from the hitch. Leave enough slack to properly navigate corners, but not so much that they’re dragging on the ground.

Trailer weight: A good rule is to distribute 60% of the load over the front half of the trailer, evenly from side to side. This is the best way to avoid unstable trailering, like trailer sway, at highway speeds or heavy braking. Once the trailer is loaded, it’s best to secure it so nothing moves during the trip.

2018 GMC Terrain Towing a Trailer with Bicycles

Check, Check, Check: Double check everything before you hop in:

  • Hitch and platform
  • Hitch nuts and bolts
  • Mirror adjustments
  • Safety chains
  • Vehicle and trailer lights
  • Make sure a trailer sway-control device is installed (if required) and working properly
  • Tire pressure (all of them, not just your vehicle!)
  • Test the trailer brakes
  • The breakaway switch is connected and functioning properly
  • Loads are secure

Accelerating & Braking

It’s not Fast & Furious – don’t hammer on the gas or the brake. That just causes issues. Apply gradual pressure on the accelerator and enjoy the ride. Give yourself extra time when merging onto highways and when braking.

Trailer Sway Control

Trailer Sway Control on GMCMost GMC vehicles feature Trailer Sway Control. It uses StabiliTrak sensors to detect excessive sway, applying both the vehicle’s and trailer’s brakes to keep it in line. Trying to steer your way out of sway will just make it worse since it’s caused by improper weight distribution, excessive speed, overloading, crosswinds, poor vehicle maintenance, and road conditions. Take control by:

  • Holding the steering wheel as steady as possible
  • Release the accelerator (but don’t touch the brake!)
  • Activate electric trailer brakes by hand (if equipped) until the sway condition stops
  • Use the vehicle brakes to come to a complete stop.
  • Pull over to the RIGHT side of the road and attempt to determine what caused the instability.

Turning Corners

When turning with a trailer, it’s important to remember that the turning radius is much smaller than that of your vehicle, so you’re likely going to brush some curbs, soft shoulders, and trees when making right turns. Take great care when turning; if you turn too sharply, you could cause damage to the vehicle or trailer.

When approaching a sharp corner:

  • Brake earlier than normal, reducing speed
  • Drive slightly past the normal turning point and firmly turn the steering wheel
  • By cornering at this wider angle, your vehicle and trailer should safely clear the turn


When passing vehicles on the highway, it’s crucial to allow additional time and distance between your vehicle, trailer, and the other vehicles on the road.

    • ALWAYS signal your lane change intention to other drivers
    • Use your signal well in advance of reentering the lane
    • Make sure your trailer is clear of the vehicle(s) you pass
    • Do not pass on hills or around curves (but you should know that already).

Backing Up With a Trailer

If you can, have someone to spot you. It’s much easier and saves a lot of time. If you’re riding solo, get out several times as you’re moving to check your space.

To safely back up a trailer, use one hand on the wheel at the 6 o’clock position. Still following? To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right. It sounds easy, but it’s actually the opposite of when you’re just backing up a normal vehicle. Lastly, don’t whip it back and forth – you’re not Willow Smith. Move in small increments to maintain control.  

Hill Areas

If you’re heading west to the great Rocky Mountains, this next part will come in handy. When driving downhill reduce your speed and shift into a lower gear. When driving uphill, shift to a lower gear for more torque to avoid lugging (you’ll maintain speed).

Parking: Simple. Not recommended. Find a better spot to stop!

If that’s absolutely impossible, here’s what to do:

  1. Apply brakes and shift into neutral.
  2. Have someone block the trailer’s wheels on the downgrade side.
  3. Release brakes until the blocks absorb the load.
  4. Apply the parking brake and shift into park.

Okay, you’ve successfully parked on a hill. Now you want to get moving again:

  1. Hold the brake pedal and start the engine.
  2. Shift into gear and release the parking brake.
  3. Release the brake and drive slightly uphill until you’re free from the blocks.
  4. Brake and get someone to get the blocks for you.

Useful GMC Towing Features

  1. Tow/Haul Mode: gives automatic transmissions a dual-shift option to use more engine power for stronger acceleration or help slow the truck using engine braking.
  2. Range Selection Mode: allows drivers to control ending and vehicle speed while going downhill. You can still use cruise control and the Tow/Haul mode. This feature is standard on Yukons, Sierras, and Savanas.
  3. Hill Start Assist: a standard on many GMC models, this feature prevents rollback by holding the brakes momentarily or until you press the accelerator.

GMC Sierra towing trailer

Enjoy Your Trip!

Probably the most important part of this article is this:


If you’re taking time to enjoy away from work or school or everyday life, actually step away. Work and school will be waiting when you get back. Enjoy the great outdoors! Forget about schedules! EXPLORE!

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