Table of Contents
Unhooking you up.
We all deserve a handy RV hitching genius when we need one. While Togo RV can’t exactly provide that, what you have in your hands is the next best thing.
Since we were once newbie RVers too, we created an easy-to-reference guidebook to show you exactly how to unhitch a trailer. Because let’s face it, unhitching can feel daunting, especially the first few times you do it.
Packed with insider tips, this guide explains how to unhitch a travel trailer step by step, including a handy-dandy troubleshooting section. All so you can unhitch your wagon with maximum confidence—and minimum cussing.
Before you begin.
While the hazards of unhitching are fewer than the hitching up process, this guide will help you avoid some of the most common (and costly!) mistakes that newbie RVers make. Pay close attention to the advice we share so that you can sidestep the most common pitfalls, including:
- Taking any checklist as gospel and not considering your owner’s manual, how your hitch may differ, or any quirks of the rig.
- Damaging your trailer, hitch, vehicle, or yourself.
- Spontaneous disconnect of your RV trailer and tow vehicle.
- Ruining key appliances like your fridge.
- Needing to make multiple trips due to not knowing what to check for in a parking/camping area.
- Numerous other safety concerns.
Now that we have your attention, we hope you’ll be extra cognizant of using the right tools and following the preparation steps that we’ve outlined for you. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Chock it up to the right tools.
There are certain unhitching hacks that’ll have you looking like a seasoned pro in no time flat.
- You could use standard wheel chocks on either side of each of your wheels to keep everything in place, but X-Chocks are even better. These handy contraptions lock your wheels from in-between with opposing force, using the tire’s natural movement to stabilize. They also all but replace the need for stabilizing jacks—many rigs would need as many as eight jacks to get the same stable feel.
- A 3-foot level is a necessity, but some people also affix a small level to the outside of the RV for at-a-glance leveling. This tiny tweak is extremely helpful, especially for side-to-side leveling.
- To level out your RV, many people use large, Lego-like rubber stackers commonly known as leveling blocks. These, or wooden beams, are wedged under your tires bit by bit until you finally hit level. One upgrade we’ve seen is the Anderson camper leveler. Get one of these puppies, and you’ll be the envy of the campground. You only need two of these per axle, and they allow you to level your trailer on the first try, without having to run back and forth to move your vehicle and stack blocks over and over. It’s the perfect solution.
While you’re out there, you’ll likely come across other RV hacks and learn of new inventions coming out to make RVing life more R and less V. So take note, and share them with the Togo RV community on our social channels. Some things are just too good to keep to yourself!
Hitching Prep Work
Pre-parking prep work.
Before parking, a thorough check of your surroundings is in order. Save the time and frustration of having to re-hitch and find a new spot by following this checklist.
- Avoid tight spaces and narrow roads.
- Find level parking.
- Check size of space with awnings and slide-outs.
- Check your RV site for hookups.
- If no fresh water at site, fill fresh water at central location.
- Check for obstacles at RV site.
- Ensure hookups are in reach.
Although we strive to make every list comprehensive, we encourage you to add and modify as necessary. Do you continuously encounter the same issues as you’re hunting for that perfect parking spot? Write them down and think critically for next time—what smart step (or steps) can you take and add to your pre-parking checklist to stop repeating the same old mistakes?
Unhitch your wagon.
Now that you know the place you’ve chosen to park won’t be the bane of your existence, it’s time to level your RV, unhitch—and unwind.
- Use a level on floor inside RV (or built-in level).
- Use leveling blocks to level.
- Position chocks snugly under trailer wheels.
- Release trailer and vehicle hitch tension.
- Engage vehicle parking brake.
- Fifth-wheel only: Lower tongue jack until firmly in contact with ground.
- Fifth-wheel only: Lower tailgate.
- Disconnect and stow safety cables and chains.
- Disconnect and store emergency breakaway cable.
- Remove sway/weight distribution bars.
- Lower tongue jack to neutral position with vehicle.
- Release hitch ball or kingpin locking bar.
- Lower tongue jack until hitch clears vehicle ball.
- Disconnect trailer wiring harness from tow vehicle.
- Disengage vehicle parking brake.
- Slowly roll tow vehicle forward and park.
Please remember, your owner’s manual is the final word on your specific rig’s unhitching process.
Having problems unhitching?
Well, it looks like no rest for the weary. If only you had a handy guide to get you out of this mess so you can finally unhitch and call it a day. Oh, wait—here it is! We’ve got you covered.
So you’ve already removed the weight distribution spring bars and anti-sway bar (if you have them), but the coupler won't lift up. It happens more often than you’d think, and it’s normally the result of too much weight pushing down on the tongue. And just like that… you’re stuck!
5 EASY STEPS TO TAME YOUR TONGUE
Before you go at your hitch with a crowbar and start jumping on your bumper like a baboon, we hope you’ll play it cool and remember to consult these troubleshooting steps.
- Be sure you’ve fully disengaged the lever that holds the coupler onto the hitch ball.
- Double check that you don’t have too much pressure on the tongue. If that’s the challenge, then the common term for this is, aptly, a “binding issue.” Now that you’ve named it, it’s time to claim your freedom and raise the trailer tongue. To release pressure from the tongue, put auxiliary items like the sway bars and weight distribution bars back on first, as this changes the way the weight sits on the tongue. By distributing the weight back evenly with the vehicle, you may be able to unhitch more easily when you go to lift the lever.
- Try to put weight on the drawbar if you’re using an equalizer hitch, as this tips the ball slightly to the side so that the coupler can let the ball go.
- Raise the jack to free up weight from the ball.
- If you’re still encountering issues, try jiggling the coupler a little by first chocking the camper wheels and then easing the tow vehicle forward and back to see if the coupler releases.
4 TIPS TO PUT A GIDDY UP IN UNHITCHING
To avoid the annoying scenario above, simply follow the tips below. They might look like no-brainers, but they are the most commonly overlooked things an RVer can do to reduce unhitching headaches. To take the hitch out of your giddy up, be sure to:
- Consistently lubricate the parts of your hitch. You could do this with some spray lube from an auto parts store, but lithium grease is what’s typically recommended.
- Park on even, level ground, and unhitch with everything properly aligned.
- Ensure that nothing is bent or damaged.
- Check that all of your hitch parts are compatible with each other. It’s possible that your coupler and ball size are not meant to go together. To check this, reference the number stamped on the ball and the top of the coupler.
Now that you’ve achieved genius level on how to unhook a trailer hitch, we hope you share your new knowledge with the world as you get comfy at the campground. Visit our social channels to tell the RVing community all that you’ve learned!
And always be at the ready to assist the next newbie who needs help taming their tongue.
Jan 28, 2020
Togo RV • 8 min. read