There’s an art to towing a trailer or caravan safely – it’s not as simple as hooking up and driving off. Whether you’re planning to go caravanning this summer or even if you’ve just borrowed a trailer to dispose of garden rubbish, there are laws and safety measures to bear in mind.
Take a look at our guide to towing, and make sure you stay safe when you hit the road.
Keep an eye on your load
There are rules when it comes to how much weight you’re allowed to tow with your vehicle. You’ll need to check the exact regulations depending on which country you live in, but generally the loaded weight of our caravan or trailer shouldn’t be more than 85% of your car’s curb weight. (You’ll find that figure in the handbook.)
You can also look for your vehicle’s ‘gross train weight’, which might be listed near the vehicle identification number (VIN). The total weight of your loaded car, plus loaded trailer or caravan, must not exceed this. If you’re buying a caravan for the first time, an organization like the Caravan Club can advise on which models are suitable for your car.
Are you licensed?
Before you invest in a luxury caravan or heavy duty trailer, make sure you’re eligible to tow it. Depending on when you passed your test and the categories it covers, you’ll only be entitled to drive a vehicle pulling a certain weight.
In the UK, for example, those who passed the standard driving test after January 1, 1997, can tow a trailer up to 750kg in weight, or one that is heavier as long as the combined weight of trailer and towing vehicle does not exceed 3,500kg. For anything more, there’s an additional test. You can read more about that here.
Make sure you’ve got the right equipment
There are different kinds of tow bar, so you’ll need to make sure yours is approved for the caravan or trailer you want to attach to it. Most will be clearly marked.
You still need to be able to see behind you while you’re towing, so if you’ve got a wide caravan or trailer you’ll need to fit extended wing mirrors to your vehicle. You could face criminal charges if you don’t.
Depending on its weight and type, you may also need to fit brakes to your caravan or trailer, as well as electrics that hook up to your vehicle to operate hazard and rear lights.
If you’re planning a holiday or road trip, make sure you’re confident about towing before you set off. You may find there are organizations where you live that hold courses to help you get used to maneuvering and driving with a caravan or trailer. Follow these general driving tips too:
- Drive cautiously, allowing more time and space for every maneuver including braking and accelerating.
- Give yourself more room when taking corners – go wider so the wheels of your trailer or caravan don’t climb the curbs.
- Always stick to the speed limits and check the road rules for wherever you are; in the UK, for example, it’s forbidden to tow in the fast lane of the motorway.
- Never let people or animals travel in the caravan or trailer while towing.
- If you feel the caravan or trailer start to sway, stay calm. Keep driving in a straight line and don’t brake suddenly; instead, take your foot off the accelerator and let the car slow down smoothly.
- You might also like to read: