Towing a Caravan or Trailer – Top Tips & Advice

  • Car towing a caravan

RULES & REGULATIONS FOR TOWING

There are all sorts of regulations covering towing and licence requirements, the key factor being MAM, the maximum authorised mass of vehicles and trailers.  This should always be taken to mean the permissible maximum weight, also known as the gross vehicle weight.

If you passed your test before 1st January, 1997, you can usually drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg. 

If you passed your car driving test on or after 1st January, 1997, you can:

  • drive a car or van up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
  • tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg

If you want to tow anything heavier then you will have to pass the car and trailer driving test, also sometimes called the ‘B+E’ test. More details on towing can be found on this site //www.gov.uk/towing-with-car

Your drivers’ handbook will usually provide information on the maximum permissible trailer mass which can be towed by your vehicle, along with the maximum noseweight which should be applied to the tow ball.   There are also some legal limits on laden weight of unbraked trailers, which you will need to know for your particular vehicle.

Usually, even if the vehicle limits are stated as higher, you are safer if the weight of the loaded trailer does not exceed 85% of the empty (kerbside) weight of the towing vehicle, especially if you inexperienced at towing!

When towing, the length of your family car can be considered doubled.  Exterior towing mirrors will be needed for a clear view down both sides of the trailer/caravan.  The use of a good stabiliser fitted to the tow bar can make the combination easier to handle, especially in crosswinds, or when being overtaken by lorries etc.

WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION

Weight distribution is the key to stability when towing.  Heavy items should be loaded as low down as possible, mainly over the axle/s of the trailer or caravan.  Larger, but lighter items, such  as bedding and clothing,  should be distributed around to provide a suitable noseweight at the towing coupling, as recommended by the manufacturer.  This noseweight can be measured using an inexpensive gauge from caravan stockists.  People should never be allowed to travel in a caravan when it is being towed!

EXPERIENCE

If you are new to towing many Driving Schools offer short courses on manoeuvring and safety when towing.  The National Caravanning Council provide a detailed booklet on the same, and advice can be gained from one of the large caravanning organisations.
Practice makes perfect, so head to a quiet car park to master manoeuvres and techniques before heading off.

SAFETY CHECKS

It is vital that any load is carried so that it is not a danger to other road users.  The following checks should be made to your trailer  or caravan before you set off on your journey:
• Correct loading, with the right noseweight on the towbar;
• Correctly hitched up, with breakaway cable, or secondary coupling, properly connected and the coupling head fully engaged and locked;
• All lights and indicators connected and working ;
• Jockey wheel and assembly in fully stowed position;
• All windows, roof light and doors properly closed and secure;
• Brake systems is working properly;
• Tyre pressures are correct.
• All fuel supplies are secured and turned off i.e. Liquid gas cyclinders.
• The trailer or caravan should be fitted with tyres of the specified rating as mentioned in the manufacturer’s handbook.
Tyre regulations also apply to trailers and caravans, so check tread depth and any damage to the sidewalls of the tyres.  It is wise to raise a caravan on supports if it is to remain standing for long periods, taking the weight off the tyres and prolonging their useful life.

DRIVING TECHNIQUES

You will become used to towing, and you can make this easier for yourself by planning ahead and giving yourself more time.  Remember to:
• Allow more braking time when stopping or slowing down;
• Allow for the extra length during your driving, especially when turning or emerging at junctions;
• Allow three times the usual distance and time to overtake safely;
• SNAKING – ease off the accelerator gradually, allow the steering to ‘twitch’  a little, and reduce your speed until the snaking has stopped;
• High-sided vehicles – take extra caution if passing or being passed, allowing as much space as safely possible to avoid turbulence or buffeting effects;
• Never tow in the outside lane of a motorway with more than two lanes, unless other lanes are closed off;
• Be courteous – improve the image of the tower by checking your mirrors regularly, ensuring that you are not holding up faster traffic.  Be prepared to pull over safely if you are causing a hold up!

• SPEED LIMITS 

Unless road signs instruct otherwise you must not exceed
    30mph (48kph) in built-up areas
    50mph (80kph) on single carriageways
    60mph (96kph) on dual carriageways or motorways.
 These speeds should be reduced in high winds or crosswinds, when travelling downhill,  or in poor visibility.

About the Author:

Jim & Sharn have been successfully running JSF Driving since 2006, sharing that success with new drivers through a great pass rate. With over 400 raving online reviews don't just take their word for it!

2 Comments

  1. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I do believe that you need to publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but typically folks don’t talk about such issues. To the next! All the best!!

  2. Jim & Sharn August 23, 2017 at 11:32

    Thank you. Always happy to have feedback on future potential driving blogs.

Leave A Comment