Key things you need to know about towing

Thinking of towing a caravan or trailer this summer? Here are some of the aspects you need to keep in mind.

Discovery Towing
Discovery Towing

This summer is already shaping up as one for UK-based holidays and that means more people will be setting off across the country’s roads in search of some much-needed time away. A lot of holidaymakers will see a caravan as a way of escaping the day-to-day, with towing your own home-away-from-home looking like the perfect option.

And those who fancy some time on the water with a boat will likely need to tow too. But using a car for towing brings a whole range of requirements. Here’s what you need to know.

Is my car up to the job of towing?

Discovery towing
The Discovery packs a huge towing capacity

It’s a good place to start. Not all cars are up to towing, so you need to check before you dive in to try to hook a caravan or trailer up. You also need to check your car’s towing capacity – the weight it is permitted to tow includes a fully-loaded car and a fully-loaded caravan – which you’ll be able to find in the vehicle’s handbook.

You’ll also need to make sure that you’ve fitted an approved towbar. They need to meet EU legislation, which you’ll be able to find through the towbar’s manufacturer or retailer.

Do I have the right type of licence?

Towing is a vital job for many drivers

Not all drivers can just hook up a trailer and head on out. Though those who passed their driving test before January 1, 1997, can usually drive a vehicle and trailer with a combined weight of up to 8.25 tonnes, there are different rules for everyone else.

For instance, those people who took and passed their test after January 1, 1997, are permitted to tow with a vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes or with a 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) – or its weight fully loaded – towing a trailer with a fully-loaded weight of up to 750kg. You can also tow a loaded trailer weighing over 750kg as long as the combined weight of both it and the vehicle towing it does not exceed 3,500kg.

If you need to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg when the combined weight of both it and the towing vehicle is more than 3,500kg, you’ll need to take an additional driving test to secure your B+E category licence.

If you want to check what your licence type permits you to tow, you can always check the website.

Is my trailer the right size?

Many people use their cars to tow boats to water

Sadly, you can’t tow any length of trailer. UK rules stipulate that the maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres, while the maximum length is seven metres for a trailer being towed by a car weighing up to 3,500kg.

Does my trailer need a braking system?

Any trailer weighing over 750kg inclusive of the load it’s carrying must have a working brake system. If a trailer doesn’t have a braking system, the maximum it’s allowed to be is 750kg, or half the kerbside weight of the towing vehicle. You’ll be able to find this in the vehicle’s handbook.

Have I set my tyres to the right pressure?

A few considerations need to be made before towing

If you’ve got the right licence and the correct car, there are some checks you need to make. One of them is tyres – are they inflated to the correct pressures? You’ll be able to find the right pressures for towing a caravan or trailer in your vehicle’s handbook, inside the fuel cap or on a plate inside the driver’s door shuts.

If you’re unsure, always consult the manufacturer of your vehicle or contact a tyre professional who will be able to advise you on the right pressures for your car.

Are the speed limits the same for cars with or without trailers?

Caravans are a way of escaping for many drivers

The rules for speed when towing a caravan or trailer are different to when you’re just driving a car. On single-carriageway roads where the speed limit for cars is 60mph, those towing a caravan or trailer must stick to 50mph. If you notice that you’re holding up traffic behind you, it’s best to pull over when safe to do so and allow cars to pass.

On a motorway or dual carriageway where the car speed limit is 70mph, you must travel at 60mph. Plus, on a three-lane motorway, you’re not permitted to use the outside lane if you’re towing. On a two-lane section, you’re fine to use the outside lane to overtake slower-moving vehicles.

On roads with lower speed limits, such as 30, 40 or 50mph, the same applies to those towing trailers or caravans as it does to regular cars.

Can I carry passengers in a caravan while I tow it?

Absolutely not. Passengers are not permitted to stay in the caravan while it’s being towed – they must be sat and belted in the towing vehicle.

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