Using your car for towing
Summer is here. It’s time for cars towing caravans and trailers to come out in force and take up the road in front of your car … just kidding.
Caravans and trailers are great for making sure that your car isn’t overloaded. What many people don’t realise is that when you got your driver’s licence, you also got a licence to tow.
Here is all you need to know about using your car for towing.
What can I tow (legally)?
This depends on when you gained your driver’s licence:
Licence issued after 19th January 2013
• Small trailer weighing no more than 750kg
• Trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of both the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM).
Licence issued between 1st January 1997 and 18th January
• Car or van up to 3,500kg MAM whilst towing trailer of up to 750kg MAM
• Trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and the towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg
Licence issued before 1st January 1997
• Vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8,250 kg MAM
To tow anything heavier, you’ll have to pass the car and trailer driving test.
What can I tow (physically)?
Each vehicle will have a different amount it can tow. Before you buy any sort of trailer have a look at your car’s handbook to figure out what the towing limits are. Some tiny cars may not be able to tow anything at all!
If you’re getting a caravan, a general rule is to make sure that the fully laden caravan is no more than 85% of the kerb weight of the towing car. Find your car’s kerb weight in the handbook, or check with your dealer, and simply multiply it by 0.85.
If you choose a trailer tent without brakes, there’s something else you need to check. By law, an unbraked trailer must not exceed half the unladen mass of the towing vehicle or the unbraked trailer limit set by the manufacturer (whichever is lower).
If you’re unsure about any of these weights, go to your local weighbridge to find out exactly how much your trailer and vehicle weigh.
9 top towing tips
1. More, more more
When you’re towing you need more time and space for everything. We’ve all been guilty of complaining about caravans travelling slowly, but this is simply safe driving.
It’s best to brake earlier than normal, and you’ll probably need to accelerate more slowly with a trailer or caravan on the back of your car.
2. Wide cornering
It sounds obvious, but when you’re towing your total length is increased. You’ll need to take corners more widely than normal so you don’t clip the kerb or cut the corner.
3. Slow it down
Legal speed limits are normally lower when you’re towing. Don’t exceed 50mph on single carriageways or 60mph on dual carriageways. You’re not allowed to tow in the outside lane of the motorway either.
Always make sure you have a good view that reaches to the end of your unit. You’ll probably need extension mirrors. It’s illegal to drive with them when you aren’t towing, so don’t forget to take them off!
5. No passengers
If you’re towing a caravan, do not carry passengers inside it. It is technically legal to transport animals inside your caravan, but we wouldn’t recommend it.
6. Number plate
Your car’s number plate must be shown and conform to the relevant British Standard and be illuminated at night.
7. Rear lights must work
Check your rear lights before you set off and check regularly throughout longer journeys to make sure nothing changes.
8. Move out the way
If traffic builds up behind you, pull over at a layby or other suitable place and let the other vehicles pass – they’ll thank you for it.
9. Avoid snaking and pitching
Snaking is the lateral swaying movement of the trailer or caravan behind the car and can be scary because if it gets too severe the car will sway with it. Pitching is vertical instability.
The best way to avoid snaking and/or pitching is to have a well-matched car and caravan, and to load your unit carefully. Electronic and friction stabilisers are fitted to many caravans to reduce the problem.