Towing Safely

In order to tow a trailer, trailer tent or caravan you will need to fit a towbar to your towing vehicle. There are literally, thousands of towbars available to buy but which one you should choose will depend on your towing vehicle’s make and model and your towing needs. Towbars don’t always come with vehicle electrical kits included (to connect lights etc), so you may have to purchase this separately.

All of this, as well as the fact that you must strictly adhere to the legal requirements for towing, may sound very complicated and daunting. Fortunately, there are a large number of reputable companies that can source the correct towbar for your vehicle and fit it, along with connecting all the necessary electrics.

The National Trailer and Towing Association (NTTA) has a list of approved fitting centres on its website Alternatively, they also have a list of mobile fitters that can do the work in a more convenient location.

As the driver, however, it is your responsibility to:

  • Ensure that the towing vehicle’s engine is powerful enough to pull the trailer and its load
  • Ensure that the towing vehicle’s brakes are able to stop the vehicle plus trailer safely
  • Check that the gross weight of the trailer does not exceed the towing capacity of the towing vehicle (this information can be found in the vehicle manufacturer’s handbook and on the VIN plate on the chassis)

Furthermore when loading and coupling the trailer/caravan care must be taken:
Loads must be securely restrained as loose loads can lead to a loss of stability

  • Balance and weight distribution must be taken into account and loads must be as evenly distributed as possible
  • Trailers must not be overloaded
  • Lights must be working correctly and not be damaged
  • Check the 7 core cable and plug are undamaged
  • Make sure the correct number plate is fitted and is not obscured in anyway
  • Check that the tyre pressures are correct (handbook will have loaded pressures) on the vehicle and the trailer
  • Is the coupling height correct? It should be not excessively low or high. Is the trailer correctly coupled to the towbar
  • Are any necessary mudguards in place

If you are a new to towing, or are lacking in confidence, and feel like you need some help and advice with driving and maneuvering your vehicle and trailer/caravan then there are a number of companies that offer courses. These courses will give you training in handling your trailer/caravan including skills such as cornering and reversing safely, and they can offer instruction for driving test that enable drivers to tow heavier loads.

A loaded trailer can have a serious effect on vehicle performance, such as:

  • Starting and moving off, particularly on hills or inclines, will be much more laboured
  • Longer distances will be needed for stopping and slowing down
  • Extra care will be needed when negotiating tight corners and bends
  • Fuel efficiency will be affected but there are ways of minimising this

Before you begin towing, know the law and take extra care with loading, coupling and driving.

Tow Bars click here for a full list.

Trailer Manufactures click here for a full list.