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Towing Tips

Published: 29/02/2008

Towing tips for caravans and trailers, including how to reverse easily!


 

Towing Tips

Take a look at your car from the side, the longer the wheel base the better chance it has of being a good tow car, now look at the distance from the centre of the rear wheel to the tow bar, the shorter this is the better! Also ensure your car engine size is sufficient to tow the trailer or caravan, your vehicle manual will be able to help you further.

Actual Laden Weight (ALW)
This is the actual weight of the caravan or trailer including content when it is being towed. Not to be confused with Fully Laden Weight (see below).

Fully Laden Weight (FLW)
This is the maximum weight the caravan or trailer is allowed to weigh, including contents.

Kerb Weight (KW)
The weight of the towing vehicle as defined by the vehicle manufacturer, (see vehicle manual for details).

Towing Vehicle Weight Ratio (TWWR)
The actual laden weight of the caravan shown as a percentage of the kerb weight, i.e.
ALW/KW x 100 = TWWR

Regular Servicing
Before towing your trailer or caravan you must ensure it is safe on the road. You are not only putting yourself and your family at risk but also other road users. Regularly servicing your trailer or caravan will make towing easier.

EEC Regulations
The European Directive relates to mechanical couplings of motor vehicles and trailers, and attachment to those vehicles.

Basics:
The towbar must be fitted to the motor vehicle recommended fitting points.
The towbar must pass the EEC Regulations (20% higher than previous UK/European standards).
The towbar must not obscure the number plate, when not in use.

The new regulations means that towbars are manufactured to a higher European Standard. The stronger towbars will ensure that mechanical failure of the coupling between a trailer to a motor vehicle becomes even more safer ensuring that the towbars are manufactured to the highest quality standards. NOTE: Fitting of a 94/20 towbar to a vehicle that has type approval could jeopardise human safety and will invalidate any vehicle insurance.

Nose Weights
The nose weight of the trailer is the weight of the trailer on the towball. When loaded the trailer should be a little nose heavy, and tilt down slightly at the front. NOTE: for safety, the nose weight must not be too heavy.

Finding Nose Weight
The trailer manufacturer’s guidelines in the vehicle handbook must be followed. A general guide is that the recommended nose weight is around 7% the fully laden weight of the trailer.

If the nose weight is not well balanced and too light or too heavy the trailer will be difficult to tow and result in poor towing stability. A heavy nose weight could result in lowering the rear car suspension so the beam of light from the headlights dazzle other drivers, which could be dangerous for oncoming vehicles.

Ensure that the tyre pressures of the vehicle and the trailer are correct. Deflated tyres are unstable and dangerous, especially when towing!

Checking
The best method to check for the nose weight of a trailer is to purchase a ‘nose weight indicator’ – a wise investment for any person wishing to tow a trailer or caravan. Remember you should have harmony between the vehicle and the trailer!

General Problems
The law currently states that both towing vehicles and caravans/trailers and the loads they carry must be in such a condition that no danger or nuisance is caused. Understanding these simple tips before you are on the road or while reversing can make towing easier and safer.

Loading
Keep the heaviest items over the axle, secured. A heavy load will soon move if you break suddenly and can be very dangerous if not secured in place. The remaining items should be distributed evenly to give a suitable nose weight (see above). Ideally the laden weight of the caravan or trailer should not exceed 85% of the kerbside weight of the towcar.

On the Road
The Fully Laden Weight of the caravan or trailer should be kept as low as possible, the lighter your towing weight the safer it is to tow. Remember when towing you are not simply driving a car, you are a long vehicle, that cannot move as dynamically as a single car.

Accidents often happen simply because the driver has not realised the overall length of the vehicle and trailer he is driving, combined with the additional weight!

Purchasing an extension mirror will assist in improving vision. NOTE: depending on the width of the trailer or caravan the extension mirror may be a legal requirement.

Reversing
Straight Line – Make sure the caravan or trailer is visible in both mirrors, then turn the steering wheel towards the mirror that you cannot see the towed vehicle.

Corners – Turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction to where you want the caravan or trailer to turn. Once moving gradually reverse this action as required.

Practice make perfect! Don’t be put off by early failure attempts.

How to Avoid Snaking
Snaking can occur a number of ways, these include buffering winds and aggressive driving. The effect of snaking can be reduced by fitting a quality stabiliser, but note, it should never be used to counteract poor towing!

Tips:
The following will help reduce snaking.

Keep within the nose and laden weight limits of your car and trailer
Check tyre pressures
Watch your speed, especially when towing down hill.
Keep an eye on overtaking vehicles, lorries and coaches can create a slipstream, which can cause snaking. Keep to the left of the carriageway.
Look at weather conditions, towing during a force nine gale is not advised!
Keep an eye for wind-traps, locations where the wind blows strong, between two hills, coastal roads etc.

If you feel you are snaking, remove your foot from the accelerator, and very gently brake until you have regained control of the trailer or caravan. DO NOT brake heavily or accelerate!

Breakaway Cables
Breakaway cables have become an essential part of any towing combination.

The breakaway cable automatically operates the trailer brake if the trailer or caravan becomes detached from the towing vehicle. Attaching the breakaway cable can be done in two ways.

Looped Over
The hook or clip is looped over itself back to the cable and then looped to the towball. Although common practice, it does not protect the caravan or trailer if the towball should fail!

Directly
To attach the breakaway cable directly to a fixed point on the towing vehicle

NOTE: you must ensure there is enough slack in the cable so that the break is not activated during a tight corner.

The breakaway cable must load the braking system operating mechanism of the trailer at its Fully Laden Weight on a 18% gradient

 

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