Towing a Trailer – Debon Guide
With the laws changing in 2021 enabling drivers to tow a Trailer under 3,500kg without Training or a License, we compiled a handy guide to Towing Trailers. Starting from safety checks and hitching-up through to towing safely on the road we hope you find our guide to towing trailers helpful.
IS YOUR TRAILER ROADWORTHY?
- Servicing – Ensure your trailer and vehicle are both road-worthy. Like your towing vehicle, Trailers need servicing regularly to check for any damage and to ensure the trailer is in good working order.
- Tyres – must have enough tread (at least 1.6mm) and make sure there are no cracks in the side wall of the tyre. These cracks can appear if the trailer is left standing for a long period of time.
- Electrics – Make sure all the internal and external lights are working.
- Maximum Tow Weight – Check your maximum towing weight (you’ll find this in the vehicle’s handbook or by checking the chassis plate) isn’t lower than the weight you are going to be towing.
- Insurance – Your car insurance may cover the trailer third party when towing, but this won’t include theft or damage so make sure you check your cover with your insurer.
- Make sure that the trailer’s handbrake is on, and the trailer’s tow bar is higher than the tow ball.
- Line your vehicle up so you can go back in a straight line towards the trailer. Check-in each wing mirror that you’re central, if you can see more of your trailer in one mirror than the other, then you need to straighten up.
- If things start to go wrong, pull forwards and correct your line and then reverse slowly.
Hitching up takes a bit of practice, but there are ways to make it easier;
- You may find it helpful to look through the rear window rather than using the wing/rearview mirrors.
- Ask a friend to see you back and help you get central to the tow ball, without it hitting the back of your vehicle, which can be an easy but costly mistake!
- If your vehicle has a reverse camera this can help, however not all are positioned for hitching and may distort your distance so use cautiously.
Once you have the tow ball lined up directly under the tow hitch, with one hand hold the coupling head up and the other start to lower the hitch onto the ball by turning the jockey wheel. You’ll hear it click into place as the two become connected. To make sure, you can wind the jockey wheel back up and you will see the vehicle lifting, which shows it is connected correctly.
The trailer has a wire with a hook on the end. This is the breakaway cable, and it must be attached to an eye or looped through a main brace of the tow bar, NOT over the tow ball. This way if the trailer and vehicle become separated, the wire applies the trailer’s handbrake.
To connect the 13 Pin electrics, line up the gap of the vehicle’s electrical socket with the gap in the tow hitch socket. Connect the two then twist so that the cable cannot be pulled out.
Release the trailer handbrake and check the electrics are working Lights Indicators Brakes For the brake lights, ask someone to stand behind to check or alternatively use reflections. It’s good practice to do a last check to ensure everything is safe and your load is secure. Never travel with the hitch locked on, because if the trailer should flip over, it is likely to turn the vehicle over too! Top tip: Make sure you keep tow balls greased.
ON THE ROAD
Practice not stopping, yes that’s right, not stopping! By reading the road and approaching slowly, you can do a whole journey without stopping at traffic lights or roundabouts. If you keep the wheels moving, it makes it a much smoother journey, reduces fuel consumption and emissions – it’s a win-win!
Take turns slowly and wider, especially on sharp bends as the trailer will cut the corner, so pay attention to where your trailer is going as you turn
NATIONAL SPEED LIMITS FOR TOWING TRAILERS
Single carriageway: 50 mph
Dual carriageway/Motorways: 60 mph .
If you begin to lose control of the trailer, do not try to accelerate out of it or slam on the breaks! A trailer will ‘snake’ (swing behind zig-zagging) for many reasons, such as the towing weight being too heavy for your car, big vehicles overtaking you and uneven tyre pressure. If it happens, ease your foot off the accelerator and keep the steering steady.
Reversing is definitely the trickiest part of towing a trailer! The first thing to remember is to take it very slowly – the smallest wheel adjustments can make a big difference to the direction of the trailer. First, make sure there is nothing behind you, and if possible, have a helper to see you back. Where you start from will affect where you end up, so if you want to reverse around a corner, start straight and about a vehicle’s length from the area you are reversing into. If reversing around a corner, make the angle as wide as possible, if you push the trailer into too sharp of a corner, you run the risk of jack knifing – which is the point at which you can no longer reverse.
The main thing to remember when reversing, is whichever way you turn the steering wheel will push your trailer in the opposite direction. To straighten the trailer up, simply turn the wheel back the other way. If you get the angle wrong, you are generally better to go forwards again rather than trying to correct it.
Just take your time!
- Park your trailer on as flat a surface as possible and then apply the car and trailer’s handbrake.
- To avoid the brake shoes sticking to the drums, you can leave your trailer parked with the handbrake off, but use the supplied wheel chock in front of the wheels to prevent it from rolling.
- Disconnect the electrical and breakaway cables.
- Undo the jockey wheel so it is touching the ground.
- Hold up the tow hitch handle and wind the jockey wheel higher until the vehicle and trailer disconnect.
- Lock your trailer so it’s secure and ready for your next journey.