As summer approaches it’s worth thinking about the towing you may do so that any planned vacation involving a trailer or caravan goes smoothly.
Remember, it’s not quite as simple as hitching up and driving off as what you are allowed to tow depends on when you got your driving licence and what the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer – the maximum authorised mass or MAM – you intend to drive is.
If you got your licence before January 1st, 1997, then you’re usually eligible to drive a vehicle and trailer with a combined weight of up to 8,250kg MAM. You can also drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.
If you got your licence after January 1st, 1997, you could tow a trailer that weighs up to 3,500kg MAM.
To find out what the MAM of your vehicle and trailer combination is, look in the in the owner’s manual for the vehicle and look for a plate or sticker fitted to the vehicle or trailer, then add them together.
Once you’ve established that you’re eligible to tow, it’s worth taking some practical steps to check whether your vehicle and trailer are in top towing condition, and that you’ve fulfilled all the necessary requirements before you head off.
Firstly, check that your car’s towing capacity is suitable for the size of trailer or caravan you want to tow and remember that the weight includes a fully loaded car and trailer or caravan.
Secondly, if you get a tow bar for your car, it needs to be ‘type approved’. This means it meets EU regulations and is designed for your car. Type-approved tow bars have a label with an approval number and details of the vehicles it’s approved for. (However, if your car was first used before August 1st, 1998, your tow bar does not need to be type approved.)
Thirdly, besides making sure that you’re eligible to drive the combined weight of your vehicle and trailer or caravan, remember that in the UK, the maximum trailer length is 7 metres for a trailer being towed by a car weighing up to 3,500kg and the maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. You need to know this so that you can gauge your clearance for things like parking or going under bridges.
Fourthly, find out whether your trailer needs a working brake system which is the case for any trailer weighing over 750kg including load. Without a working brake system, the maximum allowed is half the kerbside weight of the vehicle or a maximum of 750kg.
Before setting off, always check that tyre pressures are correct for the load you are carrying. You can find the towing tyre pressure values on a plate inside the driver’s door, in the handbook or even inside the fuel cap.
Next, examine lights, mirrors, and hitch connections, and ensure the brake system works properly. Tie everything down and secure belongings and check your width and height clearance again.
Once you’re driving, remember that speed limits are different for cars with trailers. On a single carriageway road where the limit is 60mph for cars, it reduces to 50mph for cars with trailers. Likewise, on a dual carriageway where the limit is 70mph, it reduces to 60mph for cars with trailers. On a 3-lane motorway for cars when towing, in addition to the 60mph limit, you cannot use the outside lane – although you can overtake on a dual carriageway.
For roads where lower speed limits apply, they are the same for vehicles with or without a trailer.
No matter what the speed, it is absolutely not allowed for passengers to be inside a caravan while it is being towed.
After a bit of effort, you should be very well prepared for your towing adventure but if you’re not sure, you could even consider further training on how to tow safely.