Whether you're towing a caravan, boat or any other trailer, the basic concepts of towing are the same. Below are some tips to help you tow safely. These tips are for light vehicles only, with a mass of less than 4.5 tonnes.
Check the towing capacity of your vehicle. All manufacturers have a maximum towing capacity for their vehicles shown in the vehicles handbook you must not exceed these recommendations.
Your vehicle and trailer will probably handle better if the weight of your tow vehicle is more than your trailer. If the trailer is heavier there will be a tendency, when braking, for it to push the vehicle along and make the rig unstable.
You only need a four wheel drive vehicle if you're going off-road or if you need to tow in slippery conditions such as boat ramps.
The suspension of the tow vehicle must be in good order. Up-rated springs and shock absorbers may need to be considered.
If the tow vehicle is fitted with self-levelling suspension, contact the vehicle manufacturer for specific instructions on towing.
Check that the towbar fitted to your vehicle has sufficient capacity to tow your trailer. The towbar should have a plate that indicates its towing capacity.
Make sure the car is structurally sound and in top mechanical condition.
All trailers over 750 kilos loaded mass, manufactured after February 1990 must be fitted with brakes. Trailers of one tonne loaded mass manufactured before this date do not need brakes. Trailers up to two tonnes loaded mass can be fitted with over-run brakes. Trailers over two tonnes must be fitted with brakes operated from the towing vehicle.
Don't overload your trailer and check that weight is evenly distributed, and that the trailer is level. Check that the download on the towbar does not exceed the vehicle manufacturer's recommended maximum.
Check that the tyres fitted to both the towing vehicle and the trailer are in good condition and inflated correctly.
The tyre pressures for each vehicle are shown on a placard fixed to the vehicle and in the manufacturer's handbook.
Do not exceed the maximum pressure for the tyre and check that the tyre has sufficient load capacity. As a guide:
- 220 kPa (32 psi) for 4 ply rating bias tyres.
- 250 kPa (36 psi) for 6 ply rating bias tyres.
- 280 kPa (40 psi) for 8 ply rating bias tyres.
- 280 kPa (40 psi) for all radial ply tyres.
Or the maximum pressure stamped on some tyres, which may be less.
Do not bleed air from a hot tyre that has been correctly inflated when cold - the rise in pressure due to heat is allowed for and reducing the pressure generates more heat again.