Whether you're taking the boat out, going on a caravan holiday or towing a trailer, here are some handy hints for getting around safely.

This information is for light vehicles only, with a mass of less than 4.5 tonnes.

Selecting a tow vehicle

You’ll find the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle in the manufacturer’s handbook. Never 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 4WD vehicle if you're going off-road or towing in slippery conditions, like on boat ramps.

The suspension of the tow vehicle must be in good order – you may need to consider up-rated springs and shock absorbers. If the tow vehicle is fitted with self-levelling suspension, contact the vehicle manufacturer for specific towing instructions.

Check that the tow bar fitted to your vehicle has sufficient capacity to tow your trailer. The tow bar should have a plate that indicates its towing capacity.

Towing tips

Make sure the car is structurally sound and in top mechanical condition. Don't overload your trailer, and check that weight is evenly distributed and that the trailer is level. Check that the download on the tow bar doesn’t exceed the vehicle manufacturer's recommended maximum.

All trailers over 750kg loaded mass manufactured after February 1990 must be fitted with brakes – trailers for up to 1 tonne loaded mass that were manufactured before then do not need brakes.

Trailers up to 2 tonnes loaded mass can be fitted with over-run brakes. Trailers over 2 tonnes must be fitted with brakes operated from the towing vehicle.

Tyres and towing

Check the tyres fitted to both the towing vehicle and the trailer are in good condition and correctly inflated. 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:

  • 220kPa (32psi) for 4 ply rating bias tyres.
  • 250kPa (36psi) for 6 ply rating bias tyres.
  • 280kPa (40psi) for 8 ply rating bias tyres.
  • 280kPa (40psi) 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.

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