Driving - How to Tow A Trailer
REMEMBER THAT A ROAD TRAILER IS A VEHICLE SUBJECT TO THE LAW WHO HAVE POWERS TO INSPECT IT AT ANY TIME ON THE ROAD AND MAY PROSECUTE A USER WHERE THE TRAILER IS NOT IN CONFORMITY WITH THE LAW OR WHERE IT IS NOT IN A ROADWORTHY CONDITION. IT IS THE OWNERS RESPONSIBILITY TO CHECK AND MAINTAIN THE TRAILER TO ENSURE IT IS ROADWORTHY. FAILURE TO DO SO CAN RESULT IN EXPENSIVE REPAIRS OR PROSECUTION
- Apply the handbrake (if applicable), remove any tow ball and electrical socket dust covers and security devices then wind the jockey wheel to the required height.
- Check the tow ball is oiled, not greased and if not being used with a head stabiliser.
- Get a helper to stand with their hands showing you where the hitch is and reverse slowly back. Your helper indicates if you are offline.
- Raise the front of the trailer by means of the jockey wheel assembly to the required height; roll the trailer up to the rear of the towing vehicle.
- If the trailer has tandem axles, raise sufficiently to raise the front wheels off the ground to aid manoeuvrability.
- Do not attempt to lift the front of the trailer. Lower the trailer by means of the jockey wheel assembly onto the tow ball of the vehicle.
- Over the last foot or so, your helper should use their hands to show you the actual distance between tow ball coupling head.
- If you have to stop a few inches short, judge how far back you are going by comparing the front wheels’ movement to something on the ground. Wind the jockey wheel down to lower the coupling head onto the tow ball.
- Some coupling heads have a locking handle which stays up then automatically locks onto the ball; others have to be held up and may have an indicator to show the ball is in place.
- Once the coupling head appears locked on, lower the jockey wheel a few turns to lift the back of the vehicle to prove the coupling head is on properly, then fully raise the wheel before unclamping it and, finally, locking it fully raised. Check that the wheel is not interfering with the operation of the overrun mechanism.
- Attach safety breakaway cable(s) to the rear of the vehicle. This cable will apply the handbrake if for any reason the trailer becomes detached whilst towing. (Clip the breakaway cable onto the special rings some tow bars have or loop it around the bar, making sure it cannot foul the coupling head. Do not loop it around the tow ball neck unless you can find no alternative.)
- Check that the breakaway and lighting cables have enough slack for cornering but will not touch the ground.
- Plug in the lighting plug, and check all lights and indicators. The electrical plug only fits one way, so line up its cut-out with the lug on the bottom edge of the socket. Some cars have two sockets – use the one with the black cover flap because the white flap is for caravan supplementary electrical systems.
With both braked and un-braked trailers the use of secondary couplings between the car towing bracket and the trailer frame is a legal requirement.
In the case of braked trailers the breakaway cable will activate the trailer handbrake in the event of the trailer becoming uncoupled.
If the trailer tends to snake at speed the problem could well be insufficient nose weight, low Tyre pressures, incorrect weight distribution of the boat and contents, or a combination of all. Do not proceed to tow until the problem has been recognized and rectified.
The maximum towing limit in the UK is 60 m.p.h. on Dual Carriageways and Motorways but remains at 50 m.p.h. on Single Carriageways (Provided that no lower speed limit is in force).
Un-braked Trailers Maximum gross weight allowed is 750 Kg. However the gross trailer weight should NOT exceed 50% of the Kerb weight of the Towing Vehicle. Always check the rating plate on the trailer and check your vehicle handbook to ensure you do not exceed its towing capacity.
Braked Trailers may be towed up to the maximum weight recommended by the manufacturer of the Towing Vehicle. Please note that the weights on the type label are adhered to and not the actual weight
Never reverse a trailer without checking behind you because of the large blind spot. Ideally, have someone see you back, especially in crowded places. Reversing a
trailer is a skill that can be mastered with a little perseverance by anyone who has learned the basic theory.
Find somewhere with plenty of space and practice reversing. It helps to have someone who knows how to do it to tell you where you are going wrong.
Step By Step
- Start by driving far enough to get your rig lined straight.
- Think of your steering wheel as the trailer, the top of the wheel is the front end and the bottom of the wheel is the back end.
- Grip the bottom of the wheel and start by backing straight backwards.
- Steer a little at a time to turn the trailer to the left,move your hand to your left,small steering movements to turn the trailer to the right move your hand to the right.
- Keep track of your outer rear view mirrors.
- Straighten out by compensating in the opposite direction.