Whether it is a load of rubbish for the tip, a caravan or even a boat, towing a trailer at some point in time is a near certainty.
Although it might seem easy to some, to the inexperienced it can be very intimidating. Sometimes even the experienced can benefit from knowing the proper safety precautions.
Some Terms To Know
Here are some basic terms all drivers should be familiar with when talking about towing:
- Receiver: Hitching platform fitted to the towing vehicle
- Tongue: Removable component which fits into the receiver and is attached to the tow ball
- Tow Ball: The ball shaped connection which mates the hitch to the trailer
- Hitch Coupler: The ball socket on the front of a trailer that fits over the tongue
- Hitch Weight: The amount of weight carried by the hitch when the trailer is connected
Before You Get Started
Be aware towing will affect your vehicle in four key ways:
- Increased fuel consumption
- Reduced braking performance
- Decreased acceleration
- Reduced vehicle control
There are certain legal requirements governing trailer towing. Please visit your State Government website for information on your local towing laws.
Attaching The Trailer
Before attaching your coupler you should slightly grease the tow ball so the hitch can rotate smoothly.
Safety chains should be long enough for tight turns but short enough not to drag on the ground. Ensure your safety chains and electric plug are firmly secured. The tow ball should be at a height so the trailer sits level when connected. Your tow vehicle should also be able to accept the weight without major change to its level. (Towing capacities can be found in the owner’s manual provided be the manufacturer of your vehicle.)
Try to follow the same procedure each time you hook up your trailer so you remember all points.
Before you head off on each towing trip no matter how long it is the following checks should be made:
- The pin which secures the tongue to the receiver on your vehicle should be intact
- The hitch coupler is fastened and secured
- The safety chain is properly attached to the vehicle
- The electrical plug is properly installed
- The brake lights, indicators, reversing lights and driving lights are working correctly.
All inexperienced towers or even drivers with new vehicles should start with short towing trips.
These trips will allow drivers to get used the extra weight and strain of the tow vehicle and understand the adjustments required when braking and accelerating.
When towing it is important to take into account the extra length of the trailer.
Give yourself extra turning room through the corner to allow for the trailer by continuing straight for a little longer before turning. Steadily straighten the wheel, beginning slightly earlier than you would normally.
Reversing a trailer or caravan can be a tricky exercise. At times, it can seem like the trailer has a mind of its own! Like anything, it’s easy if you know how. Click here to find out more.
Greater braking distance should always be applied when you are towing. If you are approaching a stopping point (e.g. red light) you should reduce power slightly so it takes you longer to get there. It is also recommended you use all your gears when braking with a trailer as to take as much pressure as possible off the brakes.
When towing anything behind your car you should always apply caution and be prepared. Be aware of the extra length of your vehicle and its towing capabilities and do not get yourself into towing situations, such as reversing, that you not comfortable with without some practice first.