No matter how well you know your car, it’s going to behave very differently when you add the weight of a trailer or caravan. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you’re towing, so here are our top ten tips to help get both you and your cargo to your destination safely.
Manufacturers specifications - It’s very important to check your vehicle’s manufacturer’s specifications for the maximum towable weight, suspension requirements, etc. Disregarding these requirements can significantly increase your likelihood of doing damage to your vehicle, breaking down or being involved in a crash.
Tyre Pressure – Heavy loads and high speeds put extra strain on your tyres. Make sure they’re fully inflated before setting off, but not over inflated. The pressure increases as the tyres get hotter which could cause a blowout.
Speed – The extra weight of a loaded trailer or caravan means that you need to take more time speeding up. This is especially important when it comes to safely overtaking other slow moving vehicles. On the other hand, slowing down will take longer the more weight you have added to your vehicle. Brake early, progressively and never lock-up your wheels.
Wind – If you’re towing a caravan on a windy day, you’ll need to be extra careful. Just make sure that you take it easy and watch for any potential crosswinds. A good guide is to look at the trees ahead and along the road to see how much they are being blown about. You should also slow down when you are about to pass a truck. The air disturbance that they create can also cause your car and caravan to get buffered and lose control.
Weight Distribution – Pack heavy items first and secure them so that they will not move around if you have to brake suddenly. You can fill spaces in between with any smaller cargo. Keeping the centre of gravity low with at least 60% of the weight toward the front keeps the car steadier and the trailor less likely to topple.
Fishtailing – If you’re towing at highway speeds and your trailer is unbalanced with too much weight to the rear, you may experience ‘fishtailing’. Fishtailing is where the trailer suddenly starts to swerve from side-to-side without any input from the driver. Reduce speed gently, by lifting off the accelerator. Braking harshly will usually make things worse. Fishtailing may also occur when you pass an oncoming truck. The wind created by the movement of the truck can often cause the trailer to sway.
Going down hills – When travelling downhill, engage a lower gear in both manual and automatic vehicles to increase control and reduce dependency on your brakes. It takes much longer to stop going down a hill than if you were travelling on level ground, so reduce speed well before you start descending. If the road is wet, significantly reduce speed.
Reversing –If you need to get your trailer or caravan into a small space, try to back up in as much of a straight line as possible. Remember to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction to where you want your trailer or caravan to go.
Overheating – Towing can cause your car to overheat, so keep an eye on your temperature gauge and take a break when it needs to cool down.
Courtesy to other drivers – It’s not always safe to travel at high speeds when you’re towing and many drivers opt to stay a little under the speed limit. Please be courteous to other drivers and make use of slow vehicle turnouts when they’re available.
If you’re not confident of your towing skills, try practicing on quiet streets near home first. It will help you get used to the acceleration and braking differences and the way that your trailer or caravan behaves.