RV with trailer

How To Tow A Trailer Safely

The use of a trailer can prove incredibly beneficial in a number of different situations. Whether you’re setting off on an adventurous holiday and hoping to bring along bicycles, or alternatively, are in the construction industry and have to dispose of old materials once a project is complete; a trailer licence will most definitely come in handy.

To be fully licensed to tow a trailer legally, you must begin with taking a B+E Training with a reputable advanced driving school. During training, not only will you be taught on how to tow a trailer safely, but also how to manage trickier situations you may be faced with. Due to the size of a trailer, there are many associated risks that you must be aware of before setting off on your first journey.

A Guide On How To Tow A Trailer Safely

When towing a trailer, preparation is imperative. As a driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that all passengers and fellow road users remain safe throughout the journey. Similarly to when taking your standard practical test to gain your driving licence, although you will be taught all aspects required to pass your B+E exam, the real challenge does not begin until you are on the roads independently. No longer will you have the reassurance and support from your instructor; all decisions have to be based on your observation skills.

With this in mind, we have devised a comprehensive guide on how to tow a trailer safely, filled with helpful tips to ensure that you remain confident, comfortable and in control at all times.

Research First

Every vehicle is different, and each has its own specifications. This means that before you can begin searching for your first trailer, make any purchases or attempt to fit a trailer, you must read through your owner handbook. An owner’s handbook is essentially an instructional booklet, which includes information on how to care for each component of your vehicle. Through spending time understanding the capabilities of your vehicle, you can start to build an idea on the exact weight that your car can withstand, which will heavily impact the trailer type you opt for.

Working out your vehicle’s towing capacity is relatively simple as only two key figures are required; the kerb weight of the car and the maximum mass of the trailer. The kerb weight relates to the weight of the empty vehicle with a full tank of fuel. Whereas, the maximum mass is the weight of the tow vehicle, kerb weight and any extras, such as passengers and luggage put together. However, luckily, if you have your vehicle handbook to hand, then all of the hard work will already be done for you as the maximum towing capacity should be included.

As mentioned above, the number of passengers you plan to take with you on your journey will also contribute towards your maximum towing weight, which means that before purchasing a trailer, passengers must be taken into consideration.

Towing the right weight is vital for stability. Attempting to tow above your maximum weight risks the trailer swaying from side to side, potentially into the path of oncoming traffic. Maintaining stability will cause a significant issue even when driving at a low speed.

woman looking at vehicle handbook

Hitch Up

Your vehicle is secured to the trailer using a hitch, so to gain maximum security, it is critical to ensure the hitch ball is the exact right size. If the hitch ball is too small, you run the risk of your trailer coming off mid-journey, which is particularly dangerous if you are driving on a motorway at high speed. All hitches will come with detailed instructions, so it is recommended to get to know all of the parts before application.

When attaching a trailer to your vehicle, it is highly recommended to enlist the help of a friend or family member for an extra pair of hands. To complete the final step of the hitching process, you will need to reverse your vehicle towards the trailer, so having someone to guide you will make this considerably easier. Attempting to back up your vehicle alone means that you are likely to have to frequently get out of your car to check that you are near the neck of the trailer, and are in the right direction, ultimately, making the task increasingly tedious and prolonging the process.

For a full guide on how to attach a trailer, along with handy video tutorial, head over to the Driving Tests website.

trailer hitch

Practice Makes Perfect

It is never recommended to get straight onto the roads without any trailer towing practice. Operating a vehicle alone is very different from controlling not only a large vehicle but also a trailer at the back. You need to ensure that you are confident enough to deal with any situation that may arise before setting off. Although your trailer training course would have allowed you to develop your technical skills, it is more than likely that you have not been taught in your own vehicle with your own trailer. Just like when you passed your driving test and purchased your first car, it will take some extra practice to get used to different vehicle and trailer.

One of the hardest parts of trailer towing is turning tight corners and dealing with roundabouts, so try going to a quiet area and getting in as much practice as possible. It is also recommended to get used to parking and manoeuvres, just in case you have to do manoeuvres such as reverse into a parking space in a busy car park. Getting into good practice will make you overall more aware of the clearance you will have and how you can alter your driving to make it safer.

trailer and car

Regular Check-Ups

If you are driving a long journey, you are always likely to make regular stops for a coffee and to stretch your legs. During your stop always take a couple of minutes just to have an overall checkup and have a full inspection of your vehicle. The main aspects we recommend to check are your hitch, wiring and tyres. Have a little look to see if your hitch ball is still secure to the hitch nut and all the pins are secured to the drawbar, if it seems a bit loose, give it a tighten before setting off again.

Not only is it important to check the hitch ball, but also whether the breakaway cable remains secure. The breakaway cable acts as extra security if the trailer becomes unhitched during your journey; it will force the trailer to come to a halt before it has a chance to separate from the towing vehicle. Ensuring that your breakaway cable is still intact is imperative to make sure that you do not run the risk of a runaway trailer while on a busy motorway or dual carriageway.

Although you don’t need to check your tyre pressure at every stop, it’s good to check that they’re still feeling solid. If one, or a few, of your tyres, are no longer feeling solid then you will benefit from checking the pressure using a tyre pressure gauge. Similarly to the maximum towing capacity, the ideal tyre pressure for your vehicle can be located in the owner’s handbook.

service station road sign

Leave Space

One of the most important safety tips to keep in mind when you are towing a trailer is that you need to leave a lot more space between you and the vehicle in front than you would usually leave. The heavier your vehicle, the longer the stopping distance will be, particularly when driving in adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain or icy road surfaces. You need to brake gently, slowly and in advance to stop the trailer from swaying from side to side. In the event of a swaying trailer, it is highly recommended only to use the manual brakes as opposed to the tow vehicle brakes, as using the tow vehicle brakes is likely to make the swaying worse. Again, the more practice that you have, the more aware you will be of braking distances, how to keep your distance and manage swaying side to side.

Give Yourself Extra Time

If you are particularly worried about driving for the first time with a trailer, there is nothing wrong with leaving a little bit earlier than you planned to give yourself extra time. Allowing longer for your first journey will allow you to take your time, start off slow and build up speed when you feel confident to do so. The more control you have over your vehicle and trailer, the safer you will feel. Rushing not only forces you to drive somewhat faster than you would have hoped but also causes you to automatically become flustered and less capable of making quick, sensible and rational decisions.

busy motorway

Trailer Towing Safety Tips

At some point there may become a time where you will need to use a trailer, sometimes cars are just not big enough and cannot hold specific items. Whether you are new to trailer towing or you have towed a trailer in the past, your main aim is to get you, your passengers and your trailer to your final destination safely. You want to reduce the risk of any hazards and problems that may occur along the way, and the key to this is preparation. Preparation starts before you even set off on your journey and comes to an end when you have completed your trip. It will mean that your journey may take longer and you may have to make more stops, but will all be worth it to have a smooth journey.

We hope that our article has been helpful and solved any questions and worries you have in regards to trailer towing. If it was, feel free to share our article!

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