Many people use their car for towing another vehicle, often a trailer or caravan.  If you've never towed before, here are some helpful tips and advice.

Legalities and safety

It is a legal requirement that a full driving licence is held in order to tow a vehicle of any description.  Drivers who passed their test before 1 January 1997 may drive a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8.25 tonnes.  After this date, a combined weight of 3.5 tonnes may be legally driven, but an additional driving test is required for heavier combinations.

It is essential that the towing vehicle is suitable for the job.  The towing vehicle engine must be powerful enough, and the brakes must also be sufficient to stop the vehicle and trailer safely.  The gross weight of the trailer and load (total weight) must not exceed the towing vehicle's capabilities.  As a general rule of thumb when towing, the trailer should not exceed 85 per cent of the towing vehicle's kerb weight; the kerb weight being the total weight of the vehicle, including a full fuel tank and 75kg allowed for the driver and additional vehicle contents. 

Towing checklist

Before setting off on a journey, always ensure that the trailer is correctly and securely attached to the towing vehicle.  Drawing up a checklist is useful to ensure that nothing is omitted. Keep this on hand until you're more experienced.

  1. Apply the trailer handbrake.  
  2. Remove any tow ball covers or electrical connection socket covers.  
  3. Detach the safety breakaway cable.   
  4. Lightly oil the tow ball.  
  5. Manoeuvre the towing vehicle into position, and use the jockey wheel to raise the front of the trailer, and then lower the coupling head onto the tow ball.   
  6. Make sure the locking handle clicks to indicate that the coupling head is firmly locked on.  
  7. Raise the jockey wheel a further few turns to ensure it is not in contact with the ground before locking it fully raised.  
  8. Re-attach the breakaway cable ensuring that it does not touch the ground.  This will apply the handbrake in the event of the trailer becoming detached whilst towing.   
  9. Plug in the electrics plug, and ensure all lights and indicators are working correctly.  
  10. Adjust your external mirrors so that you can see clearly.  
  11. Make sure that the number plate of the towing vehicle and the trailer are matching.  
  12. Check all tyres for cuts, damage, and bulges.

Tips whilst towing

When loading the trailer or caravan, make sure that the load is evenly distributed to avoid snaking when the vehicle is moving.

When on the move, always remember to allow extra stopping distance and plenty of clearance when overtaking stationary vehicles.  Always take time to practice and perfect reversing and manoeuvring with the trailer attached well before your journey.