Going on a camping holiday, moving house, or even transporting a horse somewhere? Our tips for towing a trailer will take away some anxiety and help you feel confident on the roads.
We know that towing a trailer can be a little bit unnerving, especially if it’s particularly big or heavy. If you’re not used to doing it, you might not be totally sure how to tow a trailer safely and easily.
Be properly equipped
First things first, you have to make sure you’re equipped to tow your chosen trailer. This means that you need to have the right car, tow bar, and other safety equipment.
Make sure you’ve gotten to know your car specs and requirements by reading the manual. Ditto for your trailer. Will they complement each other? Is it safe for one to be hooked to the other?
How much can you tow?
The maximum towing weight is either the amount specified by your vehicle manufacturer, or the capacity of your towbar. You must obey whichever one is the lowest amount.
You should also be careful that you don’t exceed the Gross Combined Mass of your car. This refers to the total amount that your vehicle, plus whatever it’s carrying, is permitted to weigh. This includes your trailer.
For argument’s sake, let’s say your gross combined mass is 3000kg and your vehicle weighs 1000kg. You would have 2000kgs available (absolute maximum!) for the trailer itself as well as the trailer load. But then you also need to add the weight of the vehicle occupants and any gear they’re carrying.
If you exceed this and you have an accident, your car insurance is very unlikely to cover you.
What about mirrors?
Under Australian law, you’re required to use towing mirrors if you are towing something wider than your vehicle. Even if not, they can be useful to give you a better field of vision. Any added peace of mind can only be a good thing, right?!
Being able to see what’s around you when towing a trailer is crucial for road safety. Mirrors will also make it easier to park, turn, change lanes, and navigate around any objects.
Towing a trailer safely: What to remember
The main thing to keep in mind when towing a trailer is that you’ll have to drive more cautiously. The added weight and size of the vehicle means it takes longer for you to stop, slow down, accelerate, overtake, and turn.
You’ll need to plan well in advance for slowing down or stopping. More than you’re used to. Which means you need to be even more alert to what’s going on ahead, behind and around you. Remember to leave a longer stopping distance between you and the car in front of you.
If you’re driving in bad weather, you’ll have to be even more careful. Check out our blog article on driving in wet road conditions for more tips.
Leave extra time for your journey as well. You don’t want to be in a panic about being late, because it’s crucial that you drive smoothly and cautiously once the trailer is hitched up.
If you need to overtake while towing a trailer, ensure the gap is plenty big enough. You’ll also need to compensate for potential trailer sway – yet another reason to stick to a sensible speed. If you do start to sway, keep calm and hold your course while slowly easing off the accelerator (no braking!)
General tips to keep in mind when you’re towing a trailer:
- When speeding up and slowing down do so steadily – you’re controlling two vehicles
- Don’t brake suddenly – you could cause the trailer to jack knife
- Remember not to ride the brakes – just go a little slower
- Check your tyre pressure before towing – incorrect pressure can cause trailer sway
- Be careful not to turn too tightly – again, move as slow and steady as possible
Towing a trailer: Tips for cornering
When you first start to tow a trailer, you’ll immediately notice that you can’t go around corners the same way you do in a regular car. Not only is your vehicle’s effective length much longer, it’s also heavier and less stable.
Going around corners and roundabouts with a trailer isn’t difficult, but you do have to keep a few things in mind.
Here are our tips for towing a trailer around corners:
- Remember that the trailer will always turn ‘sharper’ than the car. That is, the inside wheels of the trailer will travel further inward than the vehicle
- Turn wider than usual to allow for this and to give yourself time and space
- Remember the extra width and length of your trailer. Be mindful of poles, road edges and similar
- If you do accidentally turn too tightly, stay calm. If it’s recoverable, pull over safely then wait for the road to be clear before reversing slightly. Not sure how to reverse? Watch this video. Then, take a wider track for the second attempt
Now you’ve got the hang of it, we hope you enjoy your trailer trip. And if it’s a driving holiday, you might want to read our
Car insurance and trailers
If you’ve followed all the laws, then a car accident while you’re towing will still be covered by comprehensive car insurance. Get a quote here.
Towing a trailer – over to you
Any tips from the towing pros on how to tow a trailer successfully? Let us in on the secrets over on our