Churchill magazine

How to tow caravans and trailers

Updated on: 27 April 2021

towing caravans and trailers

The type of caravan or trailer you're legally allowed to tow will depend on the type of driving licence you hold. You mustn’t tow more than your licence permits, so find out how the rules apply to you at GOV.UK.

Are you loaded correctly?

Before you make plans to set off with your goods in tow, there are some basic checks to make.

  • Don't overload your vehicle or trailer. Read your trailer and car handbooks to find out what the recommended maximum weight is.
  • The load you're carrying must be securely fastened down and must not be sticking out dangerously. Take care to make sure that there's no chance any animals can break free.
  • The weight in your caravan or trailer must be properly distributed.
  • Heavy items should be loaded mainly over the axle.
  • Make sure of a downward load on the tow ball.

A different path

The rules of the road change when you get hooked up to a caravan or trailer. When travelling on single carriageway roads, you mustn’t exceed 50mph, and the maximum for dual carriageways and motorways is 60 mph (assuming no lower limit is in force). Don’t use the outside lane of a three, or more, lane motorway (unless there are lane closures or the police instruct you to do so). 

You wouldn’t drive off in an unroadworthy car, so it’s equally important to make sure your trailer is in tip-top condition. Don’t overlook the importance of having it regularly serviced and maintained. Check the condition and pressure of the tyres, and the brakes if it has them.

Ready for departure

Reverse your car up to the trailer if the trailer is too heavy to move. Adjust the jockey wheel so that the coupling head is around two to three inches above the ball hitch on the back of the car. Ask someone to guide you, so that the ball hitch is underneath the coupling head.

Lower the jockey wheel and lock the coupling head onto the ball. Continue winding the jockey wheel to fully retract it into its outer case. Release the clamp lever and raise the whole unit and fully re-clamp, attach the breakaway cable or securing chain to the hook on the tow bar and connect the electrical plugs to the car.

Check all the lights are working (you may need to adjust your headlights when towing another vehicle), that the cables aren’t dragging on the road and that the trailer handbrake is off.

Getting around

Bear in mind that you have extra length and width to take into consideration when taking corners or manoeuvring in your vehicle and trailer. Make sure you leave enough room and keep an eye on both door mirrors. Be aware that a small trailer will be harder to reverse than a large one, as it is more sensitive to steering. 

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