How to tow caravans and trailers

The type of caravan or trailer you are legally allowed to tow will depend on when you passed your test and 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 and what you can do if you’re not currently entitled online at www.directgov.co.uk (opens in a new window).

Getting carried away

Before you make plans to set off with your goods in tow, there are some basic checks to make. You mustn’t overload your vehicle or trailer and should look at your trailer and car handbooks to find out what the recommended maximum weight is. Whatever load you are carrying must be securely fastened down and must not be sticking out dangerously. Take care to ensure that there is 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 and you need to ensure a downward load on the tow ball. Again, check your handbooks for the recommended maximum weight and tow ball load. This is particularly important to avoid the possibility of swerving, snaking and losing control. If this does happen, ease off the accelerator and reduce your speed gently to regain control.

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 ensure 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 the off

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 reclamp, attach the break away 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.

Insurance questions

If you take out car insurance with Churchill, your caravan or trailer would be covered under the same policy as your vehicle when you are towing it but only at third party only level. If you are unsure whether it would be covered, or would like the level of cover increased (e.g. to comprehensive) under a separate policy, just give us a call.

Get a quote