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Towing it right.

Every now and then, most of us have need of a trailer.  There are many different trailers and loads one can tow.  There’s the camping trailer for the weekend away; or what about the caravan, instead, for a little more luxury.  Perhaps some of us will have a horse and will require a vehicle to tow the horse float.   Most of us could do with a small trailer to get rid of household rubbish to the dump.  One thing that’s very easy to do, particularly if you have little experience, is to mismatch a heavy load to a small tow vehicle.  Now there’s no way a Mini is going to pull a tandem trailer full of wood without straining. What are some things to look out for?

Firstly, do you have the right vehicle to tow?  Some of the very small cars on the market are, in fact, not well equipped for towing. A lightly built vehicle is going to struggle to tow much more than 500 kg and sometimes the vehicle manufacture will actually state in the car’s manual that it is not fit to tow.  Do check whether your Ford Festiva or your Fiat Punto is actually recommended for towing.  Sometimes it comes down to the car’s structural integrity being too light to cope with the stresses that a trailer will put on the car’s bodywork and chassis – and the manufacturer will state this.

When considering towing, make sure that your car has good brakes, plenty of torque and power, is preferably rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive and has a suitably rated towbar for the task at hand.  Light trailers are, generally, fine for any type of car.

Front-wheel-drive cars with a load on the back are ok for light towing that is done on the flat; however, for heavier trailers front wheel-drive cars are not ideal. Their front wheels can sometimes struggle for traction and cause a lot of stress on the car’s driving componentry – particularly when going uphill on gravel roads.  In some cases, the gradients on gravel roads will be too steep for a front-wheel-drive car to cope with and you’ll get nowhere.  It’s very funny for bystanders to watch but not so great for the driver of the car, and the repair bills.

A little trick to remember when towing a trailer: Make sure that your load is well distributed on the trailer.  Have the heaviest part of the load sitting over the trailer’s axle/axles.  If you don’t distribute the weight correctly on the trailer, the unbalanced weight can greatly affect the vehicle’s handling, making driving dangerous.  Numerous times trailers that have too much weight behind the axle have caused the tow vehicle to jack knife.  Also, with too much weight sitting in front of the trailer’s axle the tow car can be pushed heavily down at the rear which lightens up the front end grip and steering characteristics – tow vehicles can sometimes keep going in a straight line instead of going around the corner when this is the case.

Do check that the bulk of the load is sitting over the axles and is secured so that the load does not move.

Try a bit of practice at backing!  It’s not always as simple as it might seem.  Do master it before heading down to the dump. Many times I’ve seen plenty of people smiling at the driver who is trying to back the trailer with little success.