Car Advice

Top 5 towing myths you should know

Towing a trailer is simple until it all goes wrong, and that might be avoided by not believing some of these myths.


Myth: You don’t need trailer brakes if the trailer is 750kg or less.

It is true that medium and large 4X4s typically have an unbraked tow rating of 750kg, which leads to a lot of 749kg ATM (aggregate trailer mass) trailers. However, that’s the legal maximum. Smaller vehicles may have an unbraked tow mass of as little as 300kg. Examples are pretty much any non-SUV or 4X4 – the Mazda 6 tows 550kg unbraked, and the Kluger can manage 700kg unbraked. Even if you’re technically permitted to tow an unbraked trailer, believe me, having brakes on the trailer suddenly becomes a really good idea when you need to stop in a hurry, and if you tow offroad.

Myth: The braked trailer weight is realistic.

For all sorts of reasons, the maximum braked tow rating often comes with caveats hidden in the fine print, which means the impressive headline figure may not be usable in the real world. Examples include payload restrictions on the towcar, use of special towbars, a weight distribution hitch, insufficient towball mass for a heavy trailer (say 100kg for a 2000kg trailer), or a speed limit when towing.

READ MORE: Why a 3500kg tow rating may not really be a 3500kg tow rating

Myth: As long as the towball weight is within limits, the trailer weight is ok.

No way. It is entirely possible to have an in-limits towball mass by putting a heavy weight on the drawbar, and another right at the back of the trailer. For example, on the drawbar: four jerry cans, two gas bottles, and a storage drawer. Then at the back, two large offroad tyres and some bicycles. You now have a balanced trailer with the dynamics of a weightlifter’s barbell.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about towing heavy trailers

Myth: Power and torque are all you need.

Powerful vehicles are not necessarily good towcars. Look at the HSV GTS which can tow a mere 1600kg yet boasts 430kW and 740Nm. On the other hand, the Land Rover Defender of 2004 managed just 90kW and 300Nm yet was good for 3500kg, and it really could tow that weight thanks to a strong transmission, cooling system, chassis and a short overhang with a longish wheelbase.

Myth: You can always recover from sway by accelerating.

The theory is correct, accelerate to reduce sway. The reality is different. Sway generally happens at higher speeds, let’s say 95km/h. How well do you think your rig will accelerate at that speed? Is it even safe or possible to do so? In the real world, it’s unlikely. Sway is best avoided in the first place by correct trailer setup such as all weights within limits and weight centralised.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper