Safe caravan and trailer towing tips
Caravan and trailer towing is more difficult than normal driving, so there’s a lot of rules to regulate it. Here are five rules you need to know.
Last updated 28 January 2020 by Editorial Staff
THERE’S PLENTY OF good, and some not-so-good, information on caravan and trailer towing available. But there’s also some rules and tips that not many towers know about. These can, of course, vary depending on which state you’re driving in.
Did you know that:
- The “750kg no brakes” rule isn’t a rule – most of the medium to large 4WDs can tow 750kg unbraked, but not always. Even the Toyota Kluger can tow only 700kg unbraked, and smaller vehicles such as the Suzuki Vitara may be down as low as 400kg unbraked, like most roadcars. So, it’s not right to say that you never need brakes for trailers 750kg and under. Trailer brakes are a great idea for anything over 200kg, and especially if you’re going to tow offroad. Oh, and watch for trailers that weight 749kg and don’t have brakes…2kg of load and you’re over 750 so you need to tick the brake option box anyway.
FURTHER READING: Top 5 – skills for trailer towing
- A tow tongue may be double rated – this one can do 350kg oriented normally, but invert it to gain a bit of height and the rating drops to 250kg. This towbar also shows that the new Hilux has a variety of different braked tow weights depending on transmission and engine; only the manual diesel 4X4 is 3500kg.
FURTHER READING: All you need to know about towing heavy trailers
- You need independent trailer brakes above 2000kg – that means overrun brakes ae not permitted. The main reason for this is so you can control trailer sway, which is best handled by applying the brakes on the trailer only. You also need a breakaway system so if the trailer disconnects from the towcar then the brakes are automatically applied.
FURTHER READING: Why a 3500kg tow capacity isn’t really a 3500kg tow capacity
- Chains – trailers up to 2500kg require just one chain, over 2500kg two, however double chains are always a good idea, and cross them over so they can catch the drawbar if it disconnects.
- The vehicle’s maximum tow capacity is the lesser of several factors – as an example, a 2012 Ford Ranger is rated to tow 3350kg. Later models were uprated to 3500kg. If a 2012 model is fitted with a towbar rated to 3500kg then it’s still only rated to tow 3350kg as per its door placard, despite the fact the towbar can handle more. Same deal for the tow tongue and everything else in the chain.
FURTHER READING: How to check the age of your trailer tyres
A few other rules – you can’t tow more than one trailer at a time, no passengers are allowed in trailers, learners are not allowed to tow, and for weights above 3500kg you need a 70mm ball (“normal” ones are 50mm) which is good up to 4500kg, and beyond that a pintle.
You may also like to calculate your caravan’s towball mass using the interactive Ball Weight Calculator.
There’s plenty more, some arcane and some not, but you’d better know them because the authorities certainly do and educating yourself by the side of the roadway is less than ideal. The most important deal with weights, and those are explained in the links below.