A Motorist’s Guide to Trailer Towing

Towing a trailer brings with it many aspects, and care must be taken when towing and also when selecting a tow bar or trailer. If a driver has little or no experience towing a trailer, they need to understand the principles of adding towed weight to a vehicle and the dangers it can present. Vehicle handling changes the moment you attach a trailer, and this must be recognised, and whether the vehicle is front, rear wheel drive or 4-wheel drive, as this also has a bearing on the handling.

Safety First

Towing a trailer presents a driver with many issues that are not present when the vehicle is unattached, and the way you drive must change accordingly. There are many things to consider, such as the type of tow bar you will use, and if you wanted to buy a tow bar online, the supplier would be able to recommend the correct unit. Braking is critical, and the vehicle would need to have a wiring harness fitted next to the tow bar, which provides the electrics for the trailer, which are used for indicators, lighting, and in most cases, brakes.

Weight Limitations

How much weight your vehicle can tow would be specified by the vehicle manufacturer, with the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) a critical factor. This includes the dry weight of the vehicle, plus the liquid (fuel), passengers and any cargo, plus the weight of the laden trailer. This limit must never be exceeded, as towing a trailer that is too heavy is a quick route to disaster, and if you are in any doubt, consult with an established trailer and tow bar supplier, and once they have the relevant information, they can make recommendations.

Handling the Vehicle

Your vehicle might be an RV, for instance, and modern vehicles are both powerful and handle well, yet once you attach a trailer, everything changes. The extra weight means it takes more distance to stop and all turns should be taken as wide as possible. Sudden changes of direction are not recommended, as this can cause the onset of trailer swing, and that can have disastrous consequences if the correct action is not taken. Unless absolutely necessary, strong braking is not recommended, as this will cause the trailer to push to one side, especially in the wet. One should always remember that the extra weight is present, and prior to commencing any trip, one should check all the connections, making sure that brake lights and indicators are fully operational. A walk around the vehicle for a close inspection is the best practice before setting off, and providing weight limits are not exceeded, and the tow bar is suitable, you should have no problems.


Obviously, this should not be a common occurrence when towing a trailer, but when you do overtake, make sure you have adequate room, as your vehicle is much longer and heavier than usual. Normally, one can accelerate to make the manoeuvre safe, but remembering that your vehicle’s acceleration capabilities are seriously hampered when towing will ensure you avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The first few times you drive the trailer, special care should be taken, and after a short while, you will become accustomed to the vehicle handling, which is completely different when towing.

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