Ten Tips for Safe Towing updated June 2019

Overtake whilst towing with great care - Pic: AL-KO
Overtake whilst towing with great care

Pic: AL-KO

Tip One: Speed

Never tow above 100 km/h (especially if overtaking). The lower the tow ball mass the lower your save maximum speed.

Tip Two: Maximum Weights

Never load a tow vehicle or trailer above the maximum weight limits stipulated by the manufacturers. Doing so is illegal, dangerous and will invalidate your insurance. Knowing the weight of your tow vehicle and trailer is as important as carrying your passport overseas.

Find out more about trailer weight definitions here.

Tip Three: Weight Ratio

Ideally, a laden trailer’s weight should not exceed 80% of a laden tow vehicle’s weight. If you follow this recommendation, in our opinion, you will have no need for a Weight Distributing Hitch. The use of such a hitch is advisable if the caravan's laden weight exceeds the tow vehicle's laden weight, but that vehicle's 'cornering power' is then inherently reduced.

Tip Four: Tow Ball Mass

It is essential that your trailer’s front end heavier than its rear. For camper trailers, not less than 5% of the trailer’s laden weight should be on the tow ball. For Australian caravans the percentage should be 8% to 10% (the longer and heavier the caravan, the higher the percentage needed). UK/EU-made caravans are by and large much lighter - they need 6% - 7%. This mass must remain reasonably constant. It should not vary as water tank content varies.

Tow ball mass has been long proven to be related to stability. The lower the percentage of trailer weight on the tow ball, the lower the stability and the lower the so-called critical - at which a strongly yawing (i.e./ lateral swaying) caravan cannot be driver corrected.

 Any heavy trailer over about 5 metres with less than 5% tow ball mass is (in RV Books' opinion) virtually an accident waiting its opportunity to happen. Its critical speed may be as low as 50 km/h. Find out more about critical speed here

Tip Five: Weight Distribution

Heavy items in a trailer should be stowed low down and close to the axle(s). Only store lighter items higher up and away from the axle(s). Never store heavy items and especially not at the front or rear of the trailer.

Tip Six: Height

Keep everything as low as feasible across your entire rig consistent with adequate ground clearance. The lowest part of a rig is usually the tow vehicle’s differential housing/s or exhaust.

Tip Seven: Tow Vehicle Choice

Choose a tow vehicle that:

  • Has a maximum towing capacity greater than the laden weight of your trailer
  • Has an adequate maximum tow ball allowance for your trailer
  • Has the longest possible wheelbase (i.e. distance between its front and rear axle/s)
  • Has the shortest possible distance from rear axle to tow ball

Find out more about choosing the right tow vehicle here.

Tip Eight: Trailer Choice

Choose a trailer that:

  • Is as light as possible
  • Is as short as possible
  • Has the longest possible distance between the tow ball and its centre of mass (extended A-Frames help, but at the expense of increased turning circles).

Tip Nine: Tyres

Use ‘Light Truck’ tyres to assist trailer and tow vehicle handling. Their stiffer sidewalls enable them to carry their maximum weight at all times, and they are better able to resist yaw and snaking. But they are a little noisier and have a slightly harder ride compared to normal tyres.

Never increase the tow vehicle's front tyre pressure for towing. It assists stability if you reduce them by 14 kPa (2 psi). Always increase the tow vehicle's rear tyre pressures by 7-10 kPa (50-70 kPa) whilst towing. In borderline cases using the pressures reduces the need for a WDH.

Tip Ten: Why Caravans Roll Over - and how to prevent it

Our just released book - Why Caravans Roll Over - and how to prevent  - it explains just how and why caravans roll over. It has many pages that advise how you can reduce the risk.

An invaluable feature is a Q &A that enables you to assess your own rig's likely stability - and how to remedy the failings.

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This article is based on content from our featured RV books. These books contain extensive information on a range of topics of interest to RV users and potential buyers. By purchasing a book, you are not only educating yourself but also supporting the work of independent RV writers. If you have found this article useful, please also visit the RV Bookshop.


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