Top towing tips for your next holiday road trip

Caravans, boats and trailers, are considered to be a part of your vehicle when you’re on the road…

With December fast approaching, many of us have started planning our holidays and will likely be road tripping to the coast or into the mountains for a much needed break.

Of course no trip is complete without packing everything but the kitchen sink. I know our family holidays always included a trailer, we would never have fitted everything in our car.

Imperial Auto has put together its top tips on towing safely and we figure there isn’t a better time to read this than just before your road trip begins.

First off, it’s worth remembering that caravans, boats and trailers, are considered to be a part of your vehicle when you’re on the road. It’s therefore vital that you keep your caravan or trailer properly maintained, and that you bear these important safety hints and tips in mind:

·         Start with your towing vehicle: make sure that it is in good running order, that the tyres have good tread, that your wheels are balanced, and that your shock absorbers are in premium condition.

·         Make sure that your vehicle has the legal capacity to pull your caravan or trailer.  It is vital that the GVM (total mass of the caravan loaded) is less than the Tare of the vehicle. If the mass of the caravan or trailer exceeds the Tare of the towing vehicle, the law requires that electric or hydraulic brakes be fitted.

·         Check your tyre pressure – on your car and on your trailer or caravan. The harder the tyres, the less movement there is in the tyre wall, and the less the vehicles will tend to sway or roll. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the ideal tyre pressure for each of your vehicles.

·         If you let the tyre pressure down to drive in sandy conditions, don’t forget to pump the tyres again when you go back onto normal road conditions.

·         Make sure that your tow bar is SABS approved, and that it is at the correct height for the vehicle you are towing – ideally 350mm – 465mm from the ground.

·         While you may be tempted to pack everything and the proverbial kitchen sink into your caravan, it’s important to pack carefully to ensure stability on the road. Pack evenly, and balance the weight over the wheels. The SABS recommends that 10% of the GVM should be carried on the nose of the caravan.

·         Travel with empty water tanks if there is water that you can use to fill them with at your destination. If you have to travel with water, make sure that the tanks are full, as the water will not move around. Water in half-full tanks will move around, causing instability.

·         Have your caravan or trailer serviced regularly to make sure that the brakes and rear lights are working properly.

·         Have the axles on your caravan or trailer checked regularly to make sure that they are straight and aligned – particularly if you have been travelling off-road or over potholes.

·         Consider fitting towing mirrors to your vehicle. While they are not required by law, the law does specify that you should be able to see adequately behind the vehicle that you are towing – and why not get as much help as you can to be safe?

·         Take your caravan, motorhome or trailer to any Campworld store, where experts can help you complete all the required safety checks.

·         Keep control of your speed. While there is no legislation in South Africa governing the speed of a towing vehicle, it is recommended that you don’t travel faster than 100km per hour.

·         It is illegal to tow a trailer behind a caravan. Just don’t do it.

·         If your vehicle and caravan or trailer become unsteady on the road, just remove your foot from the accelerator and hold the steering wheel steady until the vehicle is under control.

·         If you need to stop in an emergency, use the ABS braking functionality of your car, or brake and release to emulate ABS braking to stop safely.