If you are towing a trailer, you immediately come to realise that this is a different beast to just driving a single vehicle. Driving your 4WD or towing vehicle on its own comes naturally after a while – you get to know how it handles. But hitch up something on the rear end and you are talking some different thinking.
It all depends on your rig of course, but here are some golden rules to help make the towing experience a stress-free one:
- Make sure your vehicle is rated to tow the weight of your caravan/trailer. You can find out the relevant information from the vehicle dealer. You need to understand the terms Aggregate Trailer Mass, Gross Trailer Mass, Tare Mass, and Tow Ball Mass which you can find in our post Trailer Mass Weights). Then you can ensure that your rig is within appropriate safety margins.
- Check the vehicle coupling so that the line through vehicle to alloy trailer is as straight and parallel to the ground as possible. This of course should be measured with both components on the same flat surface. Don’t forget the safety chains too.
- Load the towed vehicle appropriately – not too much weight to the front or the rear and try to keep the mass as low as possible. Keep all items as low and central as possible – and don’t forget to secure them sufficiently to prevent them rolling around during travel. Correct loading will make for a more efficient ride and minimise sway.
- In Australia you must have brakes if the caravan/trailer is over 750kgs or 1654 pounds. Further more, if the trailer is over 2000kg or 4409 pounds a breakaway system must be fitted also.
- When you are driving do everything slowly and smoothly – accelerate gradually, brake gradually, do not make sudden sharp turns, steer smoothly to minimise sway. Always be conscious of that mass following you. If you do start to sway, don’t use the towing vehicle brakes; continue at the same speed or accelerate slightly to counteract the sway. If you have manual over-ride on your machine trailer brakes use this to combat the sway.
- To help with the above, consider installing a rear view camera. Of course you also need well adjusted driving mirrors.
- Check your towed vehicle regularly – not just before the trip, but at regular rest stops too. Tyres OK? Wheel bearings not overheating? Coupling OK?