Towing a caravan or trailer - driving tips and advice
Make sure you are fit to tow by following advice from the Highways Agency. Find out how to prepare your vehicle, drive safely and check that you have the right insurance.
General towing advice
Always check the manufacturer's advice about the maximum weight your trailer can carry.
Before you set off make sure you:
- understand the safety regulations
- have the right driving licence
- know your car's maximum tow weight
Check your roadside recovery service
Check whether your motoring organisation will recover both your vehicle and what you are towing, if you break down. This isn’t usually the case with standard trailer cover, so you may need specialist breakdown cover. Without this, it may take longer and cost extra to get your trailer or caravan towed off the road.
Do a basic safety check
Make sure your caravan or trailer is properly serviced and fit to be on the road. This is especially important if it’s left standing for most of the year.
Before you set off, check that the:
- lights work properly and aren’t damaged
- tyre pressure is correct and all the tyres are in good condition (they can quickly deteriorate if not properly maintained)
- coupling is secure, level and at the right height
If your caravan has a coupling with internal friction pads, such as an Al-Ko stabiliser, make sure that the towball is clean, dry and free of grease.
Finally, always check that you have attached the trailer or caravan securely to the vehicle and that weight is distributed as advised by the manufacturer.
Fit a breakaway cable
A breakaway cable is a thin cable that will pull on the brakes of a braked trailer. On an unbraked trailer, use a short strong cable or chain to keep the trailer attached to your car. The cable will prevent the nose of the trailer from touching the ground if it’s separated from the car.
Take an emergency kit
Just in case you break down, it's a good idea to carry:
- a mobile phone
- a warning triangle or flashing light
- jump leads
- a torch
- a warm jacket
- membership details for your breakdown and recovery service
Drive with extra care
Remember that when towing a loaded caravan, horsebox or trailer:
- you'll be slower moving off
- it will take longer to slow down and stop
- it will be difficult driving around sharp bends
Reversing may be particularly difficult, so it's best to practise before you set off. Always:
- make sure the area behind you is clear before you start
- be particularly aware of children and other pedestrians
- ask someone to watch and guide you if possible
Know the speed limits
Always stick to the following limits:
- 30 miles per hour (mph) on all roads with street lighting (unless a sign shows otherwise)
- 50 mph on a single carriageway (unless a sign shows otherwise)
- 60 mph on dual carriageways and motorways
On the motorway
Remember, on the motorway you must not:
- drive over 60 mph
- use the right-hand (fast) lane on motorways of three or more lanes
Park with care
Parking carefully is as important as driving carefully. For example:
- avoid leaving a detached trailer on a public road
- if you park a trailer - whether hitched or not - on a public road at night, you must leave the lights on
- avoid parking your trailer on long grass as the moisture could damage it
- on a level surface off public roads, park with the handbrake off to prevent the brake drums seizing up, but place a chock under each wheel.