4x4 Off-roading in Kent ›› Driving ›› Safety Checklist before Towing

Basic Safety Checks When You Tow

This guide explains how to perform a few basic safety checks before towing (e.g. when pulling a trailer, caravan, or horsebox with a car) to make sure they are safe and legal.

Important: Using a vehicle or trailer in a dangerous condition can result in a £2,500 fine, a ban from driving, as well as three (3) penalty points on your licence.

Checking the Tow Ball and Connections

You want to make sure the ball and hitch coupler used to tow a trailer is legal and safe.

Thus, check that you (all):

Furthermore, using a breakaway cable (or a secondary coupling) would engage the brakes on the trailer (where applicable) or bring it to a complete stop if it becomes detached from the vehicle towing it.

Using a breakaway cable is a legal requirement in certain circumstances (e.g. towing a caravan with MTPLM 750kg to 3500kg).

Hence, according to the manufacturer's recommendation, make sure that it (all):

Trailer Lights and Indicators

Check for any signs of damage to the trailer brake lights and indicators. Do a quick test to make sure they come on when they should.

Inspecting the Wheels and Tyres

Beside checking that the tyres on the car as well as the trailer are all safe and legal, you should also make sure (all):

All tyres should have a tread depth of at least 1.6 millimetres across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference of the tyre.

Note: The wheel nuts and bolts should be tightened in the correct sequence and to the correct torque (the turning force that causes rotation).

Trailer Load and Weight Limits

Never overload a trailer! Furthermore, secure the cargo in the proper manner so it won't fall out - and distribute it 'evenly'.

How to Find the Weight Limit of a Car?

You can get accurate information about car weight limits for towing a trailer on the vehicle manufacturer's plate. If not, you should find the details in the car's handbook.

How to Find the Weight Limit when Towing with a Car?The Maximum Technically Permitted Laden Mass (MTPLM) will include any passengers, fuel, and any other loads carried.

  1. Maximum weight of the car (on its own)
  2. Maximum weight of the car and trailer combined
  3. Maximum weight for the front axle of the car
  4. Maximum weight for the rear axle of the car

Trailers with a Braking System

If a trailer is fitted with brakes, the car and the trailer when loaded must not weigh more than the second weight limit as shown on the car manufacturer's plate.

Trailers without a Braking System

If a trailer is not fitted with brakes, the loaded trailer must not weigh more than 750kg (and not more than fifty percent of the weight of the car).

Towing a Trailer or Caravan with a Car

The national speed limits still apply even when you tow a trailer. Furthermore, you should 'slowly' reduce your speed if the trailer starts to swerve, sway, or snake.

Snaking (e.g. moving from side to side) could be a sign that you have a punctured tyre, or any of the following circumstances:

Important: Do not drive in the right-hand lane of any motorway if it has three (3) or more lanes. The rules on what you can tow may differ depending on whether you got your licence before or after the 1st of January 1997 and the 'maximum authorised mass' (MAM).

Licence and Age Requirements for Towing

If you have a full car driving licence (category B) you can use an online tool to check whether you are old enough for towing a trailer. The facility will also tell you if you have the correct licence to tow from different vehicles.

A full car licence already lets you tow trailers. Find out what you can tow with a car.