Tow safely this festive season

Things you need to know before towing these holidays

Reuben Van Niekerk

If you will be towing a trailer, boat or caravan this festive season it should be done correctly to avoid damage to your vehicle, accidents and our roads. These five tips will go a long way in ensuring a safe towing experience.

Service trailers correctly

Before setting off on your journey it is important to make sure that the trailer or caravan has been properly serviced by a competent and accredited repairer. Very often trailers and caravans stand idle for long periods of time and this is not good for a variety of components. It is important to carefully inspect the brakes, if fitted, electrical connections and components such as lights and cables. Special attention needs to be given to running gear such as wheel bearings and tyres. It is important to remember that it is not only a tyres tread that is important but also the condition and age. A tyre might still have lots of tread on it but could be well past its safe usage date.

Make sure that you have the correct spare wheel, tools and equipment to change the spare wheel. Your jack should be rated for the trailer as well as the load you will be carrying.

Check your licences

It is important to make sure that the trailer is correctly licenced and that you as the driver have the correct licence. A South African drivers licence determines what you can drive and what you are allowed to pull. It is very important to bear in mind if what you are towing falls within the legal requirements in terms of the combined weight of your vehicle and the trailer you are towing.

Budget accordingly

It is important to consider the cost of fuel and fuel consumption before heading off on holiday with a trailer or caravan in tow. Towing will have a significant effect on your fuel consumption and can as much as double your normal fuel consumption. This will mean additional costs and the need to stop more regularly.

Watch your speed

Speeding is the number one cause of accidents when towing. Drivers need to be aware that your stopping distance will be far longer when towing and it will exponentially increase as your speed does. Passing heavy vehicles can also create a vortex, which can affect the stability of the towing combination. It is important not to use excessive braking when navigating steep descents as this can cause brakes to overheat and not work efficiently, rather select a lower gear to slow the rig down and limit the reliance on the braking system.

Spread the weight

Weight and the distribution thereof is an important factor in ensuring a safe and stable towing experience. If more than 40 percent of the weight is placed behind the axle, the trailer could become unstable and therefore at least 60 percent of the weight should be loaded in front of the axle. This is important to remember when loading, especially when it comes to long trailers or the contents that is loaded inside a caravan.