How to take the stress out towing to your holiday destination

Brian Joss – The year-end holiday exodus is approaching fast – which for many will mean getting the trailer out and loading it up. Brink Towing Systems, the Pietermaritzburg-based company which manufactures, imports and distributes Brink tow bars,  reminds motorists that towing requires additional planning and preparation, and even more awareness and anticipation out on the road.

“Choosing a quality tow bar and having it expertly fitted – along with the associated wiring harness – is a good starting point,” says Mark Gutridge, managing director of Brink. “But long journeys with a trailer bring with them different challenges for the driver and for some it will be the only time of the year they tow.”

For the benefit of all motorists, Gutridge has provided some guidelines when it comes to the various systems and other things that need to be considered: Tyres – after the towing hardware itself, tyres are the mainstay of towing safety so take a careful look at them well ahead of a trip. Aged tyres are brittle tyres and will have less grip and may even fail suddenly. Don’t forget the spare and ensure you have the appropriate tools to change it.

Shock absorbers – the shock absorbers for your trailer will work harder the more you load it but a lightly laden trailer can be very nervous and even more so if the shocks aren’t doing their job. The tow vehicle’s shock absorbers are also critically important in ensuring stability. Get them tested on a proper shock absorber tester if you’re not sure.  

Brakes – where applicable, make sure the trailer’s brakes are in working order – once again don’t overlook the towing vehicle and the quality and age of its pads and brake fluid. The maximum gross mass allowable for a braked trailer is 3 500 kilograms – in the case of a caravan this will be the weight of the ‘van itself plus any contents; or in the case of a trailer, its weight plus whatever it is loaded with. An unbraked trailer may not exceed 750 kg gross mass.

Tyre pressure – refer to the vehicle owners’ manual to see what the recommendation is.  both the trailer and the towing vehicle’s pressure are critical.  

Trailer maintenance – wheel bearings, lights, wiring in general and mandatory reflective surfaces often get overlooked. Don’t wait until the day of your departure to discover something isn’t right. Also, is the licence up to date?

Lights – test your lights beforehand. Wiring connections deteriorate over time and anti-oxidant spray can work wonders. Talking lights, remember to adjust your headlights so as not to blind oncoming traffic. 

Loading – When the caravan is hitched onto the towing vehicle it should be level, or better, slightly nose down.  The vertical load, or weight ‘at the ball’ should also never be more than 100 kilograms (the maximum legal limit). If necessary, rearrange the contents of the trailer/caravan to achieve this result. Maximum towing stability comes from having most the weight slightly ahead of the axle and use the vehicle’s loadbed/luggage compartment to equalise the weight distribution as much as possible.

Gutridge has a final piece of advice: “Holidays should be about good memories, so slow down. Changing direction and braking is going to require significantly more time and distance – give yourself room to manoeuvre and pay attention to the following distance. Use your indicators well ahead of time so that other motorists can see what you’re planning on doing. Take frequent breaks and use these stops to inspect what is going on behind your tow vehicle.”

CAPTION:  Planning: getting ready to tow. Picture: Motorpress

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