Whether you are taking garden waste to the recycling centre or you are towing your new kayaks to the nearest launch spot, more people are investing in trailers. After all, why not? They give you valuable extra storage space and allow you to carry large or messy items without getting your car dirty. And with staycations looking as though they will be sticking around for a while, we are likely to see more trailers on the road.
While cars have to pass an MOT test, trailers aren’t subject to the same safety checks and restrictions. In this series, we talk through how you can make sure you are hitched up correctly, and how you can maintain your trailer to keep you and other road users safe. Whatever you are driving or towing, however, the law is clear: you can get three penalty points and be fined up to £2,500 if you drive (or tow) a vehicle in a dangerous condition.
Here’s what you need to know about hitching up:
- Tow ball – check that the trailer is correctly fitted and that the electric board plug is undamaged.
- Breakaway cable – this will engage the brakes, if you have them, on the trailer or prevent the trailer from leaving the car if the tow hitch fails. Ensure that it is undamaged. You also need to ensure the cable is long enough that it won’t accidentally engage the brake, but not so long that it will drag on the ground.
- Wheels and tyres – ensure these are in good condition. Even if they have not been used much and the tread looks in good condition, rubber can perish so you need to change your tyres at least every four years – if in doubt, check with your local tyre specialist.
- Lights – check the lighting board to ensure that indicator and brake lights are working properly (and at the right time!).
- Number plate – you should have a spare number plate displayed on your trailer.
- Loading – make sure that your trailer isn’t overloaded, that your cargo is secure, and that the load is evenly distributed.
- Weight limits – check your car’s maximum weight allowance for maximum load weight – this is the weight of your trailer, as well as the vehicle’s contents (including passengers). If you don’t have brakes, your trailer must weight no more than 50% of your car’s weight, and less than 750kg.
If you are unsure about towing, you can get lessons – these will improve your confidence and safety on the road and could reduce your insurance premium. Check with your local driving instructor to see if they offer towing lessons – if not, they may be able to signpost you to your nearest centre.