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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

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

See 'Towing a caravan or trailer - the safety regulations' for more information.

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, 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

More advice about towing from the Highways Agency

The Highways Agency 'Fit to Tow' DVD and 'Hitched' magazine highlight the safety risks involved when towing a caravan or trailer.

The DVD shows how to:

  • attach your caravan or trailer
  • maintain it when not in use
  • carry out a quick safety check

'Hitched' magazine contains detailed advice about towing.

Download the 'Fit to Tow' checklist or 'Hitched' magazine by following the links below.

You can also watch the ‘Fit to Tow’ film on the Highways Agency website.

Or, you can call the Highways Agency to order:

  • the ‘Fit to Tow’ DVD
  • a hard copy of the ‘Fit to Tow’ checklist
  • a copy of ‘Hitched’, which includes a free UK road atlas

Additional links

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