Tow like a pro: all the top tips

Karen Engelbrecht
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 WHAT TO KNOW: Make sure you know all the facts about your car and trailer before you set off on your merry way this holiday. Image ~ Shutterstock
Extended families mean more luggage for road trips... Be it prams, more bags, toys or bicycles, trailers come in handy. We share everything you need to know to tow like a pro.

Your car is out of boot space and you’re out of patience, but there are a few things to know before you go out heading for the perfect trailer.

Towing Capacity Know the maximum weight of the trailer that your car can tow. If the trailer is too heavy, damage to the car’s engine or transmission could occur. This information can be found on a sticker either under the bonnet or on the inside of the doors. Or, try the owner’s manual or do a search on the manufacturer’s website.

Spare a thought  The tow ball is the all-important link that keeps it all together, one should pay attention to how hard it can work.

According to Caravan SA, three figures to keep in mind here are the tow ball static load, tow ball maximum drawing capacity and nose weight.

Tow ball static load: This is the maximum downward force that can be applied to a tow ball.

Tow ball maximum drawing capacity: Not all tow balls are created equally and this figure will tell you how much weight yours can carry.

Noseweight: This is the mass of the trailer measured at the tow hitch, a figure that’s regulated by law in South Africa. It’s advisable to talk to your car or trailer’s manufacturer about this number before setting off on holiday.

Size matters Be realistic about what your car can tow. A Toyota Auris 1.6 might have a fairly impressive towing capacity of 1300kg, but that doesn’t mean you can just hook any trailer or boat to the back. For this and other cars with similar towing capacities, like the Opel Astra or VW Golf 6, medium-sized trailers with no add-ons would be best. SUVs would obviously be able to tow more.

Keep in mind Driving with a trailer in tow requires a completely different approach. To keep things balanced, distribute the weight of the luggage in the trailer evenly. It’s advised to put heavier objects to the front of the trailer, while the lighter items go towards the back.

Change of pace The car is now heavier, which means it’ll take more acceleration to get going and more braking to stop. Keep this mind when going up or down hills, or when there are other cars around. You want to anticipate a brake, not be surprised by it.

Practice extreme caution when going around bends, especially the sharper ones. Rather go slow and keep people up, then swerve around a bend, putting your family in danger.

Most important The vehicle is now longer, so you have to go further when passing someone on the road. It’s best to not attempt this on an uphill if your car isn’t powerful enough.