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Tow safely this Easter

2014-04-09 12:54

ARE YOU PREPARED? The Easter holiday is fast approaching. Is your vehicle, trailer/caravan in good running order? Image: Thule

Sub-standard tow balls and incorrect installation are a sure-fire way to spoil the Easter holiday season by bringing a trip to a premature end – sometimes with disastrous consequences.

That’s the view of Mark Gutridge, managing director of Thule Towing Systems SA, which retails a range of tow-ball trailer hitches as both original and after-market equipment.

Gutridge said: “The tow ball is not only a critical physical link between car and trailer but also carries an electrical partnership between the two.

"A growing number of new vehicles on the market are designed to identify the presence of a trailer the instant it is plugged in and adjust the behaviour of systems such as electronic stability control accordingly."

DO PROPER CHECKS

People towing trailers this Easter (and any other time of the year, really!) should also pay attention to South African legal requirements, the most fundamental of which is that the gross vehicle mass may not exceed the tare weight of the towing vehicle.

This means you should also take into account the trailer's load. The tow-car's tyre pressures are another critical aspect of towing and extra attention should be paid to manufacturers' pressure recommendations for towing.

When a caravan is hitched to the vehicle it should be level with the car or, better, slightly nose-down. The caravan should never be nose-high at the tow ball; any trailer should be heavier at the tow ball.

This vertical load varies from vehicle to vehicle but should be between 45 and 75kg and never more than 100kg – this is the legal maximum legally although some tow balls are tested to more than double that and indicate this on the their plate.

The weight "at the ball" can be measured with a conventional bathroom scale, using the maximum rating for that vehicle printed on theplate as a guideline (taking cognisance of the 100kg legal limit).

DON'T OVERLOOK FUNDAMENTALS

The trailer’s contents may need to be rearranged to achieve the desired result. If the tow ball doesn’t have a type plate the possibility exists that it could be home made – in which case one should be very wary about towing with it.

Gutridge said: "It is very easy to overlook the fundamentals of towing – such as reducing speed and adjusting headlights beam height to take the trailer into account.

"Consider that the trailer many have been standing - exposed to the elements – since the December holiday so give it a proper "once-over" - especially its tyres condition and pressure.

"With a bit of planning and this kind of attention to detail towing can be a pleasure rather than a nightmare." 

Thule Towing Systems has an office hours helpline: 0861 84853 or to go http://www.thuletowingsystems.co.za/
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