Top long weekend towing tips
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Woohoo! The long weekend is here and, for a lot of us, Labour Day is the perfect excuse to head off somewhere, often with a boat or caravan trailing behind.
But are you prepared to drive a vehicle and trailer combination that could weigh several tonnes?
Here are our top tips for safe towing.
Before you set off
Check your trailer has a current WoF sticker, registration label and plate and that all lights are working.
When loading the trailer, ensure the trailer weight doesn’t exceed the vehicle’s capacity to tow it. Overloading could compromise your vehicle’s braking ability, cooling system, transmission, clutch, or even the engine’s longevity. Check the manual or our guidelines at aa.co.nz/towing-weights.
In addition to towing weights, ensure that the downwards force on the towbar doesn’t exceed manufacturer specifications — this is often referred to as “ball weight”.
Four useful tips to remember when loading a trailer:
1. Spread the load evenly across the floor or deck of the trailer, keeping the height as low as possible. Make sure heavier or larger items are placed at the bottom. Doing this correctly will help to avoid the potential risk of the trailer swaying.
2. Arrange loads so that objects aren’t sticking too far out the side (the maximum towing width for a simple light trailer and its load is 2.55m). Minimise any projecting loads to reduce the risk of injury.
3. Position the load on the trailer as close to the axle as possible. Avoid placing heavier loads towards the rear of the trailer and ensure there’s a downward force at the point of attachment to help improve the overall handling while towing.
4. Secure the cargo to prevent shifting while travelling. Objects will move around as the vehicle brakes, turns, accelerates and drives over uneven surfaces, so prepare for every condition when strapping down.
It’s also a good idea to keep on top of the regular maintenance of your trailer. A poorly maintained trailer can be a hazard to yourself and other road users as it is hard to tow safely — no matter how good you are at towing.
The following basic checks should be carried out periodically:
● Check the trailer’s tyre pressures and look for signs of wear or damage.
● Clean all lights and reflectors.
● Check that all lights are working.
● Take it to a garage to check the tow coupling and brake mechanisms are well lubricated.
● Jack the trailer up, spin the wheels and listen out for any rumbling noises as this may indicate worn wheel bearings.
● Check that all tie-downs or chains are tight and positioned correctly.
Familiarise yourself with the road rules for light vehicles towing trailers and the vehicle’s tow rating. The maximum open road speed is 90km/h, as long as you have a rigid connection between the vehicle and trailer.
Most vehicles are awarded tow ratings by the manufacturers, while also specifying the recommended gross trailer weight. The NZ Transport Agency says “although the law does not require these tow ratings to be followed, we recommend that they be taken into account”.
The law also requires you must be able to stop from 30km/h within a distance of seven metres.
While you’re towing, be conscious of your steering and braking. Allow extra space for stopping, apply the brakes lightly before turning and always use a lower gear when travelling downhill.
Be aware of any swaying from the trailer . Many new vehicles have anti-sway technology but swaying can be reduced by avoiding sharp steering.
If you encounter sway, don’t apply the brakes as this might cause the trailer to jackknife. Back off the accelerator allowing the vehicle to gradually slow down.
Follow these tips, and your long weekend journey will go off without a hitch (pun intended).