Trailer Towing

Quite a few members will be taking their beautifully restored Morrises up to Queanbeyan on the back of a trailer. Some may have considerable experience in loading and towing a car trailer over a long distance, but for others, this may be their first time. The following is a list of reminders and tips for those who plan to tow their cars.
Firstly a few towing terms:

ATM: Aggregate Trailer Mass or the complete weight of the loaded trailer or caravan.
Ball Weight: is that share of the ATM placed on the tow vehicle’s towbar.
GTM: Gross Towing Mass is the ATM minus the Ball Weight.

Why is ball weight critical?
– The ideal ball weight is usually about 10% of the caravan or trailer’s ATM.
– If it’s too light, there’s not enough downward pressure to ensure safe towing. The combination will ‘snake’ under tow, especially down hills.
– If it’s too heavy the tow vehicle’s rear suspension will be forced down, affecting the vehicle’s braking and steering.
– If it’s not within the limits specified by the vehicle manufacturer, it’s illegal.

Do trailers need brakes?
– Up to 750 kg GTM no brakes are required.
– From 750kg to 2,000kg GTM, efficient brakes are required on at least one axle. (The caravan industry has it’s own 1600kg limit for 10″ electric brakes on a single axle.)
– Above 2,000kg GTM brakes are required on all wheels, they must be capable of activation by the driver and a breakaway (brakes activate automatically should the trailer be disconnected) must be fitted.

Before setting off with the trailer loaded, there are a few things to consider to ensure the safety of your vehicle, belongings and other motorists.
– Check the vehicle is suited to the type and size of the trailer.
– Ensure the vehicle and trailer are in sound mechanical condition, roadworthy and registered.
– Don’t overload and check the loads you are carrying are evenly distributed and properly restrained.
– Ensure that fittings, couplings and safety chains are fastened if you are towing.
– Make sure your number plate and registration stickers are not obscured.

On the Road with a Trailer
If this is the first time you have used the particular trailer, don’t wait until the day you are leaving to try it out. Load your car onto it beforehand and take it for a decent run to make sure there are no major problems.
– You will need to concentrate more and use different driving techniques to handle the additional demands placed on you.
– Look further ahead than usual to anticipate the movement of other traffic and likely road conditions.
– Keep a greater distance to the vehicle ahead as the added weight of the trailer requires more road space in which to stop.
– If overtaking other vehicles, allow more distance in which to do so.
– On long or steep downhill grades select a lower gear to increase control of the vehicle and place less stress on the brakes.
– Reduce the risk of sway developing by avoiding sudden lane changes or swerving.
– Strong side winds can cause sway with large rigs such as caravans. If conditions are very bad, it is better not to tow.
– If a long queue develops behind you, where possible let the following vehicles overtake you. This may mean pulling over and stopping from time to time.
– To avoid fatigue take more regular breaks to get rest and refreshment. Share the task of driving if this is possible.

What can I do if the Trailer starts to wander from side to side in a snaking motion?
Most snaking takes place because the caravan or trailer is improperly loaded. The first thing is to avoid panic. It’s likely this condition will occur gradually. Don’t ignore any first signs of trailer sway. But if it starts, slow down by taking your foot off the accelerator. Let vehicle speed decrease but do not put your foot on the brake pedal, which can make the situation worse. Allow the steering wheel to move a little bit to reduce the pendulum effect. Once you’re down to a safe speed, carefully apply the brakes and stop. You should then readjust the load or determine what else might be causing this condition.
Make sure you load as much weight as possible over the axle and check that the ball weight is adequate. With a car trailer, move the vehicle forward.
Avoid carrying anything heavy close to the rear of the trailer.

There are also a number of sway-control devices available to stop this condition before it begins.