Towing

If you’re planning to tow a trailer or caravan, you’ll need to check your licence allows you to do so.

  • If you passed your test before 1 January 1997, you’re generally allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes.
  • If you passed your test on or after 1 January 1997, you may tow a trailer behind a category B* vehicle, as long as the trailer is not over 750 kg. You may tow a trailer over 750 kg MAM as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle (with a combined weight of up to 3,500 kg in total).

*A category B vehicle is a four-wheeled vehicle with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of no more than 3.5 tonnes, which has not more than 8 passenger seats (not including the driver’s seat).

For more information about the licence rules for towing with a car, see GOV.UK.

If you need to upgrade your driving licence to tow a caravan, you’ll have to take a practical test covering

  • an eyesight check
  • 5 ‘show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions
  • driving on the road, including dual carriageways, one-way systems and reversing
  • coupling and uncoupling.

The test costs £115 if you take it on a weekday: see GOV.UK for full details of practical test fees.

For more information about the car and trailer (B+E entitlement) practical test, see GOV.UK.

Remember to check your insurance policy before towing: not all policies will cover it.

If you need to use a recovery service while towing, check whether it can recover a trailer or caravan. It’s a good idea to carry a spare wheel for your trailer or caravan and other equipment so that you can make minor repairs if necessary.

Use your vehicle handbook to check the maximum size and noseweight of trailer or caravan that your car can safely tow and how to attach a trailer or caravan to it. It’s important to follow these recommendations otherwise you could damage your vehicle or cause an accident.

Coupling and uncoupling a trailer or caravan

Take care to couple the caravan or trailer to your vehicle correctly, following the instructions in the vehicle handbook. Before you set off, check

  • the trailer or caravan is loaded correctly, with the right noseweight on the tow bar
  • the breakaway cable or secondary coupling is properly connected
  • the lights and indicators are connected and working properly
  • the jockey wheel and assembly is fully retracted and stowed
  • the braking system is working correctly
  • all windows and doors are closed
  • the tyre pressures are correct, the tyres are the correct sort and in good condition
  • any fuel supplies, such as liquid gas cylinders, are secured and turned off.

When you’re uncoupling the trailer, lower the jockey wheel and corner steadies then disconnect all the connections.

Driving with a trailer or caravan

Towing a trailer or caravan will create extra blind spots around your vehicle. Make sure that you check carefully all around you before manoeuvring your vehicle. You may not be able to use your interior mirror so fit side mirrors with extended arms to help you see past the caravan or trailer.

There’s a lower national speed limit for all vehicles towing trailers

  • on a dual carriageway or motorway, maximum speed 60 mph (96 km/h)
  • on a single carriageway, maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h).

If there are 3 or more lanes on a motorway, you must not drive a vehicle towing a trailer in the right-hand lane.

Towing a trailer or caravan will change the way a vehicle handles. You’ll need to

  • allow more time for braking
  • give yourself 3 times the normal distance and time to overtake safely
  • allow for the extra vehicle length, particularly when turning or emerging at junctions – you might need to take a different position on the road to give you enough space to turn.

If you use your brakes too heavily; for example, when going downhill, your vehicle may suffer brake fade – a loss of braking power caused by the brakes getting too hot. To help avoid brake fade

  • change to a lower gear
  • use engine braking to slow the car
  • do not allow the car to coast.

‘Snaking’ is when the trailer begins to swerve from side to side while you’re driving. If this happens,

  • ease off the accelerator slowly
  • reduce your speed gradually until the snaking stops.

Reversing with a trailer takes particular care because the trailer can move in a different direction to the one you’d expect. You can get detailed guidance on reversing from caravanning organisations. If you can, practise reversing in a quiet car park.

Remember that your caravan may be higher or wider than your car: check whether there are any height or width restrictions on your route.


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