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How to tow like a pro


IT'S that time you fear again where many of us hook up our trailers, caravans and boats and head off to our long awaited holiday destinations. Now as simple as it might sound, towing a trailer does carry some risks. Many accidents happen on our roads due to the fact that the trailer was not secured properly or even a loss of control. We have compiled a list of things to check before you tow something.

1: Before you start hauling an endless amount of cargo into a trailer or hitch up your caravan, it's best to know the towing capacity of your car, bakkie or SUV. An easy way to find out the towing capacity of your vehicle is to check the owners-manual. Towing too much weight can cause a myriad of problems, no matter how big and powerful your engine is.

2: Check that all your connection points are secure. Many trailers tend to stand outside, in the elements. This can cause some parts to rust and become brittle. Make sure you check everything before loading it up. Give your trailer a good going over and sort out any issues long before you head off to your destination. Also, make sure that the trailers wheels are in good condition and that the spare wheel is inflated. You don’t want to be stuck along the highway because you were not fully prepared.

3: Make sure that all the lights on your trailer are working. It is not ok if even one light is out. Be responsible and check that they all work. If necessary, replace all the globes. This is not a costly thing to do yet it can save you from receiving a hefty fine or prevent an accident as many people tend to travel at night time. Make sure that the electrical connection on your trailer and car are in good condition.

4: Check the mirrors on your car. If you are pulling a big caravan chances are that your rear view mirror will be pretty useless. If your caravan or boat is wide then this has the potential to obstruct your side view. Without the ability to see the cars behind you by simply looking up, switching lanes becomes a much more dangerous manoeuvre. We advise that you get extended wing mirror attachments. You can get these from most outdoor-orientated stores or from a caravan dealer.

5: Check your speed while towing. It’s nice to feel the power from your car’s engine but when towing, things can get out of hand quite quickly as most cars these days are so powerful we tend to forget that we are towing. With the added weight and length of a towed vehicle, the faster you travel, the more dangerous things will get. Increasing your speed will increase the amount of trailer sway behind you and make it much harder to stop quickly without the risk of fishtailing or even flipping. Speed also makes it more difficult to manoeuvre in traffic. Staying cautious and aware is the best way to ensure a safe trip while towing - so, slow down!

6: If your towing skills are a bit rusty, try practicing for a few days. Don’t be that person blocking the parking lot at the Harrismith Wimpy because you can’t reverse with your trailer.Choose an area that's far away from traffic, like an empty parking lot, and perform simple driving tasks with everything hitched up. Try reversing and using your mirrors, pay close attention to the vehicle's turning radius. Learn to accelerate and brake slowly on longer stretches of road - remember, the more weight you're carrying, the longer it's going to take to slow down.

7: Once you have checked the trailer and all of its components and when you are satisfied that you are a trailer towing pro spend some time on your car. Towing a heavy trailer or caravan can put strain on your engine, especially with this heat that we are experiencing. Make sure that your cars liquids are toped up and that you have taken it in for a mechanical check. Make sure that the rear axle is in good condition and that the wheel bearings are all good. Check your tyres and make sure you inflate them to the recommended pressures for towing. Don't over load your car.

8:Finally, make sure that you have the numbers for emergency services close at hand as well as a first aid kit, not just for you but for other road users as well. There is always a witness to an accident, be an active one. Obey the laws of the road and be cautious when travelling. Get to your holiday destination safely and enjoy your much needed time off.

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