Towing Regulations / Towing your boat

Whilst it may seem daunting to the newcomer, towing an average-sized trailer is really easier than it looks. Two of the most important things to have when you tow are basic common sense and the ability to adjust your driving. When towing, everything you do whilst driving needs to be done at about half the speed when compared to driving without a trailer. When you turn, do it slower. When you accelerate, do it more gentler. When you brake, allow yourself more space in which to stop. And when you change lanes, remember to allow room for both your vehicle and the trailer.

Towing a trailer carrying a boat is not difficult. In most cases it is much easier than doing the same with a caravan with the same length and beam, as the wheels are visible when manoevering a boat trailer. Also rarerly are your mirror obstructed like is the case when towing a caravan.

Towing Rules

Although many of the rules below have a UK bias they generally apply world wide.

1.When towing a trailer you are restricted to a maximum speed of 50mph on single carriageway roads, and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways, provided no lower limit is in force. In the UK you are not allowed to use the outside lane of a three or more, lane motorway when towing, except where there are lane closures which restrict the lanes to two or less, or when instructed to do so by the Police.

2.If you tow a small trailer without brakes, the weight of the trailer is limited to 50% of the kerb weight of the car or 750kg, whichever is less.

3. When towing larger trailers that have brakes fitted, the weight of the vehicle should not (as a rule of thumb) exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. If brakes are fitted they must work whether they are a legal requirement or not.

4. Most vehicle manufacturers state the maximum towing limit in their hand books, but you must bear in mind the total weight including passengers and luggage, also any items put in the caravan or trailer. The weight can soon add up.

5. You must be licensed to tow. You need C1 to drive vehicles exceeding 3.5t mam (Maximum Authorised Mass) with a trailer exceeding 750kgs mam and B+E to drive a car/car derived van or small goods vehicle not exceeding 3.5t mam pulling a trailer exceeding 750kgs mam up to the gross train weight of the vehicle concerned.

6. Whilst towing you must have third party cover for your trailer as well as for the tow car.

7. If you are towing a boat with an outboard motor you must use a reinforced plastic bag or bucket or the propeller and outboard legs. Similarly masts there must be no sharp edges which could cause injury.

8. The lightboard should be no more than 1.5m from the ground or 2.1m if the structure of the vehicle makes it impracticable. Indicators must flash in unison with those of the towcar and a dashboard warning light or buzzer must be fitted.

9. The number plate on the trailer must be identical in shape, and colour to that on the towcar.

Towing Tips

1. Make sure your trailer is regularly serviced and maintained. It is not wise to leave your trailer unused for the majority of the year before taking it out on the road without checking it for serviceability, brakes and tyres in particular.

2. If your trailer has brakes, a common problem that may occur is that brake cables and linkages could seize. This may cause the brakes to bind, over heating the wheel bearings. This may result in the wheel, complete with the hub assembly, parting company with the trailer.

3. Check all lights are working and that electrical cables do not drag on the road.

4. Many problems associated with towing a trailer are caused by incorrect loading. Try to put all heavy items over the axle and make sure they are secured to prevent movement when cornering or braking. If possible, put heavier items in the car and larger lighter items in the trailer.

5. The trailer should be level.

6. If towing in France it is recommended that a complete set of replacement light bulbs and a warning triangle is carried in the car.

7. As long as the trailer is evenly loaded, nose weight is correct and the whole outfit sits level on the road you are unlikely to experience a problem with snaking.

8.A stabiliser will reduce snaking by increasing the turning friction between towing vehicle and trailer. However a stabiliser will not compensate for bad loading, weight distribution.