What does it feel like to tow a trailer? (A guide)

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: What does it feel like to tow a trailer? We will explain everything there is to know: how to properly load and hook a trailer to your vehicle, how to know what type of trailer your car can tow, what does the law say about towing a trailer and how to safely tow no matter your driving experience. 

What does it feel like to tow a trailer?

Towing a trailer often feels like something is lightly tugging back on your car, especially when braking and coming to a full stop. Towing a trailer should never feel too light, or or the contrary, you shouldn’t feel that the trailer is pushing your car forward. 

While the use of a trailer facilitates the transport of bulky items, it requires certain precautions to be taken to use it without encountering any problems. It is therefore imperative to check that the load is well distributed and strapped.

  • To tow more easily, distribute the trailer load well – Above all, you should not concentrate the weight on the rear of the trailer to prevent the rear of the car from rising up. This could cause loss of grip and make emergency braking or quickly overtaking another vehicle dangerous (risk of trailer overturning).

It is therefore advisable to balance the load between the trailer and the vehicle or, if the trailer is not full, to centre the contents in the trailer.

  • Make sure you secure your trailer load – Your entire load must be securely strapped and as secure as possible. Any loss of load could cause an accident downstream of the road and would engage your responsibility.

What are the rules for towing a trailer?

Driving while towing a trailer requires adapting your driving style and being particularly vigilant. Remember, in fact, that:

  • you multiply your braking distances by two when your car is towing a trailer; it is, therefore, imperative to reduce your speed and lengthen the safety distances that separate you from the vehicle in front of you on the road.
  • In case of overtaking, your acceleration is much less than that of your unhitched vehicle.

What is the list of checks to be carried out when loading your trailer?

Before setting off, make sure that:

  • the loaded weight is in accordance with the capacity of your equipment;
  • the hitch and ball of your trailer are tight;
  • the hitch flywheel is tight;
  • the safety chains are correctly attached;
  • the connections and connections between your vehicle and the trailer are effective;
  • the lights and indicators on your towing vehicle and on the trailer are working properly;
  • the mirrors attached to the fenders of the towing vehicle are properly adjusted;
  • the tires on your car and trailer are inflated;
  • The tire pressure (including that of the spare wheel) is well adapted (do not hesitate to add 0.3 to 0.5 bar to the standard for the rear tires of the towing vehicle. The tires of the trailer have in general a pressure of 3.5 to 4 bars);
  • the load distribution in your trailer is correctly balanced (the heaviest is to be placed at the front);
  • The load is well harnessed and secure.

Can I tow any trailer?

According to the Highway Code, the actual weight of the trailer may not exceed 1.3 times the actual weight of the towing vehicle.

The total laden weight of motorcycle trailers, tricycles, motor quadricycles or mopeds may not exceed 50% of the unladen weight of the towing vehicle.

Speed limits for towing a trailer

According to theHighway Code, if a road combination (towing vehicle with trailer) has an authorized total rolling weight of more than 3.5 t, it must comply with the following speeds:

  • 60mph – on a highway or dual carriageway;
  • 50mph – on a single carriageway;
  • 50mph – other roads outside the urban area;
  • 30mph – built-up areas.

However, taking into account the addition of a trailer, it is necessary to adapt your driving and consequently your speed to take into account the alteration of braking distances and road holding.

The required and advisable thing is to circulate in the right lane whenever possible. The rest of the lanes should only be used to overtake or when the traffic density forces them to be divided, as well as to facilitate the entry of other vehicles that want to join the road. In fact, driving in the left lane for no reason is punishable.

If driving on the right and we only use the rest of the lanes to overtake, traffic is more fluid and risk situations are avoided, such as a car travelling on the right having to change lanes twice to overtake another vehicle that circulates through the centre. It is also dangerous to overtake on the right, which is also prohibited. 

The safest thing is to maintain a uniform flow in circulatory flow. If we always go to the right, we avoid that many cars go zigzag, trying to overtake, thus avoiding risky situations.

Can I remove the hitch ball when done towing a trailer?

There is no legal provision expressly requiring the removal of the coupling device, once you have removed the trailer.

However, the Highway Code indicates that any vehicle or trailer must be fitted out in such a way as to reduce as much as possible, in the event of a collision, the risk of bodily accidents, both for the occupants of the vehicle than for other road users. 

Also, if the coupling device does not have any protruding, sharp or pointed parts which could be considered as likely to increase the risk of bodily injury in the event of a collision, its removal is not compulsory.

If, on the other hand, it should have these characteristics and you do not remove it, you risk a fine of $68. Also be aware that in the event of a claim, the trailer hitch, unlike a persistent rumour, does not automatically imply your liability. 

This is determined solely by the circumstances of the accident (position of vehicles, signalling, etc.) which must be reproduced on the amicable report, which it is recommended to complete with precision.

Do I have priority on towing a trailer?

When driving on narrow or degraded roadways, when the vehicle crossing is made difficult or in complete safety, due to the profile or the condition of the roadway, drivers of vehicles whose gauge or load exceeds 2 meters wide or 7 meters long, including a trailer, must reduce their speed and if necessary stop or park to allow the passage of vehicles of smaller dimensions.

When on mountain roads and on steeply sloping roads it is difficult to cross, the descending vehicle must stop first. If the crossing supposes that one of the two vehicles must reverse, this manoeuvre is necessary:

– to a single-vehicle compared to a set of vehicles (for example towing a caravan);

– the lighter vehicle of the two;

– a goods transport vehicle with a GVWR greater than 3.5 t compared to a public transport vehicle.

If the vehicles are of the same category, it is the driver of the descending vehicle who must reverse, unless this is obviously easier for the driver of the ascending vehicle (e.g. if he is near a parking space). ‘avoidance).

In addition to the risk in terms of safety, not respecting these rules exposes the driver to a fine of $135.

Final advice

All necessary precautions must be taken to prevent the loading of a vehicle from being a cause of damage or danger. Any load overflowing, or which may overflow the outer contour of the vehicle due to transport oscillations, must be securely anchored (such as long parts which must be securely anchored to each other and to the vehicle). 

Chains, tarpaulins and other accessories, mobile or floating, must be fixed to the vehicle in such a way that they do not come out of the outer contour of the load at any time and do not drag on the ground. If you do not respect these provisions, you risk a fine of $68.

Passenger transport assumes that the vehicle is equipped with seating positions and that it has a seat belt. A trailer is a vehicle not intended for the transport of people and not equipped with seats cannot, therefore, allow the transport of people.

There is only one way to drive well with a trailer: you must be calm. You are on an adventure, so enjoy it! Still, here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Take turns wider than usual, to leave the trailer its own space to “round off the trajectory”;
  • Brake and accelerate more smoothly than usual. In fact, you will increase the safety distance with other vehicles because the excess weight will increase your braking distances by approximately 20 to 30%.
  • Avoid speeding: the small trailer tires get hot; Likewise, on trailers that are not very rigid, swaying can occur and it can become tense … Some modern cars have ESPs that incorporate the presence of a trailer, but they are still rare on the market. 
  • If you are overpassing a vehicle slower than you, consider your hitch’s length and not fall back too quickly.
  • You also have to “read the road”, scan it, anticipate bumps, potholes, tight bends, anything that could panic a gyroscopic sensor.
  • Before you have to back up into a tight spot at the end of your journey, it’s best to practice in a larger parking lot!

Please let us know if you have any comments, questions or tips on towing a trailer. 

FAQ on What does it feel like to tow a trailer?

Can you increase a vehicle’s towing capacity?

You can’t increase a vehicle’s towing capacity as they are engineered with a specific capability. Some cars weren’t designed for towing at all!

How do you tell if you are towing too much?

You know that you are towing too much if you are over the GCWR and if your vehicle is leaning, or there is lots of bounce when you hit bumps along the road.

What is the maximum length of caravan you can tow?

The maximum length caravan you can tow varies between 28 feet and 53 feet. The maximum allowed length varies depending on the state in which the caravan is registered. That is why, please consult the table below for a more specific answer.


Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!