• Is Your Car Ready to Tow?

Is Your Car Ready to Tow?

What you need to know before hitching up

Before you consider heading off on your adventures with your caravan, you need to make sure the basics are covered, and that involves checking that your car is ready to tow. After all, if it isn’t, you won’t be getting very far!

Making sure that your car is ready to take on the task of pulling your caravan here, there and everywhere is unfortunately not as simple as just fitting a tow bar; though this is a big part of it. 

Here we’ll talk about what you need in order to tow your caravan, and the questions you should ask yourself to work out whether your car is ready. 

Do you know your car’s capacity?

In the case of your car’s towing capacity, ignorance of the limits won’t cut it. It’s vital that you consult your vehicle’s handbook for information on what your vehicle is capable of towing. 

You should find out the Gross Train Weight permitted (which includes the weight of the fully loaded car with a fully loaded caravan combined), which is also known as the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass.

The best thing to do if you’re purchasing either a new car or a new caravan is to check the compatibility of the caravan with the car. You can do this via TowCheck, which checks the safe and legal weight match between a car and a caravan. The nominal fee is well worth the peace of mind it provides, and it’s a check we run for every customer that buys a caravan here with us at Tamar Caravan Centre. 

A rule of thumb that we make our customers aware of, particularly those who are towing for the first time, is the 85% rule. This is a guideline that suggests that the fully laden weight of the caravan should not exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the tow car. The kerb weight is the partially laden weight of your car. 

Regardless of the car you’re using to tow, in the UK, the width of the caravan you can tow is 2.55 meters maximum. If the vehicle is below 3.5 tonnes in weight (that’s 3,500 kilograms), the maximum length of whatever it’s towing should only be 7 metres or less.

Have you got the right equipment? 

In addition to a car that’s legally able to tow your caravan, you’ll need to have the following items covered: 

…a tow bar

Here at Tamar Caravan Centre, you will always find us stressing the importance of not only the right towbar, but one that’s correctly fitted too. For vehicles manufactured after 1998, you will need the tow bar to be fitted with a European Type Approved towbar. 

Equally important is the correct towbar wiring system, as universal electrical systems rarely interface with modern vehicles, particularly those with trailer stability programmes onboard. 

…caravan brakes

If the laden weight of your caravan comes to over 750kg (which it almost always will do), there must be a fully operational braking system installed on the caravan. 

Not only should you be frequently checking the brake functionality on your caravan (just as you would your car’s), you should also be making sure that the breakaway cable is ready to work correctly if needed. 

…extendable mirrors

In order to see the road properly and therefore travel safely, you’ll need extendable mirrors to be fitted to your car if your caravan is wider than the car towing it. In fact, it’s illegal to travel without extendable mirrors if this is the case. 

…lighting 

Be safe, be seen, as they say. At the rear of your caravan, there must be two side lights, two stop lights, amber indicators, and two triangular red reflectors. There should also be fog lamps at the front and back. Build a visual inspection of these into your caravan maintenance routine. 

…number plates

Your caravan should have a number plate that matches your car (provided it’s the one towing it). The specification of the number plate should also be the same as the car’s, so no handwriting on a piece of cardboard. It should have a light above it too, to make it visible at night.

Is your car in good health?

The last thing you want when you’re touring is for your car to fail you, putting a dampener all those summer plans with a roadside breakdown. Before you start touring, take time to check the following: 

Tyres

Your tyres should be above the legal tread depth of 1.6mm, and filled with air to the recommended PSI - you can find out what this is for your vehicle via the handbook or a sticker located within the car. 

Brakes

When it’s safe to do so, check your brakes, and seek a professional opinion if things don’t feel quite right. It’s best to rectify advisories on brake discs and pads before you start touring.

Lights and levels 

All the bulbs in your car should be working, and screenwash, coolant and AdBlue (if applicable) should be topped up too. Checking your oil level should also be a priority. 

The towing connection 

Make sure that the towing electrics are functioning as they should - particularly if they haven’t been used for a little while. We offer towing health checks here at Tamar to set your mind at rest. 

Do you know the rules? 

In addition to your car’s readiness to tow, you personally should be ready too. Luckily, following an update on towing regulations made in 2021 that made it easier for most people to tow, it’s quite straightforward. 

If you have a standard car licence and are under the age of 70, the combined weight of the car and caravan (or motorhome and trailer) that you can tow can be up to 8,250kg.

If you are over 70 with a standard car licence, you are only able to tow vehicles that can be safely towed by a 3,500kg towing vehicle. 

Do you have to take a test in order to legally tow a caravan? 

Prior to 2021, those who passed their driving test after 1997 didn’t have categories B+E (the ones that allow you to tow something as heavy as a caravan) added to their licence automatically like people who passed before 1997 did. Instead, another test was required to get these categories added.  

However, since 16th December 2021, no test has been necessary for anyone under the age of 70 to tow, and anyone passing their test automatically has these categories added. 

For those who passed their test between 1997 and December 2021, the categories are automatically on your DVLA driving record. They will appear on your licence if you get a new one issued to you, either because you’ve changed your personal details, or at your 10 year renewal. 

Caravan towing do’s and don’ts 

Do…

Don’t…

Pack heavier items in the caravan close to the axle - the aim is to distribute the weight evenly, and not to place heavier items at the far back or front of the caravan.

Carry passengers in your caravan while in transit

Research cars before you buy one if you’re planning to use it to tow a caravan - they need to be well matched - the TowCheck website is such an easy way to check car and caravan compatibility. 

Exceed 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways

Leave plenty of time - you can’t rush corners when you’re towing a caravan

Exceed your car’s towing weight capacity

 

Drive in the outside lane of a 3-lane carriageway 

Get help with towbar fitting in Plymouth 

As the main connection between your car and your caravan, there’s pressure on you to get the installation of your towbar right. This is something we’re proud to be able to help with here at Tamar Caravan Centre; our accessories shop staff and our caravan technicians are, together, the dream team for getting you towing safely. 

To find out more about the towbar you need, head to this page where you can contact us here at Tamar Caravan Centre, where we’ll be able to help you find the right towbar, and get it fitted properly to your vehicle. 

You can also shop towing accessories in our online accessories shop. Get in touch with the team today for help with working out whether or not your car and caravan are compatible.