Towing a caravan: How big is ‘too big’?

towing a caravan B+E legal UK maximum weight training perthshire towingIt’s not easy to figure out whether your licence will cover a certain size of caravan. What’s more, there are other regulations to consider as well (all primarily focussed on keeping yourself and other road users safe). The advice below is taken directly from the gov.uk website.

Making sure you are legal

perthshire trailer training B+E training caravan perthshireAs is the case when towing other trailers in the UK, you will need to check the date on which your driving licence was issued. If it was before 1st January 1997 you will normally be allowed to tow a vehicle and trailer combination with a combined weight of up to 8,250kg (however, check your licence details to be sure).

If your licence was issued after 1 January 1997 then the situation is different. You will need to gain a B+E qualification if you want to tow a certain size of caravan. A lot depends on the weight of your towing vehicle.

If your car weighs more than 3,500kg then the maximum trailer/caravan you can tow is 750kg. However, you can tow a larger caravan, provided the combined of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.

You can find more details about staying legal when towing by clicking this link.

If you want to tow something beyond this weight (or even if you feel unsure about towing your caravan) then please get in touch to book either a complete course or even a refresher/reverse course. You can find my contact details by clicking this link.

Making sure your caravan is legal

is my caravan road worthy UKIf you’re qualified to tow your caravan there are a few other things to consider before taking it out on the road:

First and foremost is probably the most obvious; your caravan needs to be in a safe, road-worthy condition. (You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving, and/or get 3 penalty points for using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.)

You should also carry out safety checks to make sure you’re using your equipment legally:

Towing bars: Be sure that your tow bar is the correct type for your car and that you can safely use it with your caravan. Tow bars are ordinarily marked with an approval number along with details of the vehicles it’s approved for.

NB If your car was first used before 1 August 1998, your tow bar doesn’t need to be type-approved.

Towing mirrors: This might go without saying but you need to have an adequate view of the road behind you. Be sure to fit suitable towing mirrors if your caravan is wider than the rear of your car. (You can be fined up to £1,000 and get 3 penalty points for towing without proper towing mirrors.)

Trailer or caravan brakes: Your trailer must have it’s own working brake system if it weighs over 750kg when loaded. Some smaller trailers also have brakes, but these are optional. You will want to make sure that any brakes are in good working order before you tow your caravan.

You’ll also need to use a breakaway cable or secondary coupling in case the trailer detaches from your car.

Number plates: You need to display a number plate on the back of your caravan that corresponds to your towing vehicle.

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If you need any other advice on towing your caravan please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and feel free to enter any questions in the comments section below this post.

Information checked against details listed at www.gov.uk and found accurate as of 02.02.17

 

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Are You legal to tow? (B+E and driving licences issued after 1997)

perthshire trailer training am i legal to tow a trailer caravan horseboxMany people assume that having a UK driving licence entitles them to drive with a trailer attached. The truth is that things are a little more complicated than that.

In most cases there is one simple decider on whether you are legal to drive with certain types of trailer; the date on which you passed your driving test. If you…

Passed your car driving test on or AFTER 1 January 1997

  • You CAN drive a car or van towing a trailer, however there are restrictions. Your car must not weigh more than 3,500kg ‘maximum authorised mass’ (or ‘MAM’ i.e. how much the vehicle can weigh when it’s loaded). To put this in perspective; a Nissan Navara pickup carrying no load typically weighs just under 2,000kg. If the total weight of your car is below the 3,500kg limit (that’s including anything packed in the car, along with passengers) then you can tow a trailer of up to 750kg ‘MAM’
  • You CAN also tow a trailer OVER 750kg ‘MAM’ as long as the combined ‘MAM’ of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg

NB If you want to tow anything heavier than this you will need to pass the car and trailer driving test (what’s referred to as a B+E qualification). I offer a three-day intense driving course. If you would like to know more please get in touch by clicking this link.

Passed your car driving licence BEFORE 1 January 1997

  • If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you will ordinarily be able to drive a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8,250kg MAM. (Though to be safe it’s recommended that you look at your driving licence information to check.)
  • You’re also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.

 

My three-day B+E trailer towing course would obviously apply just as well to caravans and horse boxes. However, if you are already qualified to tow larger loads I am also happy to offer taster sessions and refresher sessions (if, for example, you’d like some extra help in dealing with reversing). Please get in touch for more information, my contact details can be found by clicking this link.

 

Information checked against details listed at www.gov.uk and found accurate as of 15.01.17

When your trailer is SO heavy you’re breaking the law

building_on_road_north_dakotaIn a previous post we looked at the legal aspects of the combined weight of your vehicle and trailer (click here to take a look the post). However, there’s an obvious extra thing to worry about when considering the weight of the load you intend to tow; can your car actually cope with it?

Your combined weight might be ‘legal’ (at least in terms of what’s allowed by your licence) but this can, in theory, allow you to hitch a load of around 2000kg (over two tonnes) onto the back of a Mini Cooper. Hitching a load this heavy to a vehicle this small may well be illegal, despite being ‘allowed’ by your licence. More importantly, a load like this is unsafe, as a car this small is typically not designed with appropriate mechanical allowances to deal with a load this heavy (e.g. the brakes are unlikely to be able to cope).

Most cars have a maximum weight they can tow which will ordinarily be listed in your handbook or specification sheet. The vehicle’s ‘gross train weight’ may be also listed on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car. You’ll typically find this under the bonnet or inside the driver’s door.

The gross train weight is the weight of the fully-loaded car plus fully-loaded trailer and must not be exceeded. If your VIN plate doesn’t list a train weight, you should not use your vehicle for towing.

For a rough guide to what your vehicle may be able to tow you can pop along to a website such as this one (click this link to see the results for the mini cooper’s maximum towing capacity). However, your own vehicle documents, or the VIN plate, will provide more accurate data.

If you exceed this weight limit not only are you breaking the law, you are also endangering yourself, your passengers, and other road users. Your car’s brakes, gears, and other mechanical components have been designed to cope with a specific weight, it will behave in dangerous and unexpected ways if you go beyond what it can cope with.

If you would like any advice about towing weights, and/or you would like to feel safer when towing your trailer, please get in touch to discuss trailer training refresher sessions by clicking this link.

 

Information checked against details listed at www.gov.uk and found accurate as of 02.02.17