Towing Tips

Holiday Towing Can Be Easy >>

Sub-standard towbars and incorrect fitment are a sure-fire way to spoil the Easter holiday season by bringing a trip to a premature end – sometimes with disastrous consequences.

That’s the view of Mark Gutridge, managing director of Brink Towing Systems South Africa, which manufacturers a range of towbars for both original equipment (OE) and aftermarket use in their Pietermaritzburg plant, as well as importing and distributing a wide range of European-made Brink towbars.

“The towbar is not only a critical physical link between the car and the trailer, but there is an important electrical partnership that the towbar ultimately plays between the two,” explains Gutridge. “An increasing number of new vehicles on the market today are designed to identify the presence of a trailer the instant it is plugged in and adjust the behaviour of systems such as Electronic Stability Control accordingly.

“If the towbar installation and the wiring thereof is not handled by a competent third party then the benefit of safety systems such as Trailer Recognition are wasted,” says Gutridge. “It is also important that the towbar and the vehicle itself are compatible and that the mounting points being used by the towbar company are those defined by the car manufacturer – if this is not the case there is a very real risk of structural damage to the vehicle.”

Those towing trailer this Easter should also pay proper attention to the legal requirements; the most fundamental of which is that the GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of the caravan may not exceed the Tare weight of the towing vehicle. This means you should also take account of the contents of the caravan itself. Tyre pressure is another critical aspect of towing and extra attention should be paid to manufacturer recommendations.

When the caravan is hitched onto the towing vehicle it should be level with the car, or better, slightly nose down. The caravan should never be ‘nose-high’ at the towball and any trailer should be heavier at the towball. This vertical load varies from vehicle to vehicle but should be between 45 and 75 kilograms and never more than 100 kg – this is the maximum legally allowed, though some Brink towbars are tested to over double that and indicate this fact on the towbar’s Type plate.

This weight ‘at the ball’ can be measured with a conventional bathroom scale, using the maximum rating for that vehicle printed on the Type plate as your guideline (taking cognisance of the 100 kg legal limit). The trailer’s contents may need to be rearranged to achieve the desired result. If the towbar doesn’t have a Type plate the possibility exists that it could be ‘home made’ – in which case one should be very wary about towing with it!

“It is very easy to overlook the fundamentals of towing – things like reducing your speed and adjusting headlights to take the trailer into account. Consider that the trailer may have been standing – exposed to the elements – since December so give it a proper ‘once-over’. With a bit of planning and this kind of attention to detail towing can be a pleasure rather than a nightmare,” concluded Gutridge. 

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