In it for the long haul

by Andy Bryenton

Summer is well on its way, and around the country, people are preparing their itineraries for holiday getaways. From family camping trips to fishing excursions and off-road adventures, many of these vacation ideas involve towing some kind of heavy load — so it’s time to get set now to ensure a safe journey.

Road safety and police authorities here and abroad identify five main issues which should be looked at by those about to tow — especially seeing as most of us spend the majority of the year without a trailer hitched on behind the family wagon. Taking care of all five will greatly reduce the risk of an accident.

First, make sure your tow vehicle is up to the task. It sounds simple, but towing a heavy load puts a strain on the engine, brakes, suspension and tyres of your car. You may have a WOF, but it’s good to visually check the state of brake pads and rotors, the solidity of your tow bar, the state of your tyre tread and the fluid in your transmission before hitching up.

Secondly, make sure to test the lights when you connect your trailer.

That is the number one biggest mistake seen on the road when towing — faulty, poorly connected or plain broken lights, which mean traffic behind has no idea of your intentions. Once again, an easy two-person test can save a huge hassle.

Then comes the threat of items flying off and away in your slipstream. You can never have too many tie downs, and they are literally cheaper to buy in bulk. For those trailers full of camping supplies, cover the whole mass with a tarp then cross over with ratcheting straps, tucking the tarp into the trailer body.

The fourth piece of advice from the road authorities may surprise you — brush up on the towing rules. There are laws in the road code just for towing, and those of us who only get out there with a heavy load once or twice a year may have forgotten key points. Look them, up online and avoid a ticket!

Finally, remember that if you’re towing a caravan, boat, horse float or heavy trailer, you will by necessity move slower than other road users. Where possible, and when safe, try to let those behind you pass in an orderly manner. This way there’s less frustration on the road, and everyone gets to where they’re headed more smoothly.