Confident Trailer Towing - The Camping and Caravanning Club
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Towing a Trailer Tent

Towing a trailer tent or folding camper for the first time may seem a scary prospect, but it needn’t be.

If the thought of towing is preventing you from buying a trailer tent or folding camper, there are places where you can have a go before you buy a unit.

Some of the larger shows have opportunities to try towing a caravan, under the watchful eye of a professional instructor. Caravans are generally taller and larger than trailer tents and folding campers, so if you feel confident with a caravan, towing a smaller unit should be straightforward.

Your local trailer tent or folding camper dealer may also be prepared to let you take a one on the road – especially if it helps him secure a sale.

On the road

When you’re towing, you’ll need to give yourself more time and space for everything. It’s best to brake earlier than normal and you’ll probably accelerate more slowly with a trailer on the back.

The extra length of your outfit means you will need to take corners more widely than normal so the back of the trailer doesn’t clip the kerb or cut the corner.

Remember the legal speed limits are often lower when you’re towing. Don’t exceed 50mph on single carriageways or 60mph on dual carriageways.

You may not tow in the furthest right (‘outside’) lane of a three-or-more lane motorway unless instructed to do so.

Always make sure you have a good view to the rear of your unit, which may mean using extension mirrors. And don’t forget to take them off when you’re not towing – it’s illegal to drive with them on if you don’t need them.

Your number plate must show your car’s registration number, conform to the relevant British Standard and be illuminated at night. This means no felt-pen on cardboard!

Your rear light panel must always be working. Remember to check before driving off and keep an eye out for anything that changes during your journey. Your car must show that the indicators are working while you are driving. This might be done positively (by a special light flashing or buzzer sounding when the indicators are on) or negatively (by giving a warning if a bulb fails).

If you find traffic is building up behind you, pull over at a layby or other suitable place and let the other vehicles pass.

Park carefully where you won’t cause an obstruction. Vehicles with trailers are not allowed to use parking meter zones.

Snaking and pitching

The word ‘snake’ can strike terror into the heart of a prospective trailer owner, but with a little care before your journey - and an awareness of what to do if a snake occurs - it shouldn’t prevent you taking to the road.

Snaking is when the lateral swaying movement (technically known as the ‘yaw’) of a trailer behind a car becomes excessive. In extreme cases, the trailer swings ever more violently from side to side, eventually dragging the back of the car with it so the driver loses control. Trailer tents and folding campers are less likely to experience snaking than caravans (which generally have larger, higher sides to catch the buffeting from passing traffic), but it’s still worth understanding the issue.

‘Pitching’ describes vertical instability – when the trailer’s front end moves up and down, pulling the rear of the car around like a seesaw.

The best way to avoid snaking and pitching is to have a well-matched car and trailer tent or folding camper and to load your unit carefully. Members of the Club can make use of our free Tow Match service.

But even with all these precautions, you might find the back of your car being pulled by your trailer because of the air turbulence caused by a passing lorry or coach.

If it does, take both feet off the pedals to bring down your speed using your car’s engine braking. Avoid the instinct to brake, but keep steering in a straight line. Trying to steer out of the sway can make the problem worse.

Learning to tow your trailer tent

If you feel some professional towing tuition would be useful, the Club runs a number of one-day courses up and down the country.

The course takes you through all the basic information you need, from hitching up your trailer and car to reversing. We’ll add some important advice on safe towing too.

You’ll be taught at the wheel of your own familiar car but towing a special Club caravan, and have the instruction of professional tutors in small groups.

Find out more about Manoeuvring Courses offered by the Club.

Club Care Insurance

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