Trailering & Towing: What You Need to Know

Educational

Nov 04th, 2020

Trailering & Towing: What You Need to Know

The cool thing about motor vehicles is that they are like workhorses, able to help us transport people as well as goods. Their maximum capacity isn’t limited to what you can fit in the back seat or the trunk, either. Instead, you can take it a few steps further and use your car for towing, just by hitching stuff to the back of the vehicle. While most people might assume that trailering and towing are easy to do, that’s far from the truth. There are several things to consider so that you can tow things safely and effectively.

In this article, we’re going to explore the whats and the hows of trailering to help you get the most out of it.

What do people usually tow?

If you’re new to the concept of towing, you might be asking yourself what people would need to haul in the first place. The truth is that you can tow almost anything, but here are four examples to help you understand why people use their vehicles for towing:

1. Cargo and equipment 

Quite often, you'll see people towing small cargo trailers. They might do that to haul equipment around (like if you're in a band) or transport boxes and furniture when moving houses. Assuming your car or truck has enough engine power, you could fill those trailers up with lots of stuff.

2. Boats, jet skis, and other watercraft

Watersports enthusiasts will often tow boats, jet skis, and other watercraft that they keep at home.

3. Mobile homes or RVs 

For those who like living on the road, they might tow mobile homes or RVs. Let’s not get confused here! Some RVs are drivable on their own, but there are plenty of others that you can hitch to your truck and tow as an extension of your vehicle.

4. Live animals 

We're not talking about cats and dogs – think a little larger. Animals like horses, for example, usually ride in a trailer whenever their owners transport them from one place to another.

Do you need a licence to tow a trailer in Australia?

Typically, anything with two or more wheels needs a license when riding on roads and highways. But do you need a permit to tow a trailer in Australia? Well, the answer is that it depends.

The laws will differ according to the state or territory that you are in, though as a general rule, you will only need a licence if you tow something that's above a certain weight. For instance, in New South Wales, you can pull a trailer weighing up to 250 kg if you have a P1 car licence.

In this case, it’s best to check with local regulations for the areas that you’re travelling in or passing through if you plan on doing any towing.

What kind of vehicle do I need to tow a trailer?

You can use any car or truck to tow a trailer. However, you'll need more engine power and torque if you plan on towing something significantly heavier. 

For example, a regular sedan like a Volvo S80 can tow up to 3,900 pounds in weight. However, a rugged workhorse like the Toyota Hilux can tow much more weight, up to 3.5 tonnes.

The most important thing to do is match the towing capacity of your car to whatever it is you’ve hitched on the back of the vehicle. Otherwise, you could end up overworking the engine in the process.

To be sure, look for your vehicle’s ‘maximum towing capacity’. That specification will tell you precisely how much weight is safe to tow with your car.

Can towing a trailer damage a transmission?

Yes, you can damage your transmission if you tow a trailer that exceeds the vehicle’s maximum tow rating.

Thankfully, you don’t have to do the math by yourself. Carmakers these days include maximum tow ratings as part of the specs so you will know instantly how heavy a trailer you can tow without damaging it.

Assuming you do tow something too heavy, you could end up damaging more than just the transmission. The engine would overheat, your suspensions could break, and your braking system might fail altogether.

Is auto or manual transmission better for towing?

Usually, manual transmissions perform much better for trailering and towing. That’s not to say that you can’t use an automatic transmission for the same purpose. You can do that, but you’ll have to pay extra attention to things like your acceleration speed.

When towing with an automatic transmission, it’s always best to accelerate and decelerate even slower than you would in a manual vehicle. You’ll need a lot more patience to make sure you don’t overstress your car.

Driving tips while towing

Once you’ve hitched the trailer to your car correctly, now comes the more challenging part: driving while towing. It’s easy to forget that you’re towing a trailer, and that could lead to accidents. Here are a few crucial things to keep in mind when driving while towing:

Allow plenty of stopping distance

Always remember that you’re not just driving your car. You’re driving the vehicle plus an extension at the back (i.e. a trailer) with added weight. Therefore, you’ll need to allow for much more stopping distance than usual. All that extra weight causes increased inertia, which takes much more effort to bring to a stop.

Stop gradually

Why do you need so much extra stopping distance? That’s because you need to stop slower than you usually would, as well. Slamming on your breaks can be quite dangerous since the inertia of the trailer will continue pushing forwards for a while. That’s why you need to take more time when slowing your vehicle down to a stop.

Changing lanes

Something as simple as changing lanes becomes much riskier when trailering and towing. You’ll need to make sure you have an abundance of space to switch lanes and make sure you don’t hit anyone in the process.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for some of the best gear to help tow your trailer, be sure to check out Carpart.com.au. There, you’ll be able to browse the listing of car parts and find the gear you need for safer trailering and towing.


By Ray Hasbollah