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. 

Loading Tips >>

A Heavy Load?

The loading of a caravan or trailer has a significant influence on the handling of the car/trailer combination. Moreover, a heavily laden caravan or trailer is a heavy burden for the towing vehicle so this is our advice on how to load, so you can have a safe trip:

Towing Capacity

The owners manual for your car will indicate how much weight your car can tow. This is very important information and should not be ignored - your safety, and that of your family, depends on it. Every Brink hitch has been designed, developed and tested extensively to ensure it can handle the maximum permissible weight that the car can handle.

Vertical Load

The maximum allowable vertical load on the ball of the towbar is noted on the type plate of the towbar. The vertical load, which is the weight that can be placed on the ball of the towbar varies for each car type but is usually between 45 kgs and 75 kgs. In South Africa the vertical load may not exceed 100 kg.

An excessively high vertical load will drop the back of the car so the front wheels have less grip which results in poor handling which affects both the car and the trailer. A low vertical load on the ball makes the combination less stable.

The easiest way to measure the vertical load on the ball is to lower one of the stabiliser jacks at the front of the caravan and raise the jockey wheel. You can then place a standard household scale under the jockey wheel and wind it down until the front stabiliser jacks are off the ground. The scale will now indicate the approximate vertical load on the ball.

Load Weight

The caravan and trailer soon reaches maximum weight when all the holiday paraphernalia is packed, not to mention the necessary caravan and camping accessories such as the groundsheet, gas bottles, awning etc.

We recommend that you make a note the weight of all the necessary luggage and keep it in a safe place so as not to waste time next time!

The distribution of the weight is very important to the stability of the trailer or caravan.

If the rear of the tow car sags, move heavy items from the boot and redistribute the load but don’t attempt to stabilise the vehicle by placing heavy loads at the back of the caravan.

Rules of Thumb

  • Do not place heavy objects in the upper cabinets
  • Place heavy objects in the beds and as close to the axle as possible
  • Make sure any bikes placed in caravan are secured firmly
  • The correct ball height of a ladened caravan or trailer is at least 380mm from the ground

Tips for Loading in Brief

  • Check the maximum tow capacity of your car
  • Check the maximum vertical load of the ball
  • Weigh luggage before loading
  • Distribute the weight correctly

The Safety Chain Is Your Lifeline >>

Should there be a defect in the coupling or if it becomes necessary to undertake an extreme maneuver while driving with a trailer, the trailer may become detached from the towing vehicle. In this instance, the safety chain is the only thing that will keep the two together. If you towing a heavy load, it is essential to attach an additional steel cable or chain. Before departing on your journey always make sure that the safety chain / cable is connected securely or hooked correctly over the tow ball, and that the trailer’s brakes are functioning properly. When buying a second hand car it is important to check to see if the tow ball has a point to fix the safety chain to.

Ensure You Have a Clear View >>

It is important that the driver of a car/trailer combination has good visibility so as to minimise the possibility of an accident. If the trailer is blocking your line of sight. we strongly recommend attaching extra wing mirrors to help ensure that the rear view is as unobstructed as possible.

Be Aware Of Your Lights >>

Seeing what is ahead of you is important, but being seen by others is just as important. As the weight of the trailer, if not correctly packed, raises the front of your vehicle, you need to ensure that the glare of your lights doesn’t hamper the vision of the other drivers. Headlight angles can be adjusted (electronically or manually) in most cars and this should be done so to avoid blinding other road users. Finally it is important to check indicators, reverse lights, rear fog lights and brake lights of both the vehicle and the trailer or caravan before you depart to ensure that all are working correctly.

Is Your Tow Hitch Safe And Secure >>

It is important to inspect the tongue of the trailer hitch for wear. It needs to be well lubricated to minimise the friction created by steel on steel friction with the hitch. At the point of purchase, the ball head has a diameter of 50mm (and should not be less than 49 mm). If the ball is too small – or the tow hitch is too large, eg: from wear, the trailer could come adrift while you are driving. Please note that if you are using a removable towbar it needs to be locked into position.

Always Check Your Tyres >>

The tyres are the only contact between the trailer and the road.  Check the tyres of the trailer before each trip as with age they have a tendency to crack with the rubber of the tyre becoming harder and more brittle. The harder the rubber, the quicker the tyre becomes warm.  The warm air expands and could cause a blowout.

The tyre pressure will also impact on the behaviour of the trailer. If the pressure is lower than this the trailer will sway behind the car.A soft tyre increases tyre resistance which also increases the fuel consumption of the car. The higher the tyre resistance the more heat is generated, and the greater the risk of a blowout.

Ford Ranger Communication Errors >>

Aug 12 - The New Ford Ranger is not immediately able to communicate with trailers, caravans and bike racks with LED lights. Please contact your dealer for a link harness that resolves this issue.

Warranties and Extensions or Drop Plates >>

While a customer may buy either extensions or drop plates separately from the towbar, unless the towbar is tested with either the extension or drop plate, the customer risks the manufacturer of the vehicle and/or towing system voiding the warranty.