Safety Considerations

To help club members understand the legal requirements of towing I have tried to compile the following guide to assist in making an informed decision on how you set up and travel with your specific combination. This is a guide only and I am willing to be corrected if any of the statements are wrong or misleading but all endeavours have been made to confirm the accuracy of the information. While I accept that most members will already know this information it sometimes pays to be reminded as it is all too simple to overlook some of these issues in the rush to get away.

Issue Requirements / guidance
EHU Cable Please remember when on EHU to unwind from any reel the full length of the cable - failure to do so can cause the cable to heat up to the point that it initially could fuse together and eventually short circuit or catch fire.
Rear View mirrors When you are towing your caravan or any other trailer that is wider than the narrowest part of the rear of your vehicle, it is a legal requirement that you fit additional towing mirrors. These mirrors must be E-Marked. As a very simple guide your mirrors are wide enough if you are able to see all the way along both sides of the caravan when towing. 

If towing blind in the UK, (without towing mirrors), or using too narrow towing mirrors you can be prosecuted by the police and given 3 points on your licence and fined up to £1000 per offence (eg per side). Your insurance might also be invalidated if involved in an accident caused by not using wider mirrors.

Wheels & Tyres

All tyres must have a service description (i.e. load and speed index). If the vehicle was to operate outside the service description indicated on the sidewall e.g. at a higher speed or overloaded then the tyres would be deemed to be unsuitable for the use, and a prosecution could follow.

A cut in excess of 25mm or 10% of the section width of the tyre, whichever is the greater, measured in any direction on the outside of the tyre and deep enough to reach the ply or cord would deem the tyre illegal.

If there is any cut in the tyre no matter how small which exposes cords, then the tyre is illegal.

In the UK a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band throughout the central three-quarters of the tread width, throughout the whole of the circumference. In europe this limit can be 2mm.

All tyres marked "Temporary Use Only" are restricted to 50mph. (many will also have a maximum distance that can be travelled quoted)

Like any other tyres caravan tyres deteriorate with age. Organisations such as the Tyre Industry Council and the British Rubber Manufacturers' Association advise a caravan tyre life limit of between seven and ten years. However after as little as five years caravan tyres can become distorted if they are left unused in the same position. Also surface cracking of the sidewalls can occur if the tyres are allowed to become under-inflated and remain for a long period of time in that condition.

Consider using Tyron safety bands to stop the tyre from becoming detached from the wheel in the event of a puncture.

Prior to the start of each journey check you tyre pressures (on caravan vin plate) and wheel nut torque.

Weight. There are a number of weight values that must be adhered to for your unit to remain legal.

MTPLM - detailed on your caravan VIN plate usually located outside the main door. This is the absolute maximum that the caravan, all fitted accessories and contents should weigh.

Gross train weight - this is the absolute maximum that your car, caravan, luggage and passengers should weigh. This is usually displayed on the car VIN plate.

Maximum tow limit of car - the MTPLM of the caravan must not exceed the limit declared by the car manufacturer. This is usually displayed on the car VIN plate directly or by inference.

Nose weight - this is the maximum load that can be applied by the caravan hitch on the tow ball fitted to the car. Typically this will be in the region of 70kg for a family saloon / estate up to 150kg for a large 4x4. The AL-KO chassis has a max limit of 100kg and it is also possible that the towbar has a specific limit applied to it. The lowest weight of any of these needs to be used to gauge legal loading.

Kerb weight - this is used to determine the "85% rule" that is actually only advice with no basis in law but is seen as good practise. The car hand book will usually declare the kerb weight and it is 85% of this compared to the MTPLM that is used to determine if a combination is a good match or not provided that the towing limit is higher. e.g. kerb weight of 1700kg = 85% match of 1445kg giving a suitable match to an Olympus 504 (MTPLM 1440kg).

If you are found to be overweight the penalties can vary by what percentage you are over; it is also possible that you could be issued with a prohibition notice.

Breakaway cable Prior to attachment inspect the cable for any damage; if any is found consult your dealer / service agent as soon as possible.

Where a dedicated attachment point is provided with the towball this should be used by either passing the cable through the provided eye then clipping back on itself or if this is not possible then by direct attachment to the eye with the clip on the end of the cable.

Where no dedicated attachment point is provided with the towball then the cable should be looped around the ball and clipped back onto itself.