With travel restrictions easing across the country, there will be an increase in staycations and people traveling across Scotland. As a result, we anticipate that more people will be towing caravans and trailers.
Caravans and trailers that are not used regularly can experience problems with key safety features, such as, tyres, brakes and lights.
It is important that drivers ensure that their caravan or trailer is safe and roadworthy. They can do this by carrying out basic safety checks before they tow.
The following basic checks can be carried out:
- Service –get a free trailer safety check or visit your garage if needed
- Air in tyres – check pressure, tread depth, condition and age
- Fit the breakaway cable or safety chain and check electrical connections and cables
- Examine lights, load and weight limit, mirrors and do the jockey wheel test
We encourage drivers to conduct safety checks before returning to towing to ensure that their vehicle is safe for themselves and for other road users. If required, drivers should get their caravan or trailer professionally checked.
The SAFE towing advice:
Service – get a free trailer safety check or visit your garage if needed:
- you can get your trailer checked for free at National Trailer and Towing Association sites
- Approved Workshop Scheme includes over 500 mobile and fixed workshops
- for added peace of mind, get your trailer or caravan professionally checked by your garage or trailer specialist. A professional can check the things you can’t see. For example, if not used regularly, brakes can seize up and may not work properly
- when you are towing you should be able to feel the trailer brakes come on as you apply the footbrake – if you have any doubt, get your brakes checked at a trailer or caravan specialist
- your caravan should be professionally serviced every 12 months
Air in tyres – check pressure, tread depth, condition, and age
- tyre pressure can drop when tyres are used infrequently. Correctly inflated tyres reduce the risk of accidents, will last longer and will save you money on fuel
- you need to check the pressure for the towing vehicle and trailer or caravan
- the towing vehicle may have different pressures when towing. The correct tyre pressure will depend on the load. Your vehicle handbook will tell you the right tyre pressure when you are towing
- check with the trailer or caravan manufacturer for the recommended tyre pressure
- check the pressure regularly – most petrol stations and garages will have a pressure gauge and air pump, so check when you fill up. At the same time look out for bulges, any damage and how the tread is wearing
Tyre tread and condition:
- the legal tyre tread depth for cars, caravans and trailers is 1.6mm and the condition of your tyres is key to your safety
- tyres can lose air and deteriorate with age even when they are not used, so look for cracking on the sidewall and between tread. If the tyre shows signs of ageing it is safer to replace it
- look for the tread wear indicators which are at the bottom of the tyre grooves -if the indicators and tread are level, you need to replace the tyre
- if you have any concerns about the condition of a tyre, get it checked by a professional
Fit the breakaway cable or safety chain and check electrical connections and cables
- follow the manufacturer’s advice to make sure the breakaway cable is correctly attached to the tow bar or a secure part of the car
- check that the cable is not damaged and isn’t too tight or loose, with enough give in it for the trailer to turn
- if a trailer becomes unhitched, the breakaway cable will activate the trailer brakes and stop it separating from the towing vehicle
- if the trailer does not have brakes, it needs to have a secondary coupling –normally a chain or thick cable that will keep the trailer attached to the towing vehicle if the main coupling fails
Fit the breakaway cable or safety chain and check electrical connections and cables (cont.)
Electrical connections and cables:
- the lights on your caravan or trailer are operated from the towing vehicle
- your vehicle and caravan or trailer will be fitted with either a single 7 pin, a twin 7 pin or a 13 pin electrical socket
- if the vehicle and caravan/trailer connections are different, you will need to use an adapter, and these are widely available
- check the electrical socket and electrical cable are in good condition and make sure the plug is fitted securely – make sure the cap and spring mechanism is not damaged as this is used to secure the plug to the socket
- if your lights are not working, check the pins in the socket and in the plug because these can corrode if unused for a long period – the wires can also corrode causing problems
- you can replace plugs and sockets but if you are not confident ask your garage for professional help
Examine lights, load and weight limit, mirrors and do the jockey wheel test
- check all caravan or trailer sidelights, indicator and brake lights are working and clean – remember to check the reflectors too.
- turn on all the lights and walk around the caravan or trailer – check they are not loose or damaged and check the colours are correct and match. Your manual will explain how to change a bulb, or your garage can do this.
- some cars will let you know if the lights are faulty, but a manual check is always a good idea – if there is no one to help, you can test brake lights by reversing up to a garage door or window and pressing the brake. Look for a reflection in the mirrors.
- if any of the lights don’t work, check the bulb or the electrical connection between the car and caravan/trailer
Examine lights, load and weight limit, mirrors and do the jockey wheel test (cont.)
Load and weight limit:
- the weight relationship between the towing vehicle and trailer or caravan is important for safe towing
- check the train weight – the maximum load the vehicle can tow – in the car handbook or on the vehicle manufacturers plate – this will also tell you the maximum nose weight (how heavy the front of the trailer is)
- you can check that the nose weight of the trailer is within the limits by using an inexpensive gauge
- ensure your vehicle is suitable for the caravan you are towing. This will be in your car handbook and may also be on your V5 registration certificate
- check the load is evenly distributed and secured safely