The Basic Guide to Towing

Posted on: 17/10/2012

Towing Legality

Before you even have the chance to stomp an accelerator in anger, there are some boxes you need to tick to get your camper trailer or RV out of the driveway. Making sure your vehicle is legally allowed to tow what’s behind it is the very first thing on your list, with the national law being that any vehicle with a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of less than 4.5t can tow a trailer with an aggregate trailer mass (the total weight of the trailer including the tow ball weight imposed on the towing vehicle) that weighs the lesser of:

  • the tow vehicle’s manufacturers recommended maximum trailer towing mass 
  • the tow vehicle’s tow bar rating

In excess of these constraints and you will be at risk of being fined and increasing your chance of a driving mishap.

It's possible to use a 4WD to tow a camper trailer to the Tip of Cape York along the Old Telegraph Track.

Turbo-diesels

It’s no secret that turbo-diesels are far and away the most popular engine type for towing, and with good reason. The low down torque is unquestionably better in a turbo-diesel than a petrol vehicle, with peak torque coming at much lower revs. This makes the sluggishness that comes with towing less noticeable, as it won’t be as much of a chore to accelerate in a diesel rig compared to a petrol one.

Towing Accessories

It’s never a bad idea when it comes to towing to fit a load-distributing hitch, which in combination with thoughtful weight distribution when you’re packing will result in a safe towing setup. If weight is spread unevenly when you’re towing, it will inevitably result in both acute and chronic problems at some point. Examples of this include lack of vehicle traction when the rear of whatever you’re towing is too heavy, while conversely too much weight at the front will interfere with steering precision.

For extra peace of mind and safety, mirror extenders and a rear vision camera system are a welcome addition. Both allow you to see what’s behind you, and can help increase the safety of both your trailer and your vehicle.

Towing legality can be a confusing and misunderstood subject.

Towing Tips

Taking some basic suggestions to heart on the way you operate your vehicle and trailer is an easy way to save yourself in terms of mechanical longevity, fuel efficiency, and safety.

If you have electric brakes fitted, adjust the brake unit in your vehicle to ensure you have the right balance. It’s a game of trial and error but is worth the effort to learn, as retuning as you travel is a good habit to get into. If your trailer starts swaying, use the electric brakes to correct it instead of the vehicle brakes, or slowly reduce or increase your speed.

Some of the most basic driving techniques are often overlooked by tourers, however they are surprisingly helpful to keeping you safe and sane. These include giving extra distance between yourself and the car in front, being gentle when it comes to applying both the brakes and the accelerator, and using your gears as opposed to your brakes to slow down while going downhill.

Taking these points and putting them into practice is easier said than done, however in the end it’s up to you what lengths you go to in order to make your next adventure hassle-free while towing.