When faced with something to tow – whether it’s a small trailer full of rubbish or a multi-axle caravan, boat or horse trailer – it’s tempting to assume that the tow vehicle can take the load okay. Just hitch it on and head down the road full of typical Kiwi ‘she’ll be right’ confidence.

Trouble is if something goes wrong – perhaps your trailer weighs more than your tow vehicle is rated to pull, your hitch isn’t as good as it should be, or your load isn’t secure – you may be liable under law. Your insurance company may not pay up as you might have voided your vehicle’s warranty. And you could kill or injure someone. NZTA figures say seven people are killed and 45 people injured in New Zealand each year in incidents involving a light vehicle towing a trailer.

If your tow job is extreme you’ll need expert advice; meantime we bring you part one of the idiot’s guide to towing, from the household trailer carrying your camping equipment, to your caravan or boat.

Tow rating

Most vehicles are sold with a tow rating set by the manufacturer. This is the maximum weight of braked or unbraked trailer your vehicle can tow safely, and may also include a recommended maximum speed.

Your trailer may also be rated. When Pro Bars and other reputable tow bar manufacturers fit a tow bar, they affix a sticker with the towing rating. This includes the braked, unbraked and maximum tongue load that will apply to the trailer. This should be considered in addition to the tow rating of your tow vehicle.

Many different elements contribute to safe and efficient towing

Although the law doesn’t make you stick to a vehicle manufacturer’s tow rating, exceeeding it will reduce overall safety and can void the vehicle warranty and insurance. You’ll read this several times over the course of this long-winded series, but it’s worth remembering.

If you have an New Zealand-new car, your owner’s manual will include your vehicle’s tow rating. If you don’t have a manual it pays to check with the brand distributor, as it will know the rating.

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