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Summertime towing: Check your trailer first

Media Release 5 December 2013

Summertime towing: Check your trailer first

Whether you’re towing a boat to the slip for a day’s fishing, or taking advantage of longer days to take loads of rubbish to the tip, trailers get more use in summer than any other part of the year.

“No matter how skilled you are, your towing (not to mention the fine art of reversing) will only ever be as good as the condition of your trailer,” MTA Communications Manager Hamish Stuart says.

During wet, cold winter months or periods of less-frequent usage, trailers can suffer mechanical deterioration, which may go unnoticed: common problem areas include wheel bearings, lights, rust and tyres. Also, warrants of fitness (WoF) and registrations may lapse – as with other road vehicles, trailers need to be certified to be on the road.

“Between a quick mechanical check, ensuring you haven’t overloaded the trailer, and being confident in your ability to control the unaccustomed weight and driving dynamics, drivers can easily avoid most causes of trailer failure,” Stuart says.

According to the latest-available crash statistics (Ministry of Transport: 2005 to 2011), 8.4 injury-causing crashes per year are caused by drivers with trailers that are either overloaded or incompatible – with three people killed. Driver inexperience caused an average 2.7 injury-causing crashes, while failure with couplings and chains caused 1.3 crashes.

“These are just the crashes people were injured or killed in – it doesn’t take into account the unreported incidents, which damaged vehicles or property. Sadly, this is almost always avoidable. A quick check – of yourself, your trailer and your load – can save a whole lot of hassle, and in the worst cases, injury or death. Make it a summer to remember, for the right reasons,” Stuart says.

Check before you load up:

• Your trailer must be roadworthy – it requires a current WoF and registration.

• Police and transport officials regard trailer tyres in the same way as those on cars – so check your tread depth, and make sure they are in matched pairs on each axle.

• A trailer must have a secure, locking coupling and a safety chain – make sure the shackle pin is as large a size that will fit your chain and towbar.

• It must also have working lights and reflectors. There are a few different rules for this, depending on factors like the width of your trailer – check NZ Transport Agency’s (NZTA) website for more details, or ask when you go in for your next WoF.

• There are two towball/coupling sizes: 17/8” and 50mm. Make sure your car’s towball and the trailer’s coupling match – especially if you are using someone else’s trailer.

• Make sure your load is secure – use ropes, tie-downs, a tarpaulin or a cargo net, if you’re moving loose material.

• If the total towed weight is more than 2,000kg, the trailer must have brakes. Irrespective of load, your vehicle and trailer must be able to stop in 7 metres from 30kph. If it can’t, you must fit brakes to the trailer. Even unloaded, trailers take more time and effort to stop – take this into account.

• Refer to your vehicle’s manual and check the maximum trailer weight it can tow (both unbraked and braked). Failure to comply with manufacturer recommendations could affect your vehicle warranty – and will affect your safety.

• Try to centre your load over the trailer axle – not too far forward or back. Unbalanced loads are harder to control. Never put heavier loads to the rear of the trailer. Always make sure there is downward force at the point of connection to your vehicle.

• Give yourself more room. Remember that you’ll be pulling out wider at corners and when negotiating obstacles – give yourself enough room.

• Backing a trailer is a skill that needs to be practised – it’s all about small and deliberate movements – a decent pull on the steering wheel will result in a significant shift in direction of your trailer. Smooth and gradual is the key in most cases.

• Towing a trailer will require extra power – bear this in mind when approaching hills or steep driveways. You can also expect to use more fuel.

© Scoop Media

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