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Towing your Boat

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 17 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Wheel Bearings Brake Cables Trailer

Towing a cumbersome and expensive vessel can seem very daunting to the uninitiated but adherence to some basic rules and little extra care will quickly turn any fears into ease and confidence on the road.

Taking Care on the Road

Travelling to the coast with a boat in tow will not present too many difficulties to the competent driver, just as long as they take care and adjust their driving in consideration of their sizable passenger.

As a general rule every driving action with a trailer should be done a third less of the speed as normal. Not only should the speed be slower but the driving actions should be taken slower and without sudden movement, just as if the boat is made of glass. The driver should also always be aware of the car’s new length, for instance when judging space in which to stop or when to change lanes. Dramatic edge of the seat overtaking is not advised.

Taking Care of the Trailer

It’s easy to lavish attention on the boat and forget the trailer, but it has an important duty to perform and if not properly maintained will be a threat to the car, other road users and the sea-faring pride and joy itself.

The trailer should be regularly serviced and maintained. It should not be abandoned at the back of the garage and then dragged out once in a while and expected to function perfectly. Every time it is used it needs to be checked for its serviceability, brakes, lights and tyres at the very least.

A common danger with trailers with brakes is for the brake lines to seize up, resulting in the brakes binding, wheel bearings burning up and ultimately the wheel coming apart from the trailer.

Towing Regulations

There are a number of rules relating to towing a trailer boat, but they are largely sensible and logical restrictions that benefit the trailers as much as the rule makers:

  • For cars towing a trailer a speed limit has been imposed, this is 60mph on motorways and dual carriageways, and 50mph limit on single carriageway roads. Trailer drivers in the UK are also not allowed to use the outer lane of a three or more lane motorway, unless specifically instructed to do so.
  • For a little trailer without brakes, the weight is restricted to 50% of the car’s kerb weight or 750kg, depending on which is less.
  • With larger trailers with brakes, the weight must not surpass 85% of the car’s kerb weight. Also if a trailer has brakes then it is law that they work, whether they are used or not.
  • To tow a trailer, the driver must be licensed to by holding a group A or category B, which allows legal entitlement to tow a boat trailer with a maximum weight o 8.25 tonnes.
  • The driver needs to have third party insurance cover not only for the tow car but for the trailer as well.
  • The trailer’s number plate must be identical to that on the tow car.
  • Whilst in transit no sharp or dangerous points should be exposed. Propellers and masts, for example, should be protected with buckets or reinforced plastic bags.
  • Indicator lights on the trailer must work in unison with those on the tow car.

Final Checks

As a final precautionary check before any trailer boat journey, it is a good idea to put oneself in the position of a traffic policeperson and ask three questions:

  • Does the towing car look big enough?
  • Does the boat trailer look well maintained?
  • Does the boat look sufficiently tied down?

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