How to prepare for towing trailers - 5 basic tips
The holiday season is getting closer. Longer days, free weekends and willingness to spend time actively are also the beginning of the caravanning season in Poland. Before we hit the road, it is worth getting acquainted with a few simple but important tips on how to prepare our vehicle and trailer for the first route of the season.
A car equipped with a towbar rarely "rests" during the holidays. We use it for towing a caravan, for example transporting horses or a boat trailer, thanks to which we can transport the yacht to the marina. However, before we set off on the long-awaited vacation, it is worth getting acquainted with the tips on how to prepare well for the season.
The efficiency of this element of the car's equipment is crucial for the safety of the journey. It is important to choose the hitch both to the capabilities of our car, as well as our preferences - e.g. ease of disassembly. Guided by the principle that road safety is the most important, we should not even think for a moment about the choice of the hitch used. Currently, the market of car hooks is so rich in various technological solutions that every driver will find a product that meets his requirements and financial possibilities. Drivers who want to increase the load capacity of the car and maintain its aesthetic appearance can purchase an automatically detachable hitch. It is a modern solution, thanks to which you can detach the unused hitch ball from the socket in two movements and put it in the trunk.
- The two-stage locking system used in automatically detachable hooks is easy to use and ensures safety when towing a trailer - it prevents the ball from sliding out of its socket by itself - says Robert Lichocki, Brink Group's sales director in Poland. - In our solution, it is also possible to remove the hitch seat for maintenance or replacement. Various types of dirt may get into the vertically detachable system during use. However, in the event of damage to the seat, it is not necessary to purchase the entire system, but only this element - adds Robert Lichocki.
Mounting a towbar is also a good solution for enthusiasts of cycling. Mounting a bicycle rack allows you to safely transport your bikes outside the city and use new bicycle routes. Specially designed hooks for so-called non-towing cars make it possible to equip a small city car with a bicycle rack. Earlier this year, the legal problem of obscured number plates by this type of trunks was also resolved. From January this year, it is possible to make an additional, third registration and mount it on the trunk.
When using the towbar, it is important to take care of its condition, which affects the safety when towing a trailer. To keep the ball of the towbar in good condition, remember about the plastic protective cap, which will prevent dirt from accumulating and the ball from corroding. Regular use of grease is also protective. Proper maintenance of the ball will reduce the friction that occurs during towing, which will extend the service life of this element. The hitch ball should not be lubricated if you have a trailer with a hitch head with an additional stabilizing system. Then the friction linings in the system are worn, not the ball itself. When using the hitch ball, remember that it should be approx. 50 mm in diameter, with no traces of rust and keep a spherical shape.
The toll collection system
When driving on roads with a trailer, we must also remember about the obligation to pay tolls for selected sections of toll national roads. Since 2011, the obligation to pay has also been imposed on drivers of vehicle combinations consisting of a passenger car and a trailer, the permissible total weight of which exceeds 3.5 t (GVM> 3.5t).
How to check if the obligation to pay applies to us? It is enough to add up the GVM of the car and GVM of the trailer, which can be found in their registration certificates, and more precisely in the F2 box. If the obtained value exceeds 3.5 tons, we must take additional measures so that our trip does not end up with unwanted penalties.
Towbar manufacturer Brink has made available to all drivers with a trailer a tool for quickly calculating the permissible total weight of the vehicle combination. All you need to do is enter the "DMC Calculator" tab on the website www.brink.pl . After entering the value from field F2 of the car registration certificate (DCM vehicle) and the value from field F2 of the trailer registration certificate (DCM trailer), we will get information whether we are subject to fees or not. From the website, it is also possible to go directly to the website www.viaTOLL.pl , where all the necessary information on the toll collection system is available. The manufacturer of hooks, coming out with this initiative to customers, wants to protect them from unforeseen charges. A significant number of people interested in installing a towing system in a vehicle will travel on roads with caravans, boat trailers or for transporting animals. They may then be subject to an obligation to pay, and this is what Brink wants to bring to their attention by putting a helpful tool on their website.
Preparing the trailer for the season
Experienced caravanning enthusiasts would easily replace the elements that need attention before the season. For those who are just discovering the world of caravans and active tourism, we suggest what to look for when inspecting our mobile home in the spring.
We can start spring cleaning at the caravan by washing it. Thus, we will take care of its appearance, clean it of impurities that have accumulated during the winter, and above all, we will be able to check if there are any cracks or leaks in its structure. By looking under the trailer, we can also check the chassis for signs of corrosion. We should inspect the tires and check the air pressure at the same time. When wintering the trailer, it is worth placing it on supports to avoid constant pressure on only one part of the tire. When checking the wheels, make sure that they rotate without unnecessary play and friction. It is worth checking the tread depth on the very surface of the tire and whether it has cracked or bulged.
To test the next elements, lights and brakes, we need to connect the trailer to the car. Let's also check the condition of the hitch head of our trailer. It is a very important element for safety during travel, which, with proper maintenance, can serve us for a long time. We should also pay attention to the condition of the overrun brake in heavy trailers. Visually, we can check whether all its elements have not been worn too much. We should also take care of the safety chain at the trailer drawbar, which is an additional protection in the event of uncontrolled detachment of the hitch head.
The effective operation of the lights in the trailer largely depends on the selection of the wiring harness when purchasing the tow bar. Although the dedicated harnesses are more expensive than universal ones, it is worth investing in them because they increase the safety and comfort of driving a set of vehicles. A dedicated harness is created in cooperation with manufacturers of towing eyes and cars, therefore its assembly and use are much simpler. The universal harness, on the other hand, causes more trouble during assembly (soldering into the car's wires) and use, because it does not work with the car's electronics. Taking into account the more and more modern software of on-board computers responsible for additional functions (e.g. reversing sensors), the universal harness will not allow their use. Whether we choose a 7-pole or a 13-pole bundle depends only on the type of trailer we are pulling. If the trailer is light, a 7-pole harness will be sufficient to ensure the operation of the basic lights (without reversing lights). The 13-pole harness is indispensable for caravans. It supplies electricity to all the lights, and additionally supplies electricity to the electrical devices in the trailer and charges its battery. If there is some kind of dirt on the plug of the electric harness, it is recommended to use a special product, e.g. a spray, to clean the electric contacts.
After checking the set of lights, you can focus on the brakes. When braking with trailers with overrun brake, make sure that it runs evenly. It is equally important to test the parking brake, which locks the caravan on the campsite. To see if everything is working properly, the trailer should not move with the parking brake on even though the car tries to pull it.
Now it is worth focusing on the living area of the trailer. To make your holiday safe and without any unpleasant surprises, let's check the installation in our caravan before you leave. A tight gas installation ensures safety when using a gas stove, gas boiler or heating. It is equally important to check the water installation. It is recommended to clean pipes and water tanks twice a year - before and after the season. You can use specialized products that effectively disinfect water system components. It is also worth checking the tightness of the seals in the tap or shower. Additionally, you can also try out the trailer ventilation system.
If our trailer has passed the pre-season quality test with a positive result, it is worth refreshing our skills and knowledge of the regulations. Before embarking on the route, remember that when driving a set of vehicles, we are bound by different speed limits on Polish and foreign roads.
When moving around our country in built-up areas, the same speed limits apply as for passenger cars (50 km / h or 60 km / h). Outside the built-up area, the maximum speed at which the vehicle train can travel depends on whether it is a single carriageway (70 km / h) or a dual carriageway (80 km / h). Lower speeds are also valid on expressways and motorways (80 km / h).
Before traveling outside Poland, read the regulations of the countries you will pass through. For example, in Germany, there is a speed limit of 50 km / h in built-up areas, 80 km / h outside built-up areas, and on express roads and motorways, if the trailer is properly approved, the speed limit is 100 km / h. If the trailer does not have such approval, the speed limit on these roads is 80 km / h.
Good driving technique in a set of vehicles is based on two basic principles - avoiding sudden turns and driving as smoothly as possible. Following these rules, when driving with a trailer, you should take turns with a sufficiently wide arc so that the trailer does not “cut” the top of the bend, which may make it unstable or endanger the safety of an oncoming car. Fluency is important primarily due to the extended braking distance of a vehicle towing a trailer. Therefore, you should adjust the speed to the prevailing weather conditions, the increased weight of vehicles, and, above all, to your own experience and skills.
If the trailer we tow is wider than the car, an additional set of mirrors should be installed on the side mirrors. Undoubtedly, they will be useful when reversing with a trailer. The reversing maneuver itself needs to be rehearsed and trained before going on the road. On the campsite or in the marina, we will definitely not have the time and opportunities for this. Although the theory of the technique of reversing and driving backwards in a curve can be found on many websites, during the exercises it is worth having a person who can do these elements on his own and will help us learn.
The way the load is distributed in the trailer also affects the quality of driving a vehicle combination. In the case of a light trailer, the load should be well secured and located in the middle of the trailer to avoid too much load at the rear or front. However, when we plan to transport additional luggage in a caravan, it is advisable to spread the luggage over the entire floor area to maintain an even load. Placing luggage on a table, bed or in shelves when braking sharply can be dangerous.
After checking the above-mentioned elements, it is worth spending one free afternoon for a test drive with a trailer. We will then be able to see if it does not make any disturbing sounds. With the help of an additional person, we will also be sure that all the lights are working properly while driving. The first check of the equipment at the beginning of spring will give us a lot of time for possible repairs or the purchase of new elements. Thanks to this, our holiday plans will not change. We will also be sure that we are driving in fully operational vehicles.
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