So, your friend calls you up. He has broken down; it’s peak hour and he is asking for help. Instantly, you jump to their aid, but perhaps you should take a second to think, what are my options here? Does my car even have enough power to pull his to safety? Consider your options carefully, as towing a vehicle isn’t as easy as you might think.
Here are some very simple reasons why towing your own vehicle, or a friends’, is not a good idea.
Towing your own vehicle with a rope is legal however it is not recommended, and you are subject to the relevant road rules and regulations. Depending on the vehicle size, location and nature of the breakdown you might think the quickest and easiest option is to tow the vehicle home or to your local garage yourself.
First you will need to check that your vehicles towing capacity. This information can be found in the handbook or specification sheet for each make and model. There is a limit that each vehicle can safely tow.
Towing a vehicle that is too heavy, can add stress to your engine and can result in an array of problems. It is best to think about this now, rather than at the side of the road after your good deed has led to a breakdown of your own vehicle.
A properly designed and fitted tow ball must be installed. All tow bars have their own load rating, and this indicates the weight of the vehicle they can pull without experiencing difficulties. Overloading your tow bar can cause a whole other set of issues, such as overheated transmission, broken suspension, and failing brakes.
The tow bar should be clearly and permanently marked with its:
- Maximum rated capacity
- Make and model of the vehicle it is intended for or the manufacturer’s part number
- Manufacturer’s name or trademark.
This is compulsory for vehicles built after 1 January 1992. The exception is where the tow bar is a permanent part of the vehicle.
Due to the extra weight that your vehicle is now experiencing while towing, you must take this into account when it comes to stopping the vehicle. The extra momentum that is behind the vehicle impacts the braking system, and you must be mindful of this when operating your brakes. Gradually reducing your speed when you tow is imperative to ensure your brakes can operate when you need to slow down, and even more so, if there was an emergency and you needed to stop instantly.
You should contact your insurance company if you plan to tow another vehicle, as different companies have different policies about what is included in your cover. You wouldn’t want to put yourself, car and other people at risk by not being adequately covered if an accident should arise.
The Towing Vehicle’s Responsibilities
All vehicles must comply with relevant standards of registration and be roadworthy at all time. Rear plates and lights must not be obscured by the tow bar when the trailer or vehicle is attached. You must make sure you have the correct tow bar and couplings for the weight you are intending to tow.
NSW Transport have put together a quick and simple guide to the rules that need to be followed if you do decide to go against expert’s advice and tow your own vehicle.
Rules for towing
- Towing more than one trailer at a time is not allowed
- Nobody permitted to ride in trailers or caravans under tow
- When towing and driving on a road without streetlights, drive at least 60 meters behind heavy vehicles or other vehicles towing trailers, unless overtaking
- Learner drivers, and learner and provisional motorcycle riders, are not allowed to tow
- P1 car license holders can tow small trailers with up to 250 kg of unloaded weight.
Sound judgement should play a major role in your decision to tow your best mate’s car home when it breaks down on the side of a busy motorway. In short, your response to his request should be no, and you can point him in the direction of Newcastle Towing and Transport, who have the knowledge, equipment and man power to help with your towing requirements, with 24/7 towing services in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter region.