Servicing – Ensure your trailer and vehicle are both road-worthy. Like your towing vehicle, Trailers need servicing regularly to check for any damage and to ensure the trailer is in good working order.
Tyres – must have enough tread (at least 1.6mm) and make sure there are no cracks in the sidewall of the tyre. These cracks can appear if the trailer is left standing for a long period.
Electrics – ensure all the internal and external lights are working.
Maximum Tow Weight – Check your maximum towing weight (you’ll find this in the vehicle’s handbook or by checking the chassis plate) isn’t lower than the weight you are going to be towing. To work out your towing load, weigh your horses with a weigh tape and add it to the weight of the trailer, which you’ll find on the chassis.
Insurance – Your car insurance may cover the trailer third party when towing, but this won’t include theft or damage so make sure you check your cover with your insurer.
Make sure that the trailer’s handbrake is on (or the chock is in place under the wheel), and the trailer’s tow bar is higher than the tow ball.
Line your vehicle up so you can go back in a straight line towards the trailer and then reverse slowly.
Hitching up takes a bit of practice, but there are ways to make it easier;
- You may find it helpful to look through the rear window rather than using the wing/rearview mirrors. If so, look through the centre of the rear window in line with the Cheval logo, which is centrally above the hitch.
- Ask a friend to see you back and help you get central to the tow ball, without it hitting the back of your vehicle, which can be an easy but costly mistake!
- If your vehicle has a reverse camera this can help, however not all are positioned for hitching and may distort your distance so use cautiously.
Once you have the tow ball lined up directly under the tow hitch, with one hand hold the coupling head up and the other start to lower the hitch onto the ball by turning the jockey wheel. You’ll hear it click into place as the two become connected. To make sure, you can wind the jockey wheel back up and you will see the vehicle lifting, which shows it is connected correctly.
Make sure that the jockey wheel is positioned centrally and wind it up as high as it will go. The wheel will then automatically fold up.
The trailer has a wire with a hook on the end. This is the breakaway cable, and it must be attached to an eye or looped through a main brace of the tow bar, NOT over the tow ball. The idea of the breakaway cable is that, if the trailer and vehicle become separated, the wire applies the trailer’s handbrake.
To connect the 13 Pin electrics, line up the gap of the vehicle’s electrical socket with the gap in the tow hitch socket. Connect the two then twist so that the cable cannot be pulled out.
Release the trailer handbrake and check everything is working;
For the brake lights, ask someone to stand behind to check or use reflections. It’s good practice to do a last check to ensure everything is safe before you load your horse, and never travel with the hitch locked on, because if the trailer should flip over, it is likely to turn the vehicle over too!
Top tip: Make sure you keep the tow ball greased.
If you’re only towing one horse, travel it on the right to allow for the camber of the road. Also, make sure that the breast bars are set to the correct height for the horse. Never load a horse into an unhitched trailer.
GETTING ON THE ROAD
Anticipate stops and leave space in front of you – braking while pulling up to 3.5 tonnes is not a fast process! Even with trailer brakes, it takes much longer to stop a vehicle when a trailer is pushing it from behind, so leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Practice not stopping, yes that’s right, not stopping! By reading the road and approaching slowly, you can do a whole journey without stopping at traffic lights or roundabouts. If you keep the wheels moving, it makes it a much smoother journey for your horse, reduces fuel consumption and emissions – it’s a win-win! Take turns slowly and wider, especially on sharp bends as the trailer will cut the corner, so pay attention to where your trailer is going as you turn.
If you begin to lose control of the trailer, do not try to accelerate out of it or slam on the breaks! A trailer will ‘snake’ (swing behind zig-zagging) for many reasons, such as the towing weight being too heavy for your car, big vehicles overtaking you, wind, poor roads, and uneven tyre pressure.
If it happens, ease your foot off the accelerator and keep the steering steady.
This is undoubtedly the trickiest part of towing a trailer! The first thing to remember is to take it very slowly – the smallest wheel adjustments can make a big difference to the direction of the trailer. First, make sure there is nothing behind you, and if possible, have a helper to see you back. Where you start from will affect where you end up, so if you want to reverse around a corner, start straight and about a vehicle’s length from the area you are reversing into. If reversing around a corner, make the angle as wide as possible, if you push the trailer into too sharp of a corner, you run the risk of jack-knifing – which is the point at which you can no longer reverse.
The main thing to remember when reversing is whichever way you turn the steering wheel will send your trailer in the opposite direction.
To straighten the trailer up, simply turn the wheel back the other way. If you get the angle wrong, you are generally better to go forwards again rather than trying to correct it.
Just take your time!
- Park your trailer on as flat a surface as possible and then apply the car and trailer’s handbrake. To avoid the brake shoes sticking to the drums, you can leave your trailer parked with the handbrake off but use the supplied wheel chock in front of the wheels to prevent it from rolling.
- Disconnect the electrical and breakaway cables.
- Undo the jockey wheel until it is touching the ground.
- Hold up the tow hitch handle and wind the jockey wheel higher until the vehicle and trailer disconnect.
- Lock your trailer so it’s secure and ready for your next outing.