Things you need to know about towing
Towing a trailer changes how your vehicle handles on the road. A heavy load means your car will take longer to speed up and slow down. If your trailer is overloaded or incorrectly loaded, it can be dangerous and unpredictable. If you’re going to tow anything with your vehicle, make sure you have a good understanding of the basics of towing a trailer safely.
Guide to safe loading and towing for light vehicles
- The towing connection and safety chain or cable that holds the trailer or vehicle must be secured, safe and strong.
- Make sure the towball and coupling match in size. There are 2 sizes in Aotearoa - the standard 1 7/8” ball (47.55mm), and the 50mm ball. Using different sizes may cause the trailer to disconnect from the car.
- Be aware that overloading and uneven loading of car trailers can seriously affect a car’s handling.
- When driving a light vehicle, you must not tow more than one trailer or vehicle at a time.
- At night, the back of the trailer/towed vehicle must show a red light.
- The maximum legal speed for a light vehicle towing a trailer on the open road is 90km/h.
- You must be able to see behind the towed trailer or vehicle. If you can’t see behind with your rear-view mirrors, you may need to fit a special mirror.
- Leave more space than usual between your vehicle and the vehicle in front, so that others can pass you.
- The added weight behind you means you’ll need more space to stop.
- Increase your following distance from 2 seconds to 4 seconds.
- You’ll be slower and less stable than other traffic when towing. Check behind often to see if other vehicles are held up behind you.
- If the road is winding or narrow and vehicles can’t pass you, stop at a safe place and let them pass.
If you’re towing a trailer or another vehicle, check your rear-view mirror often to make sure you aren’t holding up vehicles behind you.
On a class 1 learner or restricted car licence you can tow a trailer but the combined weight of your vehicle, the trailer and its load must not be more than 4500kg.
On a full licence the combined weight of your vehicle, the trailer and its load must not be more than 6000kg.
Carrying a load on your car
- Don’t overload your roof rack.
- Your load must not extend more than 3 metres forward of the front edge of the front seat or 4 metres behind the rear axle.
- Your load must not extend more than 1.275 metres on either side from the centre of the vehicle.
Note: if a load extends more than 1 metre beyond the back of your vehicle, you must tie on a white flag, or a red, orange or yellow fluorescent flag during the day. At night the flag needs to be replaced with lights. The flag must be at least 40 centimetres by 30 centimetres in size. The load must be tied on firmly and must not touch the ground.
There must be no more than 4 metres between your vehicle and the trailer or vehicle it’s towing.