Regulations - including
This information extracted from the Indespension
"Complete towing guide for trailer and caravan owners nationwide" - to
whom we are very grateful. Items in brackets are our own added opinions and/or
the experiences of others.
On motorways & dual carriageways 60 MPH, other roads 50 MPH, provided no
lower limit is in force and the gross weight of vehicle and trailer is less than
7.5 tonnes. You are not allowed in the third lane of a motorway when
(yet) required for trailers of less than 3500 Kg gross weight fitted with
over-run brakes. (note however that an unroadworthy trailer invalidates the
Maximum gross weight of an unbraked trailer is 750 Kg or half the kerb weight of
the towing vehicle - whichever is the less. I must point out here that
we've been given conflicting information about gross weight - some have
said this is the actual gross weight while others claim that this is the
'maximum permitted gross weight' or MAM. Both sources are normally
reliable so confusion reigns! This difference
could be of real importance when deciding whether to tow an ultra-mini car on an a-frame.
Maximum gross weight - i.e. trailer weight plus load weight - must not exceed
3500 Kg. (To précis the recommendations here...Check also the recommended
maximum towing weight for the towing vehicle and also apply the rule of thumb -
tow not more than 85% of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle).
Vehicles with plating (i.e. us!):
Such vehicles are allowed to tow trailers provided the train weight is not
exceeded. The train weight can usually be found on a plate in the passenger's
foot well or door step.
Trailers manufactured after October 1982 which require brakes must be fitted
with a braking system complying with EC Directives. Since 1989 only
auto-reversing brakes comply.
(There are many more detailed regulations too but those above
are the ones most likely to concern users rather than constructors. If you
want a copy of the Indespension guide for about £3 or so, phone 0800-720720
A-frames: As we
understand it a-frames are treated no differently to any other trailer, so
virtually every car towed by a-frame would have to be modified to link to the brakes.
There is doubt about whether cars can be modified to fully meet
regulations but A-frame suppliers will carry out
modifications for you and many motorcaravanners are using such towing
arrangements every day.
By the way some people are alarmed at the prospect of
their car having a hole drilled in the floor to link the brake cable but don't
forget there are electrical modifications to be made in any case to couple the two
vehicles' lighting systems. The only downside to all this is that you might
adjust the brake coupling frequently! Some contributors have said
"this is essential - every trip", others have said the opposite "The
brake adjuster should NOT be touched once it is set up". Check with
There is an argument that says an
a-frame towed car is a trailer but since it can never have auto-reverse overrun brakes
fitted it must then be illegal in all
cases. A counter argument runs that says, such a car is outside the
trailer legislation so auto-reverse and/or overrun braking is not required
though under what regulation this then falls is open to question. We are given
to understand that different regulations apply, or are applied
differently, to recovery vehicles.
There's also the issue of how other countries view
a-frames. European law says that the vehicle construction and use laws
that apply are the ones of the vehicle's home country (e.g. you need an English
MOT not a German TUV when visiting Germany!). Nevertheless publications
like the Caravan Club's "Continental Sites Guide" clearly state re
Germany for example "Motorcaravans are prohibited from towing a car. Motorcaravanners wishing to do so should put the car on a trailer so that all
four wheels are off the ground". I believe it is true that you can't
tow on a German motorway but know people who tow small cars on a-frames
elsewhere. So, as usual 'you pays
your money and takes your choice'!
In contrast let me relay the experience of
some experienced and knowledgeable
"... and if it all goes wrong how do you
argue points of European law when confronted by a German or Portuguese
policeman who wants to fine you (or even to arrest you or to impound your
vehicle)? The answer is you pay the fine then go through the long
legal process of getting it back later - if you have the time and energy!
Or you write off the fine as on of those things or you put the car on a
trailer in the first place. If you do you'll have a greater choice
of cars but less flexibility when travelling!
trailers built since 1989 have to have auto-reverse brakes meeting the
braking efficiencies laid down in EC directive 71/320. This is
achieved in normal trailers and caravans by having special wheel hubs
which disengage the brake when turning backwards. This is clearly
impossible with a towed car and it is thus impossible for a towed
car to meet directive 71/320 as incorporated into the UK Construction and
Use Regulations. A-frame sellers rely on the fact that neither of the
above points has yet been tested by a court case."
suspect many people are towing cars without having checked with their
insurers, most of whom will not cover the process. So what happens if, for
example, the car unhitches itself and runs into a crowd at a bus stop? Will
the car's insurer pay up - very unlikely unless you've got his prior written
agreement since the car clearly wasn't being driven at the time. Will
the towing vehicle's insurer pay up - normal insurance covers towed trailers
for Third Party cover only. Well, maybe - unless, of course, they can make a
case that what you were doing was illegal and thus not covered by the
note that the diverse views expressed in this section are given by individuals
and are published by us in good faith. No responsibility for their
accuracy is accepted, nor is any guarantee or warranty given or implied.