Safety and legality are the two overriding issues in relation to towing a trailer boat and neither is to be taken lightly.
Key Elements of Towing
When deciding if you have enough towing power for your boat, it is not only your vehicle that you need to take into consideration, you need to address:
Your Towing Vehicle
Vehicle Specifications and Towing Capacity
When assessing if your vehicle is suitable for your particular trailer boat you need to cover off on:
- Manufacturers specifications
- National regulations
- Individual state regulations in the areas you not only reside, but are planning to visit.
Many passenger cars do have the capacity to tow small trailer boats such as under 1500 kgs but first you must check the manufacturer’s specifications for your particular vehicle.
The specifications will cover the vehicle, the tyres and the shock absorbers. These may be detailed in your vehicle owner’s handbook or should be accessible either online or via contact with a dealer or manufacturer. The limits specified should not be exceeded.
When considering these specifications in relation to your boat, remember these relate to the total tow weight, ie boat and trailer and take into account the load in the vehicle. Ensure you do not exceed the GCM – Gross Combined Mass, which is the maximum that the vehicle is allowed to weigh including the trailer and boat. That is, don’t forget to account for passengers in the vehicle, luggage and gear.
There are both National regulations and individual state regulations covering the capacity of vehicles to towing various loads.
The National rule regarding towing regulations essentially rules that a motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GMV) not exceeding 4.5 tonnes is not permitted to tow a trailer and load exceeding the specifications of the manufacturer.
Each state has regulations governing towing requirements and you can review these requirements at their websites. If considering traveling interstate, don’t forget to consider the requirements of your visiting and not just your home state.
If you do not meet the state regulations, fines do apply.
Follow these links for state regulations:
Tyre and Shock Absorber Specifications
In addition to the towing capacity of your vehicle, you need to consider the specifications of the tyres and shock absorbers. Most manufacturers equip vehicles for the average or standard driver and driving scenarios and these may not be sufficient for towing a trailer boat.
Once again, these specifications should be listed in the vehicle handbook or visit a tyre retailer. Upgrading to a higher capacity tyre and shock absorbers may be more suitable to towing your trailer boat safely.
The tow bar or coupling must also meet specifications and regulations. It must be strong enough for the trailer and boat load, based on manufacturer’s specifications and ratings. These should be marked on the coupling.
Some regulations state that the tow coupling has a positive locking mechanism.
Safety chains must also comply with Australian standards with at least two safety chains fitted for trailers over 25000 kg.
The capacity and specifications of the trailer must also be considered in assessing your towing power.
Some trailers are required to be registered and you can check this at the transport department website for your particular state. If rego is required, the trailer will have to meet rego requirements and a number plate displayed.
The loaded mass of the trailer must meet strict towing ration requirements as set out by the manufacturers and noted on the state transport department websites.
These ratios are in relation to loads and weights so you may wish to take your rig to a weigh station to get an accurate weight to ensure you meet the legal and safety requirements.
Trailer tyres must also meet regulations and specifications and should be checked and maintained pedantically. Adjusting tyre pressure to suit road and weather conditions will assist in better handling and safer travelling.
Don’t forget the brakes! The minimum braking system requirements will depend on the trailer type, the weight of the trailer and the weight of the vehicle and you must be able to operate the brakes from the driving position.
Lighting also needs to meet regulations and be checked regularly.
Maintaining your trailer correctly will not only extend its life it is also a safety aspect.
Flush brakes and other components with fresh water after each boat trip to minimise rust.
Check lights and tyre pressure regularly and don’t forget to adjust to suit any changes in your load. Some extra fishing gear, scuba diving equipment or additional passengers can affect the weight ratios and your towing capacity
Make sure you have enough towing power for your new trailer boat is essential for getting your vessel to and into the water, but most importantly, it is essential for the safety of yourself, your passengers and other road and boat ramp users.