||It has been suggested that this article be merged with Vehicle recovery. (Discuss) Proposed since April 2011.|
Towing is the process of pulling or drawing behind a chain, line, bar or some other form of couplings. Towing is most visibly performed by vehicles, but anything from waterborne vessels to tractors to people can tow cargo. Troop carrying and cargo carrying gliders were towed behind powered aircraft during WWII and remains a popular means for modern leisure gliders to take off. In the maritime industry in particular, towing is a refined science.
Types of trailers 
Most trailers fit into one of five categories:
- Flat bed or open trailers are platforms with no sides or stakes. This type of trailer works well for hauling large or unconventional shaped objects.
- Enclosed trailers are fully covered by four sides and a roof. These types of trailers are generally used for carrying livestock since they protect the contents from weather. People also rent these types of trailers for moving boxes, furniture and other materials.
- Boat trailers are used specifically for pulling boats. These types of trailers are designed for easy loading in and out of the water and are purchased based on the specific type and style of boat they will be hauling.
- Recreational vehicles (RV) are utility vehicles or vans that are often equipped with living facilities. These types of trailers can be attached to the back of almost any road vehicle and are commonly used for camping outings or road trips. Living trailers in the United Kingdom are commonly known as caravans.
- Tank trailers, which are trailers designed to contain liquids such as milk, water or motor fuel.
Towing safety 
There are many safety considerations to properly towing a caravan or trailer / travel trailer starting with vehicle towing capacity and ranging through equalizer hitches to properly and legally connecting the safety chains.
According to the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Association, more than 65,000 crashes involving passenger vehicles towing trailers occurred in 2004 in the US, jumping nearly 20 percent from the previous year.
In 2006, Master Lock did their annual study on towing safety to see how many Americans tow their cargo correctly. The study, Towing Troubles included responses from trailer owners across the country and found that while the majority of trailer owners believe they know what they’re doing when it comes to towing, most were lacking the proper education. Master Lock reported that 70 percent of trailer owners did not fully know the correct way to tow their cargo.
An important factor in towing safety is tongue weight, the weight with which the trailer presses down on the tow vehicle's hitch. Insufficient tongue weight can cause the trailer to sway back and forth when towed. Too much tongue weight can cause problems with the tow vehicle.
Caravan loading: The way in which you load your caravan will affect the way that it drives. Wrongly loaded caravans are far more likely to swerve or snake and so will be much more difficult to control. Follow these loading guidelines to achieve the maximum amount of stability for your caravan. - Always store heavy smaller items low down, ideally over the axles or just in front of them. - Try and maintain even weight distribution. If you have heavy items to place in front of the axle balance them by placing an equally weighted item just behind the axle. - Lighter, larger items can be carried in the towing vehicle. - Only place lighter items in the overhead lockers. - Place heavy and medium weighted items towards the front of the vehicle. - Safely secure all items in the caravan. Tying them down if necessary. - Gas canisters must be turned off at the cylinder when moving.
Towbar Wiring 
Vehicle Specific Towbar Wiring 
Of the many cars fitted with towbars, most are likely to have fitted towing electrics which are ‘hidden’ from the car. This electrical installation is commonly called ‘By-pass electrics’. This system is used to protect the car's lighting systems from potential damage if wiring in a trailer should malfunction. It is a tried and tested system in very wide use. Bypass systems are found both in "universal" (non-vehicle-specific) systems and in dedicated and OEM systems.
Since the early 2000s, vehicle technology has moved forward introducing CANbus network systems which allowed the interaction of different systems, and also the detection of a trailer or caravan. In some cases, the manufacturers have not only designed automobiles to sense the presence of a trailer, but they have also created enhanced new features within the systems connected to the network. This actually makes it important that these particular vehicles can "see" the trailer or caravan. A few of these new features are for safety and stability, but most are merely convenience things like automatically switching off the rear fog light and parking sensors. The main new safety feature, appearing now on some cars, is the Trailer Stability Program which automatically turns on when a trailer detected in the network through the dedicated sensors.
Some of the advanced systems being introduced in certain vehicles, that may make use of detecting the presence of a trailer are: lane change assistant, brake electronics, adaptive cruise control, suspension system (ASS), engine electronics, engine cooling system, parking aids, and reversing camera.
TSP or Trailer Stability Program is one feature which has been added to some vehicles, to help correct the ‘snaking’ action of a trailer. With such advanced technology, some braking systems have even evolved further by being operated electronically, without the need for hydraulics. Braking can become more controlled with faster braking efficiency when towing. Some suspension systems can now detect a trailer and allow for a more level towing adjustment when the load is applied on the towing hitch. ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) systems are meant to ‘detect’ a trailer in order to create a greater braking distance between vehicles. It might be considered unwise to bypass such vehicles' trailer detection systems as these vehicles may be designed to behave in a different way when a trailer is attached.
Some manufacturers either put a prepared connector in the vehicle which is a preparation on the network (Ford, Volvo) to accept a specially designed towing module, or have designed the trailer to be ‘detected’ through connections directly onto the databus (VAG, BMW). With such connections the vehicle will know when a trailer plug is connected to the socket.
On vehicles that do not have safety features that depend on the vehicle sensing the presence of a trailer, bypass systems, properly installed by expert fitters, are very efficient and cost effective alternatives to expensive OEM and other dedicated kits. All bypass kits will be type approved for use on vehicles (check for the (e) mark). They have the built-in advantage of completely isolating the trailer from the vehicle's lighting system, thus protecting against damage to the car caused by any failure within the trailer's wiring. However, a number of manufacturers do not recommend connections to be made on the lighting harnesses.
Universal By-pass Electrics 
This system is used to protect the car's lighting systems from potential damage if wiring in a trailer should malfunction. It is a tried and tested system in very wide use. Bypass systems are found both in "universal" (non vehicle-dedicated) systems and in dedicated and OEM systems. It works by taking a small current signal from the vehicle's lighting harness to trigger a relay and send a direct power supply to the towing socket. It does not communicate with the vehicle and will not activate any safety or convenience systems. It has the built-in advantage of isolating the trailer wiring from that of the towing vehicle and thus preventing overloading the vehicle's own lighting harness which may be minimal gauge cabling. The connection onto this harness will cause damage if solder or crimp connectors are used! However, by-pass systems should protect the car's electrical modules from damage should the wiring in a towed trailer malfunction. It is not advised for use in cars that depend on sensing the presence of a trailer to activate towing-related safety features within the car.(See Trailer Stability Programme). In addition to this, there are a number of vehicle manufacturers that do not recommend or actually ban any connections to be made from the vehicle lighting harness.
12N, 12S or 13 Pin Sockets 
12N is the designation for the older 7-pin lighting socket, used when towing just a trailer or caravan (without the need for charge or fridge functions). In the UK it has all the functions of the rear lights on a vehicle except for reverse. These sockets are not waterproof and suffer from "pin burn-out" when worn.
12S is an additional 7-pin socket mainly used when towing caravans. It consists of a permanent 12v power supply, and usually a switched 12v power supply for the fridge (UK). It also contains a feed for the reverse lights on the caravan.
13 Pin is the new ISO standard (ISO 11446) socket being fitted to all new U.K. caravans sold in 2009. It can be wired with the same functions as both the 12N and 12S sockets, or with just the lighting functions including reverse (required on all trailers and caravans from October 2012). The socket has been designed to be waterproof, easy to fit/remove (twist operation), the same size as one 12N socket (ideal for detachable towbars as unobtrusive), and with good fitting quality terminals that avoid any pin burnout or voltage failure.
Trailer Stability Program or TSP 
Another advance in trailer safety is the development of the Trailer Stability Program, built into some Electronic Stability Control systems in today's motor vehicles. These systems can detect the "snaking" of a trailer or caravan and counteract it by braking individual wheels, reducing engine torque and slowing the vehicle down. It is important to note that activation of TSP normally requires a vehicle-specific wiring loom to be installed.
Towing capacity 
Towing capacity is a measure describing the upper limit to the weight of a trailer a vehicle can tow and may be expressed in pounds or kilograms. Some countries require that signs indicating the maximum trailer weight (and in some cases, length) be posted on trucks and buses close to the coupling device, while this is not normally required with smaller vehicles such as cars or pickup trucks.
Towing capacity may either refer to braked or unbraked towing capacity.
Braked towing capacity 
Braked towing capacity is the towing capacity of a vehicle if the trailer being towed has its own braking system, typically connected to the vehicle's braking system via the trailer cable. Braked towing capacity is typically significantly greater than unbraked towing capacity.
Unbraked towing capacity 
Unbraked towing capacity is the towing capacity of a vehicle towing a trailer that does not have its own braking system.
Types of towing hitches 
A tow hitch, tow bar or recovery point is a device attached to the chassis of a vehicle for towing.
It can take the form of a tow-ball to allow swivelling and articulation of a trailer, or a tow pin and jaw with a trailer loop - often used for large or agricultural vehicles where slack in the pivot pin allows the same movements. A further category is the towing pintle used for military vehicles around the world with a hook and locking catch.
Towing law in the United States 
In the United States, several states have laws that regulate the circumstances under which a car may be towed. Some of these laws are designed to prevent "predatory towing" whereby a legally parked vehicle is towed—or an illegally parked vehicle is towed by a towing operator unaffiliated with the parking lot—in order to charge high fees from the owner. Because the towing company is in possession of the vehicle, and has no prior relationship with the vehicle owner, towing fees may be quite high in the absence of regulation.
In some jurisdictions, kidnapping laws may ban the towing of occupied vehicles.
California law requires the tow company to immediately and unconditionally release a vehicle if the driver arrives prior to it being towed from the private property and in transit. The intent was to avoid the likelihood of dangerous and violent confrontation and physical injury to vehicle owners and towing operators, the stranding of vehicle owners and their passengers at a dangerous time and location, and impeding expedited vehicle recovery, without wasting law enforcement’s limited resources.
Oregon law requires that the tower release a vehicle at no charge only if the driver is present prior to the hookup being complete. The tower must also take at least one photograph of the vehicle and record the time and date of the photograph. The photograph must show the vehicle violation taking place.
Virginia and its municipalities have enacted anti-"predatory towing" legislation. Some features of the legislation include the requirement to post warning signs at all entrances, setting maximum fees for towing and storage, and requiring photographs to be taken before towing to show the condition of the vehicle as well as the lawfulness of the towing.
Towing law in Australia 
All Australian States have laws which regulate the towing industry, particularly that part of the industry engaged in towing light and heavy vehicles involved in road accidents.
The Accident Towing Services Act is the prime towing industry statute in the State of Victoria. The scheme sets economic, occupational and general consumer protection controls over the accident towing industry. First, the statute restricts the number of accident towing vehicles across the State and also contains a scheme regulating the orderly allocation of tow trucks to road accident sites. Second, the Act sets mimimum standards on the character of industry participants and also regulates the behaviour of participants once they enter the industry.
The framework of offences in the Act broadly seeks to give practical effect to the "chain of responsibility" concept in the accident towing sector. The concept seeks to identify the industry parties who are in a sufficient position of control over risks, in this case potentially unsafe and unethical conduct following road accidents, and to allocate responsibility through law accordingly in order to deter and punish those behaviours.
The behavioural controls in the Act cover a wide range of activities and practices including the allocation of tow trucks to accident sites in "controlled areas" and conduct at road accident sites and during post accident repair work. The scheme was broadly prompted by consumer protection sentiment, in particular, the recognition of the vulnerability of road accident victims. Care was evident during development of the scheme to maintain and enhance existing character standards in the sector due to past behavioural issues in Victoria including the infiltration of criminal elements into some areas and conflict at accident scenes.
- establishing a licensing scheme for the tow trucks which provide accident towing services
- requiring the accreditation of operators of accident towing service businesses and managers of the depots from which accident tow trucks operate
- requiring the accreditation of accident tow truck drivers
- establishing requirements and protections relating to the storage and repair of motor vehicles following road accidents.
Towing law in the European Union 
As of the 1st of August 1988 all Passenger Carrying Vehicles up to 3500 kg Gross Vehicle Weight (M1 Vehicles) can only be fitted with European Type Approved towbars if the vehicle has received European Whole Vehicle Type Approval. Non M1 vehicles, Light Commercial Vehicles and private imports from outside the EEC are not required to use Approved Towbars.
See also 
- Vehicle recovery
- Tow truck
- Tow hitch
- Trailer Brake Controller
- Dolly (trailer) - supports the front wheels of a second vehicle
- Trailer stability program
- Accident Towing Services Act
- "Towing a Trailer" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- Joseph Mallia (2006-07-24). "They're towing a legal line: Planting lookouts in parking lots, inflating bills, hiding signs — what they can do to get cash from you.". Newsday (Melville, New York).
- Mai Tran (2005-03-10). "Bill to Protect Motorists From Predatory Towing Clears House". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles).
- "Removal From Private Property, Division 11, Chapter 10, Article 1, Section 22658". Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- Keeshan, Charles (2008-10-15). "McHenry County opts out of state towing regulations". Daily Herald (Arlington Heights).
- Holt, Brady (2008-10-15). "At first meeting, state task force looks to reduce predatory towing". The Diamondback.
- "HOUSE AMENDMENTS TO HOUSE BILL 2578". Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- Accident Towing Services Act 2007, Part 2.
- Accident Towing Services Act 2007, Parts 3-5.
- The chain of responsibility concept emanated from the heavy vehicle sector in Australia. The concept has since been taken further in Victoria and extended in a modified form to the rail safety, bus safety, marine safety, taxi and accident towing sectors.
- See the section on controlled areas below.
- Accident Towing Services Act 2007, Part 5.
- Accident Towing Services Act, Part 2.
- Accident Towing Services Act, Part 3.
- Accident Towing Services Act, Part 4.
- Accident Towing Services Act, Part 5.
- "European Tow Bar type approval 94/20/EC". Retrieved 2011-07-20.