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Driving and towing with an A-frame

Motorhome drivers often take along an alternative mode of transport to use when they reach their destination, since a bulky motorhome isn’t the most practical vehicle for sightseeing trips or popping to the local shops. Bicycles and mopeds are popular choices but it’s increasingly common to see a motorhome towing a small car.

A-frame tow barThis requires the use of an A-frame, the kind often used by breakdown recovery drivers and allows a car to be towed without a driver to steer it. To use an A-frame safely and within the law, you’ll need to follow many regulations.

Your first task is finding the right car to tow. Smaller vehicles like the Smart are ideal but there are more suitable new and used cars than you might think. Advice from the motor trade or consumer websites and magazines can help you make the right decision.

Unless you are towing a vehicle which has broken down, your A-frame and vehicle are classed as a trailer in the eyes of the law. This means that you must obey the regulations that apply to trailer towing, the vehicle categories on your driving licence carry restrictions on both the weight of trailer you can tow, which in this case means the total weight of the car and the A-frame together as well as the towing vehicle you are driving.

Changes to the driving licence categories awarded when you pass your test mean that if you passed before 1997, the vehicle classes you are entitled to drive should comfortably cover a motorhome towing a small car. However, if you passed later than this you are likely to be restricted to a maximum combined weight of 3,500kg for vehicle and trailer, which rules out many motorhome, A-frame and car combinations. You may have to take further lessons and another test before you can tow a car behind you.

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It is not compulsory for trailers below 750kg in weight to have brakes. However the law states that if brakes are fitted they need to be functioning, which makes them a requirement when you are using your car as a trailer. Some A-frames are set up so that the car’s brakes will be activated when the motorhome’s brakes are applied. You will also need to ensure that the car’s lights will function properly when it is attached to the A-frame. This is important as it ensures drivers in vehicles behind you can see the brake lights and indicators in operation. Number plates or trade plates on the car should be covered by a plate showing the registration of the vehicle towing it.

You’ll also need to check that your insurance policy covers towing with an A-frame. Even if it does, using the A-frame incorrectly could invalidate a claim so make sure everything is in place and working before you set off.


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