Tips for Towing!

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Tips for Towing!

With the long weekend coming right for us some of you will be towing recreational vehicles, boats, and other trailers. Towing a trailer brings unique challenges to drivers. Half of reported collisions while towing are single vehicle collisions, while another twenty percent are rear end collisions. 

License and Permit 

  • In the province of Ontario you must have a valid driver’s license to tow a trailer. A license with G or higher class is needed to tow a trailer with a gross vehicle weight of up to 4600 Kilograms (approx. 10141 lbs). 
  • If your trailer and the load you are transporting, exceed the size and weight specified in the Highway Traffic Act, you may need a higher class of license or and oversize vehicle permit to tow it. 
  • Oversize permits are available at some Service Ontario centers 
  • It is against the law to tow more than one trailer behind a non-commercial vehicle 

Registering your trailer 

  • A trailer is considered a separate vehicle to the towing vehicle 
  • Before you can tow a trailer, on any public road, it must be registered at a Service Ontario center along with a one-time registration fee 
  • After registering the trailer you will receive a license plate and a vehicle permit for said trailer 
  • Attach the license plate to the back of the trailer where it is clearly visible, always carry your permit, or a copy of it, to show to a police officer if asked 

Make Sure the trailer is in good condition 

  • Your trailer MUST be in safe operation condition 
  • If it is not safe for regular operation a police officer may remove the trailer from the road until it is made safe to operate 


  • If your trailer has a gross trailer weight, vehicle weight and load of 1360 kg or more, it must have breaks strong enough to stop and hold the trailer 


  • Your trailer must have: a white license plate light, a red tail light, and two red reflectors at the rear of the trailer spaced as far apart as possible. 
  • If your trailer is wider than 2.05 meters, it must also have: Two yellow clearance lights, one on each side at the front of the trailer as far apart as possible to let drivers coming toward you know the width of the trailer. Two red clearance lights, or reflectors, one on each side at the rear of the trailer, as far apart as possible, to let drivers behind you know the width of your trailer. 
  • The trailer must have mud guards, fenders, and flaps or be designed in such a way that it does not spray or splash traffic travelling behind you. 
  • If the load in your trailer blocks your vision to the rear, you must have additional mirrors that provide a clear view of the road to the rear. 
  • Load your trailer carefully so that nothing comes loose or falls off while you are moving 

Attaching your trailer 

  • Your trailer must have two separate ways of attaching to your vehicle so that if one fails or comes loose, the trailer will stay attached. 
  • If safety chains are used, they must be crossed under the tongue to prevent the tongue from dropping to the road if the primary hitch accidentally disconnects. 
  • The chain hooks must have latches or devices that will not accidentally become detached 

No Passengers 

  • You may not carry any person in any trailer, including a house or boat trailer, when it is being towed 

Trailer hitch 

  • Use a good quality trailer hitch 
  • The class of hitch you use depends on the gross weight of your trailer, the gross weight being the total weight of the trailer and its load 
  • The hitch should be securely attached to your vehicle following the manufacturers recommendations 
  • The hitch ball should be installed so that when the trailer is attached and tightened, it is level with no tilting 
  • If the hitch pulls down the rear of the vehicle, you may need to use a load equalizing trailer hitch 
  • You may also be able to shift some of the load in the trailer to the rear to reduce the load on the rear of the vehicle 
  • In addition to a ball and hitch, be sure to use safety chains or cables strong enough to hold the trailer and load, in case the ball and hitch accidentally come apart 

Loading your trailer 

  • When loading up your trailer, be sure to strap everything down in side as well as outside 
  • It is an offense to have a load that may become dislodged or fall off 
  • Never overload your trailer, too much weight in the trailer can put a strain on your vehicle and damage you tires, wheel bearings and axle 
  • When carrying a boat on a trailer, do not carry cargo in the boat unless your trailer is designed and equipped for the extra weight 
  • When towing, generally more of the trailer load should be in front of the trailer axle than behind it for proper hitch weight 
  • Approximately five to ten percent of the trailers total weight should be supported on the hitch, within the weight limit marked on the hitch 
  • Poor load balance can cause your trailer to sway or fishtail 
  • The ball and hitch may also become separated, especially if there is too much weight in the rear of the trailer 
  • Heavy and improperly placed loads may pull down the rear of your vehicle, causing the front end to lift affecting steering especially in wet and slippery conditions, It could also cause the aim of the headlights to be off blinding oncoming traffic with your low beams 

Starting out 

  • Before each trip check the trailer hitch, wheels, tires, lights, load distribution and load security 
  • Check the tire pressure with the trailer loaded and the wheels cold 
  • When starting to drive, accelerate carefully and drive slowly 

Curves and turns 

  • Stay close to the middle of your lane when taking a curve 
  • When making a right turn, check traffic, look in your right mirror, signal and slow down 
  • If the turn is sharp, move ahead until you vehicle’s front wheels are well ahead of the curb before turning to the right 
  • When making a left turn, check traffic, signal, and proceed slowly 
  • When you make your turn swing wide by driving well in to the intersection before turning 

Slowing down and stopping 

  • A sudden stop can cause the trailer to jackknife or slide sideways, or cause the load to shift 
  • To avoid sudden stops, increase the follow distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you 
  • Stay out of the fast, left, lanes and maintain a speed that will allow you to slow down and stop smoothly in any situation 


  • While towing you do not have the ability to accelerate as quickly as when you are not towing a trailer 
  • You also need to leave much more space while passing as your vehicle is much longer with the trailer attached 
  • Make sure you have enough time and room to complete the pass 
  • Do not cut back into the lane too soon as this can cause your trailer to sway and make it difficult to control 

Being passed 

  • If you are holding up a line of traffic while towing, signal, pullover and let the other vehicles pass 
  • Fast moving trucks and busses create a strong air disturbance behind them, this wall of wind can cause your trailer to whip to the side, If you experience this do not break and carefully steer you vehicle and trailer back into position, a slight increase in speed may help 


Backing up 

  • Back up very slowly and have someone outside directing you 
  • Use a series of small turns to steer, it is a good idea to practice this skill off the road until you are comfortable with your ability 
  • To back up to the right steer to the left, to back up to the left steer to the right 


I hope we have outlined some of the fundamentals that go hand in hand with towing in Ontario. As always be sure to use caution and common sense while on the road. We at HRC insurance hope you have a safe a fun filled May long weekend! 

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