How to move a car – by trailer

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Hauling a car on a trailer is a big job. You’re going to need a feisty towing vehicle, hefty restraints and a tough trailer with adequate towing capacity. Let’s look at how to get the car on the trailer and keep it there, safe and secure.

What you’ll need

  • A trailer that is big enough for the job, in good condition and rated for the trailer towing load it will be carrying.
  • A vehicle big enough to pull the loaded trailer.
  • A winch capable of pulling the weight of the car.
  • Ratchet straps or wheel nets.
  • Ramps (if not attached to trailer) that can bear the weight of the car.

Getting it on

  • Put the towing vehicle in park with the handbrake on and hitch the trailer securely using correctly rated coupling.
  • Drop or attach ramps (as appropriate) with the capacity to hold the vehicle.
  • Line the car up to the back of the trailer front end first and wind out the winch cable. Attach the winch to a solid part on the car (such as the chassis) that won’t give way under the pressure of being hauled on to the trailer.
  • Winch the car slowly on to the trailer with its front facing the towing vehicle.

Keeping it there

  • Once the car is on the trailer you need to get it in the right position, preferably balanced over the trailer axles. Too far forward, it can drop the nose of the trailer and affect traction; too far back, it can cause sway.
  • Put the car in gear with the handbrake on and the winch still attached.
  • Secure the car, using the straps or wheel nets. Work from the front first, attaching straps around the body mount to points on the trailer to keep it from moving backwards in transit. Likewise, secure the rear of the car to points at the back of the trailer. If possible, connect wheel nets or straps over the wheels to points at both ends and midway, along the outside edges of the trailer.
  • Tighten all straps so the car is secured low in the trailer and can’t bounce or move in any direction. Check to see if the winch needs further tightening.

Getting it off again

This seems like it should be the easy part, but extra care needs to be taken when lowering the car off the trailer.

  • Place chocks under the wheels then unhook all restraints.
  • Put the ramps into position.
  • Check the winch is tight and ready, then release the handbrake and put the car in neutral.
  • Using the winch to control momentum, slowly roll the car back down off the trailer. If possible, have someone sitting in the car to steer it and use the brakes as necessary.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it! The important thing is that the trailer, tow vehicle and restraints must all be rated for the load that’s being hauled. Then, as long as you secure the car thoroughly, everything should arrive safely at your destination.

Before you set out, here are some extra pointers for keeping your load safe and secure.


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