Posted on July 28th, 2016

How Does Towing Affect My Car’s Safety Features?

Towing Safety Pic_reduced web

With summer in full swing and gas prices holding steady, many people are hitting the roads. Whether you’re towing a camper, boat, trailer full of ATVs, or even a bike rack, safety should be the driver’s main concern during the trip.

While most vehicle safety features are meant to work seamlessly while towing a trailer, the best thing to do before heading out of town is to read through your owner’s manual to learn what safety features your vehicles offers, and then visit to learn more about how they work. Every vehicle comes with different safety technologies and each manufacturer’s technologies are designed differently. Understanding the specific safety features found in your vehicle is important.

Certain features like hill start assist, hill decent assist and electronic stability control can be extremely helpful when towing. The hill start assist feature automatically holds the brake on an incline to help prevent roll-back when switching your foot from the brake to the gas. This is extremely helpful when towing large items. Conversely, when going downhill, you need hill descent assist to hold the vehicle’s speed steady.

A vehicle’s electronic stability control feature works automatically to help the driver maintain control of the car during hard steering maneuvers. This can help keep the car stable, thus keeping the trailer in line as well.

There are a few features that won’t work as designed when towing. For example, a vehicle’s back-up camera will only detect the object being towed behind a car. It may even detect objects loaded on a car’s bike rack. It’s important to use extreme caution when in reverse. When towing, having a passenger outside the car to assist the driver while backing up is highly recommended. The camera or sensors may not work at all if the vehicle has detected something is being towed.

The rear cross traffic alert system also may not work as designed when towing. Certain systems may detect the object being towed and alert the driver. Some systems will automatically disable the rear cross traffic alert system when the vehicle is towing. The bottom line for rear cross traffic alert is that the sensors cannot do their job when you have a trailer hitched to your vehicle.

Also, it’s not advised to use adaptive cruise control when towing a trailer that has trailer brakes. The auto-brake component found in some adaptive cruise control systems doesn’t operate the trailer brakes. Using adaptive cruise control when towing a trailer that has trailer brakes may result in the loss of vehicle control.

Some features like adaptive headlights, forward collision warning and high speed alerts are not affected by towing and can be extremely helpful when traveling short or long distances.

You are your vehicle’s best safety feature. This means not only driving with caution, but understanding how your vehicle’s safety features work to help keep yourself and your family and friends safe.