If you’re looking into purchasing a folding camper, you’ll be thinking through all the little details and everything you need to purchase to make your folding camper adventures as best as can be. One of the purchases you’ll be thinking about is towing mirrors. Towing mirrors enhance your view of the road greatly when towing a trailer. However, you might wonder whether you really need them when towing a folding camper.
So, do you actually need towing mirrors when towing a folding camper? Depending on your car and folding camper, you may legally need towing mirrors. You must have a view that is 4 metres out from your vehicle at a distance of 20 metres back when towing a folding camper according to UK law.
As you can tell, there are legal implications to not using towing mirrors. But there’s certainly a lack of clarity as to when you should use towing mirrors on UK roads. I’ve written this blog post to try and clarify the ambiguity around the use of towing mirrors so you can stay legal when towing your camper.
Towing Mirrors: A Look At UK Law
The diagram below from Milenco demonstrates the visibility you should have at all times when towing your folding camper.
There’s no need to delve into the risks of low visibility when towing a trailer. We all know that accidents can occur if we can’t see around our trailers or behind our cars when towing. However, the above diagram, in my opinion, is a bit complicated. So I went to Gov.UK to see what the government’s website said about towing a trailer or caravan. Keep in mind this also applies to folding campers.
The Gov.UK website is decidedly vague about the technicalities of the law but gets straight to the point, stating: You must have an adequate view of the road behind you. Fit suitable towing mirrors if your trailer or caravan is wider than the rear of your car. The site also states that you can be fined up to £1,000 and get 3 penalty points for towing without proper towing mirrors.
The word ‘Must’ in this context, as you may already know, means this is a legal requirement. So if the folding camper you are towing is wider than the rear of your car, you must use towing mirrors or you’re breaking the law and risking a big fine, as well as points on your licence.
So that nicely answers the question of whether or not you need towing mirrors. Or does it? Some folding camper owners use towing mirrors ‘just to be safe’, even if they have the aforementioned adequate view of the road behind them. Should you use towing mirrors ‘just to be safe’, or not?
Should You Use Towing Mirrors ‘Just To Be Safe’?
There’s some debate over whether or not you should use towing mirrors if you have an adequate view. Some people decide to use towing mirrors ‘just to be safe’, but this might actually be dangerous. Using towing mirrors when you don’t need to is potentially illegal.
According to The Road Vehicles (Construction And Use) Regulations: ‘Where the bottom edge of an exterior mirror is less than 2m above the road surface when the vehicle is laden, that mirror shall not project more than 20cm beyond the overall width of the vehicle or, in a case where the vehicle is drawing a trailer which has an overall width greater than that of the drawing vehicle, more than 20cm beyond the overall width of the trailer’.
If you’re using towing mirrors when you don’t actually need to use them, that means you could be breaking this regulation. Most towing mirrors would exceed the 20-centimetre limit when used unnecessarily, so you could land yourself in bother. While the desire to attach towing mirrors ‘just to be safe’ is completely understandable, it’s not worth the risk and could make driving needlessly difficult anyway.
Chances are you’ll need towing mirrors, because most folding campers will be wider than the cars towing them. However, there’s so many different types of towing mirror available. Which type is best? In the next part of my blog, I’m going to explain the different types of towing mirror available.
Types Of Towing Mirror
As if this whole towing mirror business wasn’t complicated enough, there are numerous types of towing mirror on the market. Some are better than others, which you wouldn’t know without trying them all. Luckily I’ve tried them all for you so you don’t have to.
Suction Towing Mirrors
The first type of towing mirror I tested is those using a suction pad to attach to your main mirror. The reason I choose to test this type of mirror first and foremost is the ease with which it attaches. Attaching a suction towing mirror to your main mirror literally takes seconds on most occasions. This type of mirror is therefore worthwhile if you don’t want to be messing around trying to attach your towing mirrors last minute!
Despite the ease with which this type of mirror can be attached, I was concerned about how reliable such a mirror would be. Mainly because of my concerns that it would fall off since only a suction cup attaches it to the main mirror. Unfortunately, my concern here was proven to be correct as one of the mirrors fell off pretty much as soon as leaving my house! The mirror falling off made me jump, but worse still it meant my view of the road was virtually nonexistent. Fortunately, I didn’t lose the mirror as the manufacturer’s handy security string kept it attached! It’s almost as though the manufacturer knew there was a high chance of their mirror becoming unstuck…
I wouldn’t recommend a suction mirror at all. Yes they’re easy to use, but they detach as easily as they attach – not ideal when you need the towing mirror to drive safely!
Clamp Towing Mirrors
The second and most popular type of towing mirror is those using clamps to attach to your main mirror. Although clamp mirrors take longer to attach than suction mirrors and tent to be a little more fiddly, they’re much more reliable and tend to be significantly more stable at high speeds. The stability of the mirror when travelling depends on whether you fit it securely prior to travelling, of course. But if you make sure to properly attach the mirror, you won’t have any problem at all.
I had no concerns about stability when using clamp towing mirrors. I never had to worry about them perhaps falling off, either, like I did with the suction towing mirrors. There are many brands to choose from, as clamp towing mirrors tend to be the most popular type of mirror. However, I went with the Milenco Aero mirrors, one of which is pictured above. Milenco mirrors are extremely popular and the best option available in my opinion.
I would recommend towing mirrors using clamps over any others. They’re more secure, fit the majority of cars, and you don’t have any concerns about mirror stability when travelling at high speeds, such as on the motorway.