Here are 8 tips for towing a caravan you need to know before setting off with your caravan, especially if it’s your first time.
1 – Get Your Weight Right
Understanding how much your car and caravan weigh and how that weight is distributed is crucial to ensuring your rig is legal and safe. If your caravan is too heavy for your car, not only is it illegal and dangerous, but your insurance may also be void. The four weight calculations that will make or break your holiday are your gross vehicle mass, aggregate trailer mass, tow ball weight and gross combined mass. It’s imperative that you understand these terms and check your weights at a public weight station before you attempt to tow.
2 – Pack With a Strategy
We all know that where we carry our weight matters. Our heaviest items should be concentrated over the caravan’s axles. However, did you know that packing too much gear up front can risk putting too much weight on the vehicle, and that packing too much at the rear can cause the caravan to fishtail? When packing your caravan, be frugal with what you pack and try to travel with full water tanks. This lowers the caravan’s centre of gravity and minimises weight shifting. By following these simple tips, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable journey for everyone.
3 – Check and Cross Check Everything
Towing is a serious responsibility. Just like preparing for take-off, towing involves a set of procedures, checks and cross-checks. Have a system in place so this task is methodical and nothing gets forgotten. After hitching up, check that all electrical vehicle points are connected, chains are in place, handbrake is off and the breakaway cable is attached. Make sure all windows, hatches and cupboards are closed, check the caravan brake, indicator and clearance lights are working, and don’t forget to wind down the TV antenna.
4 – Slow and Steady Wins The Race
Don’t hit the road like you’re Lewis Hamilton in a caravan derby. What’s the rush? You’re on holidays. Limit your maximum speed to 100kmh or less. Not only will you have more time to react if something goes wrong, but you will also get better fuel economy. If a road train comes thundering up your rear, move as far to the left as safely possible, maintain speed and let them pass.
5 – Make Wide Turns
You are now a heavy vehicle; forget turning corners like a tardy parent on the school run. You need to take it slow and wide – turning the steering wheel when your vehicle’s rear tyre is level with the corner of the intersection to avoid clipping the curb and collecting any street signs.
6 – Control Your Sway
A swaying trailer is the caravanner’s worst nightmare. If the van starts to sway, especially when being overtaken, DO NOT brake. Braking will only increase the speed differential between the car and caravan and make the van more unstable. It sounds counter intuitive, but you must maintain or slowly increase your speed. Failing to do so puts you in danger of rolling your rig or being sucked into the side of a passing truck.
7 – Get The Gadgets
Caravan reversing cameras, electronic stability control (ESC), and other enhanced safety features are definitely worth the investment. Some insurance companies actually offer discounts if you have ESC, so it’s definitely worth doing your research and not skimping on upgrades that’ll make your journey safer.
8 – Plan Your Trip
The best way to get where you’re going is to plan your route ahead of time. Make sure to factor in things like road conditions and low-clearance bridges to avoid any problems. Hema HX-1 GPS units are perfect for this because you can enter your caravan’s height and the unit will automatically adjust the route to avoid any issues.