Tips for safe caravan towing
1. LOAD THE CARAVAN CORRECTLY
There’s an art to loading and distributing your belongings inside the caravan and doing so incorrectly could lead to disaster before you’ve even arrived at your destination.
The majority of the weight of your items should be loaded in the centre of the van above the wheel axle, then towards the front of the van, and then towards the rear.
Additionally, items need to be placed as low to the ground as possible and distributed evenly across to keep the caravan grounded to the road throughout your trip.
Ensure any loose items, like the kettle or knife block, are secured away as they will fly around once the van starts to move.
2. PRE-TOW CHECKLIST
Running through a safety checklist before making your way will take you just a couple of minutes but can save you from running into trouble later. It’s easy to become distracted or be in too much of a hurry and miss something vital.
- Scan your eyes over the coupling to ensure it’s properly connected, the safety chains and break-away wire are secure, and the trailer plug is in.
- Check that the handbrake is released and gas cylinders are turned off.
- If you have it, ensure the weight distribution hitch is secure, tensioned and safety pins are in place.
- Walk around checking all windows and hatches are closed, TV antenna is secured, wheel chocks removed and corner stabiliser legs are raised.
- Take a quick peek inside to ensure everything is battened down.
- Finally, check that the van’s taillights are working.
3. LOOK AHEAD AND KEEP WIDE
If you’re on a narrow road, always look ahead for shop awnings, poles and posts close to the roadside and be sure to give them a wide berth. Avoid being sandwiched between two trucks on narrow city lanes.
Wherever possible, keep to the outside lane on multi-lane roads and remember to keep a greater distance between you and the car ahead.
4. RUN WIDE ON CORNERST
When turning a corner, the caravan will take a shorter path around the corner than the vehicle, therefore ‘cutting in’, and potentially collecting anything standing in its path, like traffic lights, street signs or unsuspecting pedestrians!
This can be avoided by taking the widest path possible around the corner.
As you approach the corner, move as close as you can to the centre line without crossing into the other lane.
Then, instead of ‘hugging the corner’, turn as late and as wide as possible to ensure the caravan has enough room to maneuver around, not through it. A similar steering technique is required to navigate safely through roundabouts too.
5. CARAVAN SWAY
If you’re unsure what caravan sway is, trust us, you’ll know exactly what it is the moment it happens. Needless to say, travelling at speed with a caravan swaying behind can be absolutely terrifying.
You’ll want to take note of this tip though, as the steps you’ll need to take to regain control of your car and caravan in this frightening situation may feel like the exact opposite of what feels natural to you in the moment.
- First of all, if your van does begin to sway, DON’T immediately slam on the brakes and do not try to correct the steering. You’ll need to almost go with the sway, if you can, without crossing into oncoming traffic.
- Gently ease off the accelerator and reduce your speed by 10-15km/h.
- Once your speed has reduced, apply the electric brake override.
- Now begin to accelerate out of it. This will pull the rig straight, stopping the sway. It will feel like a lifetime, but this should all be over within around 10 seconds.
- Pullover to put your heart back into your chest!
6. BACK IT UP
It’s crucial to take your time when reversing a caravan.
- First, scan the area you’re about to back into for any low branches, poles, taps or other hard-to-see obstacles.
- Then, as you move forward, angle the vehicle and the van in an open ‘V’ shape, with the caravan pointing roughly towards the area you want it positioned when you finish backing up.
- Now, turn the wheel to the opposite way you want the van to go, and slowly creep backwards – the slower, the better.
- If you’re missing the mark, the best thing is to pull forward a few metres and go again.
- Get your travel partner to help guide you in, but if you’re by yourself, get out and check your progress and space, several times if necessary.
Need a tow? 0477 004 159. We can’t come on your holiday with you but if you run into any trouble, we’re here for you 24/7.
Have we forgotten anything? Let us know in the comments below or contact us