Towing a caravan for the first time can undoubtedly be a daunting task. Your vehicle will almost be double in length, the road will feel smaller, parking spaces will be compact, and you’ll feel like you’re back at driving school again. But, keep in mind that even the most seasoned caravan drivers had to start somewhere!
The key to towing a caravan is understanding what to expect and what you need to check. Our helpful guide will shed some insight into what you should do before you get started, and what to look out for when you’re on the road. Practice these tips on short journeys or in a safe environment first which will make your real trip far less stressful and more enjoyable!
First things first!
The first thing you need to check is whether your vehicle is capable of towing your caravan. If your caravan has its own brakes (which it should if it’s over 750kg), then your vehicle can legally tow it if the weight of the caravan is less than 1.5 times the weight of your vehicle. On the other hand, if your caravan doesn’t have brakes fitted, you can only tow the caravan if it is equal to or less than the weight of your vehicle. Remember, these figures are the weight limits so you’ll need to account for all the luggage and equipment you’ll be taking in your caravan. Most caravanners use a weight distribution hitch which greatly improves handling and performance.
Is your vehicle in good condition?
It’s paramount that your vehicle is in good condition to ensure it has the ability to safely tow your caravan. It’s a wise idea to get your vehicle serviced a few weeks before departing. Are the tyres in good condition? What about oil levels, brakes, and coolant levels? Tell your mechanic about your caravanning plans so they know what to look out for.
Safety checklist before you leave
After you’ve packed all your gear and mounted your caravan to your vehicle, it’s vital that you perform the following safety checks:
- Is the caravan hitch tight and properly connected?
- Have you checked the caravan tyre pressure?
- Are the safety chains connected?
- Are the caravan lights working properly?
- Are the towing mirrors in the right position?
- Have you released the caravan handbrake?
- Are all roof hatches and windows closed?
- Are gas bottles turned off?
- Are all cupboards and drawers in the caravan shut properly?
- Have you set your fridge to DC?
- Is the jockey wheel up?
- Is the auxiliary battery charger on?
- Have you pushed the step up?
Towing tips for when you’re on the road
- Take it slow and steady. Remember, you’re on holidays so enjoy the views and take it slow. Limit your highway speed to 80-95km/h to stay safe and conserve fuel.
- Stay alert. Try to anticipate road and traffic conditions and slow down early when vehicles are in front of you. Also, watch out for other vehicles suddenly stealing the space in front of you.
- Keep a safe distance between the vehicle in front of you. Towing a caravan means it will take you much longer to brake due to the extra weight, so increase the distance between the vehicle in front of you, especially in wet conditions.
- Be careful when overtaking another vehicle. Remember that you need much more space to overtake when towing a caravan considering that your acceleration is decreased and your vehicle length is almost doubled. Only overtake other vehicles in extremely safe conditions.
- Always swing wide when turning. You can’t cut corners when towing a caravan, so always swing wide and exaggerate the turn to give your caravan enough room to get around the corner. Get into the habit of checking your mirrors when turning.
- Take care when parking. Remember that your caravan is probably wider than your vehicle so it will kit the kerb sooner. Also, your caravan is probably taller than your vehicle too, so watch out for any slopes in the road towards the kerb. If there’s a significant downward slope, the caravan can lean and possibly hit a tree or pole.
- Be courteous to other drivers. Always check your mirrors to see if any vehicles are trying to overtake you. Give them a flash with your lights if it’s safe to do so and slow down slightly when they are overtaking you.
- If your caravan starts swaying, remain calm! Always keep a cool head when you’re towing a caravan and resist the urge to suddenly brake if your caravan starts to sway. Instead, gently ease of the accelerator and once you’ve reduced speed by 10 to 15km/h, apply the electric brake override and accelerate. Remember to load the heavier items over the caravan’s axles and use a weight distribution hitch to reduce sway.
- Practice reversing before you go. Reversing a caravan takes practice and patience, so you should learn how to do this in a safe environment before you leave. Remember, swing your wheel in the opposite direction to where you want your caravan to go and take it slow and steady. It’s easiest when a passenger gets out of the vehicle and helps you by hand signalling.
What if I still don’t feel confident?
If you’ve practiced towing your caravan in a safe environment and still feel nervous or insecure, consider taking a caravan towing course from a trusted provider such as Tow-Ed. Caravanning is heaps of fun once you’ve got the hang of it, so take your time while learning the basics to ensure you stay safe and confident on the road.
If you’ve just bought a new caravan and need any accessories like fridges, chairs, lights, or tools, get in touch with TJM Australia by phoning 07 3865 9999. With a wide range of camping equipment and accessories, you’ll find everything you need to make your trip even more enjoyable.