Whether you’re heading on a year-long caravan adventure around Australia or you’re going on a weekend trip, understanding how to safely tow a caravan is very important. Like anything though, people have to start somewhere and the first attempt can certainly be nerve-wracking. Understanding what needs to be checked before you leave and what to expect on the road are the two key learning curves, and our helpful guide will hopefully point you in the right direction so you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable caravan trip.
The vehicle you wish to tow your caravan with must be in good condition to ensure it can safely handle the extra load. It’s strongly encouraged to get your vehicle serviced by your mechanic a couple of weeks before you leave. You’ll want to ensure your tires are in good shape and your brakes, oil levels, and coolant levels are acceptable.
You’ll also need to make sure your vehicle is permitted to tow a caravan. For caravans that have their own brakes, it must weigh less than 1.5 times the weight of your vehicle. On the contrary, caravans that don’t have brakes must be equal to or less than the weight of your vehicle. Don’t forget that these measurements must include all your luggage and equipment. Most people will invest in a weight-distribution hitch which significantly improves performance and handling.
Once you’ve packed everything and are ready to depart, you must check the following before you leave:
- Is the towing handbrake disengaged?
- Is the jockey wheel securely tucked away?
- Is the step pushed up?
- Have you connected the safety chains?
- Have you checked the caravan’s tire pressure?
- Are the caravan lights working properly?
- Is the caravan hitch tight and secured correctly?
- Have you closed all roof hatches and windows?
- Have you closed all cupboards and drawers?
- Is the fridge set to DC?
- Is the gas bottle turned off?
- Have you checked your towing mirrors are in the right spot?
Towing tips for the road
It’s vital that you drive slower and take more care when towing a caravan on the road. You should keep your speed under 90km/h when driving on the highway. The following lists some additional towing tips when driving on the road:
- Always stay alert and keep a safe distance between the vehicle in front of you. Slow down early and try to anticipate traffic conditions. Keep in mind that braking is far more difficult when towing a caravan, especially when the roads are wet.
- Take caution when overtaking. You’ll need at least double the space to overtake another vehicle and don’t forget that your braking and accelerating is significantly decreased. In addition, always check your mirrors to see if vehicles are trying to overtake you and slow down marginally when they are.
- Learn how to park and reverse before you leave which takes practice and patience. You’ll want to practice in a safe environment such as your local footy club carpark. Don’t forget that when reversing, your caravan will turn in the opposite direction to your steering. It’s strongly advised to get some assistance when parking and reversing.
- Give yourself plenty of room when turning and always check your mirrors. To give your caravan enough room to make it around the corner, swing wide and exaggerate the turn.
- If your caravan starts swaying on the road, don’t brake suddenly! You need to remain calm, ease off the accelerator, apply the electric brake override, then accelerate gently to get your caravan steady and back in line. To prevent swaying as much as possible, always position the heavier objects over the caravan’s axels and use a weight-distribution hitch.
If you’ve practiced reversing and parking but still feel nervous about it, get in touch with a caravan towing course such as The Grey Nomads who can help you learn the basics and increase your confidence on the road. Once you’ve got the hang of it, caravanning is an amazing experience and makes for a fantastic holiday!
If you’re in need of any towing or caravan accessories such as portable fridges, lights, and chairs, reach out to TJM Dandenong by phoning their staff on 03 9792 1116.