Tips for Towing Caravans

Date Posted: May 26, 2020

SUV towing a caravan in desert

Towing caravans can be tough. Whether they like to admit it or not, a large number of people can get pretty nervous when they drive. Add long distance AND high speed AND a caravan – things can get a bit ‘hairy’. With these tips for towing caravans, you’ll be a pro in no time.

Before we get started, think like a pilot – they use checklists. If you prepare a well-thought-out checklist tailored to your towing needs, it’ll be much easier and safer. Think packing up a campsite in the pouring rain while rushing to checkout of a caravan park. It is best to get helpful tips for towing caravans.

Know Your Numbers BEFORE Towing Caravans

Before you even get in the driver’s seat make sure you know the vehicle’s max towing weight and the weight of your caravan. Note that you should add around 300kg for camping gear, gas, water, food and bedding/clothing.

Most state laws in Australia allow for a private vehicle to tow 1.5 times its kerb weight. Check your state laws and the car owner’s manual so be sure. Failure to comply with towing weight laws can result in heavy fines of up to $2,500 depending on your state – sometimes even losing your ability to tow caravans with loss of licence.

Dimensions are also important, especially height for tunnels or overhead signage. Consider wind resistance – basically, the smaller and lower the front area of the caravan, the less your car’s engine will have to work to pull it through the air. This can be important in hilly/mountainous areas. Consider your overtaking ability.

Expert tip: know your towbar and trailer coupling weight limits – if you buy a car with a towbar fitted, get it checked by a professional.

Packing a Caravan

Balance is also an important factor to think about. Always avoid a top-heavy load as this can cause danger when cornering. Pack heavy items and bags as low as possible, just forward of the caravan axles and keep them centered. 

Note that having people in a moving caravan is illegal and extremely dangerous. Caravans aren’t designed to be safe like cars are in an accident. Make sure everything is secured down.

Expert tip: keep cutlery bound with a rubber band – the sound of loose metal bouncing around can be worrying and distracting. Also, try to avoid BBQ gas bottles attached to the outside when driving as they pose a serious fire risk in an accident.

Reversing

People always fear reversing with any kind of trailer regardless of towing caravans. A backup camera is the obvious choice here, of course, they can be easily fitted to a caravan and connected to a vehicle display or mobile phone. Firstly, having wider wing mirrors fitted to your car will assist with the view. Start with short trips in light traffic to practice. An empty car park on a Sunday morning can really help – remember when you were learning to drive a car?

Here’s a rundown:

1: First, check the area behind the caravan to make sure it’s clear. Do it on foot if you want to be extra careful.

2: While moving forward, point the back of the caravan in the direction you want to go when you actually reverse – this may take an extra room .

3: Remember to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction you want to caravan to go.

4: Very slowly go backwards, the slower the better for beginners. Having someone outside the car on foot to give extra instructions really helps too.

Expert tip: If you oversteer and the caravan makes a sharper turn than you anticipated, go forward, straighten up and try again – it happens all the time.

Security:

Caravan break-ins are a holiday ruiner. Don’t ever give thieves a chance. Try to park your caravan in a visible and regularly visited campsite or location. If you stop for lunch while on the road, park it where you can see it or share the driving with someone else to avoid leaving the caravan unattended. 

Install a security system, even a simple one can act as a deterrent. For example, lockable drawers and a GPS tracker.

Expert tip: Be paranoid, it pays to be safe. Always do your research on where you’re staying and think about whether you plan to leave the caravan while hiking or skiing for example. 

With these simple tips for towing caravans, caravaning should become much more doable and much less nerve-racking – as it should be!

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