LESSONS LEARNT THE HARD WAY: ULTIMATE CARAVAN TOWING TIPS
My family has had a caravan for as long as I can remember. For me, a family holiday meant loading up the car, hitching on the caravan and driving out to a campsite for the week. Then when I had a family of my own I continued the tradition.
Over the years it is fair to say I have had more than my fair share of mishaps. Many were my fault, some weren’t. Some I can look back on and smile, some I still shudder at the thought of (some my wallet still shudders at the thought of). But through all of the roadside meltdowns, expensive repairs, and almost ruined holidays, there have been some hard lessons learnt. These are my caravan towing tips, learnt the hard way.
USE THE RIGHT VEHICLE
Check the handbook and make sure your car, ute, or pickup is up for the job. You need to make yourself aware of the maximum tongue weight and the weight carrying capacity. You should not exceed these numbers unless you have a weight-distributing hitch or a sway control device. Exceeding the recommended weight makes the whole thing tough to control and could result in a totally wrecked engine.
USE CLIP-ON SUPPLEMENTARY SPOTTER MIRRORS
Not only do you need these when reversing, they are also the only way to see the condition of your caravan whilst towing. On our way to Gladstone one year, I took the spotters off and mindlessly forgot to reattach them. Without them, I couldn’t see the caravan’s tyres or around the caravan. It was just my luck that I picked up a puncture. By the time I had noticed from the slack steering, the weight had ruined my whole wheel.
THE FOUR SECOND RULE
When towing, it is important to keep the four-second rule on the motorways. There should be four seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Lugging a caravan behind you adds some serious distance onto your stopping distance at speed. Anything less than four seconds and you are asking for trouble.
GET THE TYRE PRESSURE RIGHT
Underinflated tyres get hotter and are more likely to blow out. They also increase sway as the tyre walls move sideways. The owner’s manual for the caravan and the car with have all the recommended tyre pressures.
CROSS THE SAFETY CHAINS
This was a tip I was already aware of when it happened to me, and I was so glad because the situation could have been much worse. Cross the safety chains under the hitch so you have a crisscross under the tow-bar. That way if the hitch detaches (like it did for me on my way back from the Bellarine Peninsula), the chains will catch the tongue before it slams into the road and causes more damage.
FILL THE WATER TANKS WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT YOUR DESTINATION
By filling up once you get to your destination, you significantly reduce the weight of the caravan and save yourself loads on petrol costs. Be sure to empty all the tanks before you leave the campsite, so you are not travelling back with unnecessary weight too.
Learn from my mistakes. Don’t put yourself through the hassle of making stupid errors and jeopardising your holiday.
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