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7 Tips for Towing Your Caravan

  • Written by Daily Bulletin

Road regulations are in place to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the road - and when it comes to vehicle towing, it becomes even more imperative to follow these regulations.

If you’re looking to tow a caravan or motorhome, it’s important to be knowledgeable of your tow vehicle, your towing equipment, the roads you will be driving on and the proper rules when it comes to overtaking. 

The team at Swan Towing wants you to be an effective driver, and so they have compiled a guide to show what you can do to help vehicles overtake you when you're towing a caravan.

1. Understand the Load of Your Caravan

The first step to preparing yourself and your caravan for the road is to learn the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle - if you can’t tow a caravan, then you’re not going anywhere.

Using a towing capacity calculator will allow you to determine how much weight your vehicle is capable of towing. When towing a caravan, it’s important to account for other items within the caravan when determining the total weight of what you’re towing - common large items that need to be added include mattresses and appliances.

2. Have the Correct Towing Equipment

A common mistake new towers make is underestimating the equipment required to do the job. Taking the time to gather everything you need will ensure that you don’t end up having a major incident out on the road. 

As with knowing your vehicle’s towing capacity, you should also research and understand the towing equipment required. Some important pieces of towing equipment to consider include:

  • Tow Bar/Tow Hitch - This is usually some form of pin or ball that is attached to the chassis of a vehicle to allow towing. Make sure to check this is in good condition before attaching anything.
  • Coupling - This is the linking piece that connects your vehicle to the caravan. The type of coupling you should use is dependent on your caravan.
  • Safety Chains - In case of a coupler failure, you need a form of safety net so you don’t lose your caravan. Safety chains connect your tow vehicle to your caravan and provide an extra backup in case of an incident.
  • Weight Distribution Hitch - As the name suggests, this hitch helps the tow point have a more even weight distribution. With a more even weight distribution, vehicle sway is less likely to occur.
  • Towing Mirrors - These are additional mirrors attached to your vehicle near your regular side mirrors to provide a better field of vision that’s appropriate for your caravan. Being able to see your surroundings while towing is critical, and these mirrors allow that.
  • Tool and Safety Kit - You can never be too prepared. You should always have a toolkit with you in case you need to perform basic maintenance to your towing setup. Having a safety kit is also handy if an incident occurs and you need to warn other drivers.
  • Electric Brakes - Depending on caravan weight, you may be required by law to have brakes fitted onto your caravan’s wheels. Electric trailer brakes use a sensor controlled by the tow vehicle’s brake lights and can be either trailer-mounted or hard-wired.

3. Ensure Your Tow Vehicle is Suitable

Once you’ve checked your vehicle towing capacity and obtained the appropriate equipment, you should ensure that the vehicle itself is properly ready for the tow. 

If it’s your first time towing, it may be worth getting a service done to ensure there aren’t any underlying issues that may appear when you’re out on the road. Your steering wheel, tyres, suspension and more will need to be in the best condition to have a good towing experience.

4. Practice Driving Maneuvers in Your Tow Vehicle

Driving while towing a caravan is not the same as regular driving. To ensure you can safely tow when on the road, you should practice some common maneuvers to better prepare yourself for the journey.

Even something as simple as turning the vehicle with the caravan attached needs to be practiced. Depending on the length of your vehicle and caravan together, you may be forced to perform wider turns that take up multiple lanes if doing so in a single lane is not possible.

Another important point to learn is reversing - as it’s something you will have to perform at least once during your drive. Some couplings are harder to reverse with than others, so find a big open space with minimal obstructions and practice reversing so you know what to do when it comes to the real thing.

5. Learn Your Driving Route

Once you’ve determined the destination, a good next step is to plan the drive itself. Unlike with regular driving where most people will just pick the fastest route, towers will need to determine their route based on other factors.

How many lanes are on the road? Are there any major intersections I will need to navigate? Are there areas for me to pull over in case of an issue with my tow? These questions are good starting points for pinpointing the best path to take to get from point A to point B.

6. Keep a Safe Distance Between Your Tow Vehicle and Other Drivers

Once you’ve started your drive, you need to follow the rules and regulations provided by the local government.

According to the Western Australia Road Safety Commission, vehicles towing a caravan or camper trailer need to remain 60m behind heavy vehicles or other towing vehicles, unless overtaking. 

When it comes to regular vehicles, there is a general rule of thumb called the three second rule - meaning you keep a three second distance between yourself and the driver in front. For a driver with a caravan in tow, it’s worth adding some more time to this rule to account for the extra weight.

In terms of overtaking, it is recommended that towing drivers keep to the left side of their lane as much as possible. This can also help prevent these towing drivers from drifting towards vehicles attempting an overtake.

7. Maintain a Safe Towing Speed

It’s easy when on a long stretch of road with no other vehicles around to think about leaning on the accelerator a bit more. Not only is this illegal - if you end up going over the speed limit - it’s also unsafe for you as a driver.

The legal speed limit for any vehicle towing a trailer or caravan is up to 100km/h. This is a standard for the majority of major freeways and highways throughout Australia - but make sure to stay at this limit even on roads where the speed limit is 110km/h.

When a vehicle wants to overtake a towing vehicle, slowing down to allow them space to merge into your lane is often considered the right thing to do. 

While this is the case, make sure to maintain your speed until the front of the overtaking vehicle is ahead of yours. The Caravan Industry Association of Australia recommends this so as to avoid creating air turbulence on your trailer and start sway or snaking.

Towing Specialists Here to Help

As a towing service company that has served the Perth metro area for over 50 years, we know the importance of knowing the ins and outs of towing camper trailers and caravans. 

Our motto is to provide a professional towing service that is above and beyond what is expected from a tow truck company - and that includes providing you with an effective caravan towing guide so you can take to the road safely yourself.

Get in touch with the team at Swan Towing to get a quote for our services today.

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