If you are taking your caravan on holidays, you'll need to know about handling the caravan, how important it is to check the tyres, and how to pack your caravan.
The pre-requisite to caravanning is a mechanically sound vehicle, capable of towing a caravan.
Find out all you need to know and more, right here.
What type of caravan and what maximum weight will your vehicle handle? When buying or hiring a caravan it is important to check the weight to ensure that it is within the capabilities of the towing vehicle. Don't try to pull a 1600 kilo caravan behind an 800 kilo car.
All manufacturers have a maximum towing capacity for their vehicles shown in the vehicles handbook you must not exceed these recommendations. Do not wait until you have made your purchase or are on the road, but check the exact weight of the caravan with the maker or the hirer.
When deciding what weight your car can pull, RAC recommends that the weight of the caravan should not exceed three quarters of the weight of the towing vehicle to ensure safe and trouble-free motoring. The suspension of the tow vehicle must be in good order. Up-rated springs and shock absorbers may need to be considered. If the tow vehicle is fitted with self-levelling suspension, contact the vehicle manufacturer for specific instructions on towing.
Check that the towbar fitted to your vehicle has sufficient capacity to tow your trailer. The towbar should have a plate that indicates its towing capacity. A caravan's weight is usually given in its unladen condition - it is necessary to then add on the weight of personal equipment, such as crockery, bedding, clothes, food and water, ice etc.
Additional weight for a family of four amounts to approximately 300 kilos, which when added to the weight of the caravan, provides an average total weight. Don't overload your trailer and check that weight is evenly distributed, and that the trailer is level. Check that the download on the towbar does not exceed the vehicle manufacturer's recommended maximum.
Learn how to handle your vehicle while towing a caravan.
To the average motorist, towing a caravan is almost as simple as driving solo provided a few points are always kept in mind; the car is in good mechanical condition, and the brakes are fully effective.
- After the first few kilometres, you become accustomed to the caravan behind you, but don't forget it, which is easy to do.
- Always remember that you have further to travel when passing another vehicle before regaining your position in the traffic stream, so ensure you have plenty of time and space to do so before pulling out of line.
- Always bear in mind the dimensions of your caravan. Allow for the height of the caravan when pulling into the kerb, especially where the road has a high camber, and thus avoiding striking shop verandahs or trees.
- When travelling on corrugated roads, keep your speed up but slow down when you sight potholes and bumps.
- The art of reversing comes only with patience and practice. The actions involved with reversing a caravan are the opposite of those involved in reversing a car on its own. The easiest way is to place a hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, then simply move it to the right to move the caravan to the right. Make a habit of backing the caravan for even a short distance each time you pull in for the night, and you will soon surmount your last towing hurdle.
Driving in the outback with your caravan. When planning a route through isolated outback areas, make sure you carry plenty of water for each person and adequate food and fuel supplies.
Advise someone of your route, destination and expected arrival time.
If you have a breakdown do not leave the vehicle under any circumstances.
As many roads throughout Western Australia are unfenced, wildlife can be a hazard to drivers, particularly around dawn and dusk.
Road trains (ie large trucks towing up to three trailers) can be over 50 metres long and 2.5 metres wide so extra care should be taken when overtaking; allow for at least one kilometre of clear road ahead.
Dust on unsealed country roads can obscure vision; it is advisable to stop and wait for the dust to settle.
Overtaking while towing a caravan. Overtaking other vehicles, especially long trucks or other caravans, must be done with extreme caution.
Not only is acceleration considerably reduced, but due to the extra length a greater distance has to be covered before it is possible to move back into the left hand lane.
Remember to check the rear vision mirrors before pulling out.
Being overtaken while towing a caravan. By constantly monitoring the rear vision mirrors, a faster travelling vehicle may be readily spotted.
If road and traffic conditions permit, slow down and move as far to the left as possible.
The greater the difference in speeds of the two vehicles, and the further they are apart while passing, the safer the situation becomes.
When the other vehicle starts to pass, apply some power to the towing vehicle. There is less chance of sway occurring if the caravan is being pulled rather than it pushing on the car. In other words, do not brake or allow the outfit to be on over-run.
When due to road conditions traffic builds up behind you, periodically move off the road to allow other motorists to pass safely.
Driving down hill while towing a caravan.Always slow down and change to a lower gear before actually reaching the downhill section of road. This is important if the hill is a steep one.
By adopting this procedure, the need for heavy braking while going downhill is reduced.
Excessive speeds or sudden braking while on a downhill stretch could create an unstable condition and result in uncontrollable caravan sway.
Always check the tyres.Check that the tyres fitted to both the towing vehicle and the caravan are in good condition and inflated correctly.
The tyre pressure for the caravan should be 41kPa to 55kPa more than for the car tyres, and should always be kept even.
Before moving off, check your towbar coupling; make sure that the jockey wheel is stowed securely or removed and that the back legs are up.
Ensure that window and cupboard doors are locked.
Pack securely. Glassware and other breakables will meet with disaster if not protected from each other - use towels and newspapers to protect such items.
Do not leave buckets, tins, etc on the floor as they will roll around and damage the furniture.
Pack everything securely; always presume that contents will move about.