Just as driving, you get the hang of towing the more you do it. Faced with the size of the caravan you need to pull, it’s perfectly normal to start doubting your abilities. If you’re a first-time caravan owner, you can easily get overwhelmed. Even if you rented before, probably the company made all the hookups for you. Connections, managing tight places, checking lights, tyres… it might look like too much, but it becomes a habit as you hit the road.
We got some tips to make it comfortable and more manageable for anyone hesitating and getting anxious about their first towing.
Before You Hit The Road
Packing is not the only preparation you have to do before setting off. Get as much info and practice as you can. Once you’ve purchased a caravan or camper or a new 4WD for the adventure-filled trip, next, we have some boresome but essential technicalities.
Find Out Your Tow Rating
Before hitching your caravan and hitting the road, find out what your car can tow. No matter how powerful the engine might be, your vehicle might not tow a fully packed caravan, and you’ll put yourself in a dangerous situation. Pick up your car’s manual or consult the dealership about its towing capacity.
Check The Weight
When leaving for a more extended trip, you’d get tempted to pack a lot. Before you start preparing your luggage, it’s essential to check the trailer’s weight on its specifications list. It is directly connected to how much your car can tow. There are two different weights; the caravan when empty only with the manufacturer’s appliances and with all your added load. Check the maximum amount your caravan can weigh and strive to load under capacity.
When choosing a caravan, compare your car’s towing capacity and the caravan’s Gross Vehicle Mass, not its Kerb Weight. For example, a vehicle with a 3,000kg towing capacity can tow a 4,000kg GVM caravan only if carefully planned and have under 1,000kg cargo load.
Get the Right Mirrors
Let’s be honest – towing with your car’s factory mirrors is impossible. If you’ve ever driven without side mirrors, you know the struggle. Your safety is compromised, and you become a threat to everyone around you. Switching lanes is dangerous, and checking the traffic behind you is difficult. Not to mention managing through tight spaces.
We’ve talked about towing mirrors; budget and expensive versions are available, depending on your lifestyle.
Check Your Tyres
You probably developed the habit to check the tyres on your car at least once a month as you got your first car. If you didn’t, you should, as it’s the responsible thing to do!
When it comes to towing, your tyres play a crucial role in keeping you safe. Worn out or deflated tyres compromise your safety, lead to bad fuel economy and can make your caravan sway. The tyres on your car and caravan need to be inflated as the manufacturer advises. Also, make sure your lug nuts are secured in place. Proper tyres make driving and breaking safe and stable, especially when towing.
The brakes on your car and caravan need to be synchronised. If your caravan has a separate braking system, they need to work in correlation. But if your car is the only one carrying the braking responsibility, make sure the breaks are in perfect condition. Inadequately working brakes can lead to catastrophic consequences down the road, and the extra weight from the caravan makes it even more dangerous. Even if the breaks are in excellent condition, allow extra space for gentle braking. Heavy braking causes wear and tear on your breaks and tyres.
The lights on your car and caravan need to work unitedly the same as your braking systems. Even if you choose not to drive at night, gloomy, cloudy weather also requires you to light your way. Inadequate lights can lead to wrong meetups with wildlife and damaging your car. Not only do you need correctly working lights, but you also need double the lights! Caravans need to have working brake lights, taillights and turn signals. All the lights need to be synchronised with your vehicle’s lights, so when you turn or brake, the caravan’s lights will notify those behind you.
Make The Connections
First of all, your caravan needs to be hitched to your towing vehicle before you start loading. This allows for proper balance, so the caravan is stable when towed. As you load the caravan, its tongue presses down on the hitch point. If you don’t hitch it before loading, a heavier load in the front or back can tip the tongue and be harder to align parallel with the ground later.
Some caravans or towing 4WD vehicles can come with factory hitches, and you don’t need to bother with choosing the suitable ones. But when you don’t have the right equipment included, you need to prepare well for the purchase. There are two main hitches, weight-carrying and weight-distributing. Weight-carrying hitches are used when the load is 1580 kilograms or less, and weight-distributing hitches are suitable for heavier loads. Both play an essential role in redistributing the weight on all the vehicle’s axles and not allowing all the weight to fall on the tow ball.
On The Road
So you’re all set up, the caravan’s loaded, and you’re excited to hit the road! First time towing on the open road is one of a kind experience, and we promise it gets easier and less stressful with time. Once you get the hang of all you need to pay attention to, it becomes a routine, and you’d love to take your home on four wheels everywhere!
Road trips are fun, and when you’re cruising with your car only, you might step on the accelerator more frequently. When towing, the need for speeding needs to stay at home! Slow down, not only to take in the views. The added weight and towing a large caravan behind is not speeding friendly; in fact, it can put you in a hazardous situation. High speed causes your trailer to sway, and braking is more problematic – it can even lead to flipping. Obey the speed limit and strive to drive below to stay on the safe side.
Roll down your windows and let the breeze in, but make sure your car’s engine stays cool! Towing puts added pressure and makes the machine work harder to take you and all your load from point A to point B. If you’re a responsible driver, you know how important it is to follow the temperature of your car, especially on long drives.
Uphill driving is another stressful situation for your car. Plan frequent breaks to allow your vehicle to cool off and bring coolant in case you need to add some along the road.
Prepare For Problems
We can’t look at the Big Lap through pink glasses – there will be problems, and most of them are related to your car and caravan. Prepare mentally for the most common of them, like a flat tyre, busted headlight, or a kangaroo accident. When towing, your car takes longer to accelerate, stop, and switch shift lanes. That’s why you must pay great attention to the road ahead and react fast and wisely to keep yourself and other drivers safe.
Even if you take all measures to hitch your caravan the right way with suitable connections, some conditions down the road can cause swaying. Strong winds, large trucks passing by, high speed, downhills, gravel roads are just some. If you’re not paying attention, your caravan might start swinging left and right or back and forth behind you. We don’t need to specify how dangerous is this.
First, if it happens to you, release the accelerator and activate the caravan brakes until it stabilises and aligns with your car. You can also look for a hitch stabiliser to avoid any swaying.
Towing equals slower driving, and there’s no way around it. You need to have patience when it comes to driving, braking, switching lanes and reaching your destination. Allow more distance between you and the car in the front than you would usually. When passing another vehicle, ensure there’s enough space for you to fit once you’re in front of them. When you’re being passed by, pay attention and slow down if needed to keep both of you safe. Remember, you’re on an adventure; you’re not rushing to work! There’ll never be a reason good enough for driving dangerously.
Don’t Get Stuck
Always remember that now you’re carrying a large caravan behind, and maneuvering is more challenging. When picking a good camping spot, especially at free secluded camps, you might struggle to fit. Park somewhere you can make a safe and easy way out. Otherwise, you might get in and struggle to get out. Manoeuvring through tight spaces while towing is not for beginners and can cause material damage to your car and caravan. If needed, get off, explore the place on foot and see if it’s spacious and flat enough.