Towing a Caravan

21 May 2009

Towing a caravan is a skill that takes a lot of practice to perfect. But here is some information and some tips and advice that should help you to make every journey with your caravan successful:

  • Fit a stabiliser to help prevent swerving and snaking.

  • When you begin your journey check that the brakes are in good working order.

  • It is illegal to drive in the right hand lane of a motorway if you are towing a caravan unless you are directed by a police officer or lane restrictions are in place.

  • Do not be tempted to drive too fast, drive according to your experience and the conditions on the day.  Never exceed the general maximum speed limits, in the U.K they are as follows, unless signs indicate otherwise:

30mph on roads with street lights

50mph on single carriageways

60mph on dual carriageways and motorways

  • It is illegal to carry a person in a caravan whilst it is moving. Pets can legally be carried in the caravan whilst it is moving, but this is not advisable.
  • Caravans can snake or swerve if they are incorrectly loaded, if you are travelling too fast or if you break or accelerate too hard. If this happens you need to gently decrease your speed and continue on in a straight line. Do not break or accelerate heavily as this is likely to exacerbate the problem.

  • Be aware of and take into account the weather and the condition of the road and drive accordingly.

  • Leave substantially more time for each manoeuvre, including driving around bends, than you would for driving only a car.

Specific Towing Issues

Reversing

  1. It is a good idea to practice reversing a caravan somewhere safe, possibly offroad, if you are unfamiliar with the procedure. There are also a number of courses available which provide training if you feel that extra help would be beneficial.

  2. Caravans have large blind spots so you should never begin to reverse without physically getting out and checking that there are no pedestrians or obstacles behind you.

  3. Ideally have someone else stand in a safe position near the caravan and guide you whilst you are reversing.

  4. When reversing your caravan it is important to be aware of irregularities on the road surface. For example potholes, cambers and slopes will make reversing a caravan in a straight line more challenging.

  5. Reversing at a low speed and as smoothly as possible will help to ensure the safety of yourself and other road users.

Hills and Mountains

To ascend a hill whilst towing will take considerably more power than travel on flat surfaces. It is advisable to keep out of the way of other vehicles as much as is possible. Use lower gears and try to ensure that you progress at an even rate up the hill.

Starting upon any uphill slope should be considered a hill start, however slight the gradient. Make sure you have adequate power when you release the handbrake to prevent rolling backwards.

If you plan to caravan in the mountains it is advisable to check that your towing vehicle is adequately powerful to deal with continual slopes and potentially difficult terrain.

Weather

It is always worth checking weather forecasts before you travel. Rain reduces grip on the road, and increases braking distances. Winds are especially hazardous for caravans. If you are driving into a head wind you are likely to find the caravan more difficult to control. This is because the nose weight will be lessened, reducing stability. Driving into a headwind has much the same effect as driving fast; both can cause the caravan to snake and swerve. To avoid this lower your speed.

The other places to be especially wary of winds are on exposed bridges and open areas where you are likely to be able to feel the effects of cross winds. Also be aware that being close to large vehicles is likely to affect the aerodynamics of your caravan, as these vehicles create their own slip stream.

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