Towing Tips to help make Towing a Caravan easy.
This page is here to provide practical towing tips to make your towing adventures enjoyable and safe. Learning how to tow a caravan does not have to be a daunting experience.
As is the ethos of travel-australia-online.com, we will not use dramatic and fearful language and over-emphasise the potential dangers of towing in order to lead people to products and services that they may not need.
This may be different to many other travel websites, but we believe in giving you balanced opinions and encouraging people to empower themselves. A good dose of common sense and a "have a go" attitude will go a long way to making you confident and competent as you tow your caravan around this great country.
With this in mind, below are towing tips and ideas that have been accrued over 20 years of towing, travelling and observing.
- Take it easy! One of the most important of all towing tips! Anyone towing a caravan should be relaxed and calm (after all you are on holidays). Limiting your highway cruising towing speed to 80-95km/h is considered to be a safe and fuel efficient speed.
- Anticipate road and traffic conditions. Being aware of what is happening up ahead will allow easier and safer stopping. Slowing down early when vehicles in front are stopped at traffic lights allows time for that traffic to clear, meaning you may not need to fully stop. Maintaining this momentum makes things easier on your vehicle and brakes, as well as saving fuel.
- Increase the travelling distance between yourself and the vehicle in front. This is one of the most important towing tips to make your towing enjoyable and safe. It takes significantly longer to stop when towing a caravan due to the extra weight. This distance should be further increased in wet or slippery conditions. Be alert for cheeky drivers suddenly "stealing" this space on city and town roads as they negotiate traffic.
- When overtaking another vehicle, remember that you will need much more distance when towing a caravan. Your overall length is increased and the vehicle's acceleration is decreased, which means that you will spend longer on the wrong side of the road.
- Only overtake other vehicles, particularly trucks, in exceptionally safe circumstances. Having an in-car UHF unit on channel 40 (the recognised truckies channel), can allow you to advise the truck driver that you wish to overtake him, and ask him if the road is clear ahead. If overtaking, remember to keep your eyes on the road and not the truck.
Below is an incident we came across in Outback Queensland. It is an example of what can happen to an inexperienced driver. Paying too much attention to the slight swaying of the truck's trailer as they overtook, meant that this driver developed their own sway that resulted in a nasty rollover and flip.
By some miracle, all 6 passengers from this 4WD towing a camper trailer, were OK.
If unsure, simply do not overtake. Drop back, and if that is too frustrating, pull over and have a cuppa!
More towing tips
- When turning, be sure to "swing wide". Going wider with the tow vehicle is essential. As the caravan trails the car it will tend to cut the corner. A quick glance in the mirror will assist in getting this right.
- When pulling up and parking against a kerb, remember that the caravan is likely to be wider than the tow vehicle. This means that you must be aware of the caravan's proximity to the kerb more than that of your car.
Also, be aware of any excessive camber (sideways slope) on the road. It can cause the caravan to lean towards that side, increasing the chance of hitting a light pole, tree or similar structure that may be close to the kerb.
- Regularly monitor traffic behind to be aware of any vehicle that may be wanting to overtake. A single flash of your right indicator is a widely accepted method of letting the vehicle behind know that you consider it safe for them to overtake, as your caravan may be blocking their view of the road ahead. Be courteous to other drivers by pulling over and allowing them to pass if you are holding them up. (Only where it is safe to do so!)
- If your caravan begins to sway, remain calm and resist the natural urge to slam the brakes on. Instead, you can manually apply the caravan's electric brakes, or gently accelerate, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, depressing your car's brake pedal slightly can activate the caravan brakes enough to stop it swaying. Sensible driving, loading heavier items over the caravan axles (and as low as possible), and sway controls all help to lessen the chance of caravan sway developing.
- Use the gears on the tow vehicle for engine braking. This applies to both automatic and manual transmissions, and will help prevent brake fade and wear. It is also very helpful for maintaining control and is vital on long descents.
- Anticipate hills and change down gears early enough to maintain revs. This may come more naturally to drivers of manual cars, but is a handy skill to learn even if you have an automatic transmission.
- On dirt road or roads where only one lane is sealed, look ahead and move to the left if another vehicle is approaching. If necessary, pull over and stop, which will help prevent your car, windscreen and caravan being peppered with rocks.
Caravan towing checklist
- Check that the hitch is tight, the chains are connected, and that the caravan lights are connected and working properly .
- Regularly check the caravan's bearings, brakes and tyres for excessive heat by feeling them. This check can be done when stopping for lunch or at a fuel stop.
- Use a towing tips checklist to ensure the caravan is right to travel and you haven't forgotten anything. An example checklist is given below.
- Caravan hitch properly connected
- Safety chains properly connected
- Caravan handbrake dis-engaged
- Roof hatches clipped down
- Gas bottles turned off
- All cupboards and drawers properly shut
- Jockey wheel up/off
- Stabilising jacks wound up
- Step pushed up
- Fridge set to DC and door secured
- Door and windows shut
- Auxiliary battery charger on
- Check tyre pressure (including spare)
Be sure to re-check items that you have used at any lunch stops, particularly the fridge door catch!! If you forget this (as we have done) the consequences are generally that bad and annoying that you will only make the mistake once!
Being able to see down the side of your caravan whilst towing is not only a legal requirement, it is a huge aid for the driver. It also makes reversing a caravan so much easier.
There are many different types of towing mirrors on the market, from those that clip on your car mirrors, to mirrors that strap over the bonnet of the tow vehicle. To work out the best type of towing mirror for you, a good starting point is to compare the width of your car to the width of the caravan. A narrow car and wide van will require mirrors that extend further. These are generally more expensive (up to $300/ mirror). A wider car may suffice with mirrors that do not extend as far, and are more likely to cost around $50 each.
Be aware that some of the cheaper, flimsy, clip on mirrors are prone to being blown off by the wind generated from passing trucks. If buying clip on mirrors, look for the type that have the ability to be tightened up on your car mirrors by way of a ratchet-type device.
The larger mirrors generally clip onto the car's window and rest on the lower part of the door by means of a magnetic pad. These pads can accumulate dirt and grit under them and if not cleaned regularly, can mark the paint and promote rust spots over the longer term.
If after reading the towing tips above, you are still daunted by the thought of towing a caravan, don't be. Most of us were a little unsure as we learnt to drive a car for the first time, but it soon became second nature as we learned, observed and practised.
Consider practising at first with a box trailer if you have never towed before. From there you can then practise with your caravan in quiet back roads, new estates and deserted parking lots.
Familiarising yourself with the towing tips above, getting out and having a go and using common sense should have you safely and confidently enjoying your caravan towing for many years. Perhaps you will soon be sharing good towing tips of your own shortly!
If still unsure, caravan towing courses are generally offered by state Caravanning Associations.
We trust that these towing tips help get you out there amongst it!
If you would like to view or purchase the best
Free Camping Australia Guides click here
Invest in the best Free Camping Australia Guides
Go to Tips on Reversing a Caravan from towing tips
Return to HOME PAGE from towing tips