Reversing a Caravan.
A simple and practical "how-to" guide.
The basic principle of reversing a caravan is that you turn the steering wheel the opposite way
to that if reversing a car only. Turn left to point the van right, and right to point the van left.
This will set the car and van on the desired line and from this point you steer so that the car "follows the van", adjusting as necessary. To straighten up from a turn, slowly "unwind your lock" as you reverse.
Tips on Reversing a Caravan
- As you approach the site you wish to reverse the caravan into, assess the situation and plan your method of attack. It is at this stage that you should be checking for things such as overhanging branches, power poles, taps, potholes etc. Establish exactly where you want the wheels of the van to end up and mark the spot if necessary (or if the site is out of level, you could set your wedges or packers in place) so you have something to aim at.
- If possible, drive past the site that you wish to reverse into, (with it on your right) and then back into it on an arc, whereby you are looking out your right window (or door), watching the caravan. This method is the easiest way to reverse and look like a pro, but is also great practise for understanding the dynamics of reversing a caravan, which will be needed in other situations.
that allow you to see down the side of the van. These will be essential for reversing in some circumstances, but this will require a different mindset to the method above, where you are looking back directly at the van.
- If the caravan ends up off your intended line, pull slightly forward (about 1 car length) and have another go. This is one part where many people get into trouble. They continue reversing and try to correct the steering and end up all over the place. If the van is only slightly off line and there is enough room, then correcting will normally work.
- Having a person assisting to ensure that you don't hit anything is not absolutely necessary but is a great advantage. It is important that they stand where you can see them and that they give audible warnings. Having your car's windows down and radio off is also necessary.
- Accept directions sparingly. Having people giving commands like "down on your left" and so on will surely confuse you. Most often these commands are followed by "oh sorry, I meant down on your right". This is because they are approaching the situation from a different perspective to that of the driver. The assistant is there to give a general guide and to ensure the driver doesn't hit anything. The reversing, and what to do with the steering wheel is the driver's responsibility.
- The idea of one person directing the driver using a hand held UHF is espoused by many travel websites, but I am convinced they haven't seen it in action. For the reasons outlined in the point above, it gets people in a right pickle. Observing another couple using this method usually provides great entertainment for other campers!
- Don't be afraid to hop out of the car to reassess the situation if your plan of attack becomes unclear, or if you are unsure what is behind you. This can also relieve any pressure you may be feeling if you have already had a few attempts and / or you have an audience! (there always seems to be an audience!!)
- Reversing a caravan requires much practise and some trial-and-error. You can do this in empty shopping centre car parks, new housing estates etc. Stick at it until "the penny drops", and you will increase your caravanning pleasure! Practise and a good sense of humour will win the day!
I am reluctant to mention this final point, as the idea of these caravan reversing tips is that you become competent in reversing a caravan. But do remember - if all else fails, don't be too shy to ask the caravan park manager, or a friendly fellow traveller to reverse your van in for you.
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