Now that we are entering the most popular time of year for caravanning, it is important to make sure you are safe before taking your caravan out on the road.
When it comes to safe caravanning, it’s not just about how you tow once you are on the road, equally as critical is making sure your caravan is in good condition and fit for the road prior to setting off.
Tyres: What’s important to check is the condition and pressure of the tyres on the caravan before towing. Most tyres will tend to perish before the tread wears out due to them being left with a lot of weight on one spot for a prolonged period of time and even being exposed to too much sunshine.
Nose weight: Depending on what caravan or car you have and its kerb weight, you need to be sure you fall under a safe nose weight allowance. A loaded caravan nose weight needs to be no more that 85% of the towing vehicle kerb weight and a maximum of 100% of the towing vehicle kerb weight. Don’t overlook this safety issue! A good quality nose-weight gauge will allow you to make sure you are towing safely, after consulting your caravan and car handbooks for weight allowance.
Hitching: Once the steady jacks have been raised, the van has been hitched up to the car and the lights have been checked, use the jockey wheel winding handle to lower the towing hitch onto the tow ball of your vehicle. Give the van a good firm shake using the handles on each corner, making sure that the hitch has been correctly secured (most modern caravans have a button at the hitch handle that indicates correct attachment). Last thing to do is lift the jockey wheel completely off the ground and secure it into place and you’re good to go.
Brakes: Apply the handbrake on the caravan once it is safely attached to the car. Securely attach the caravan breakaway cable to the tow bar of your vehicle. It is a legal requirement that a breakaway cable is fitted and properly attached.
Electrics: Your caravan will either have single or twin electrics built into the towing hitch. Single electrics means that you have a connector for your caravan lights. Twin electrics means that you will have the pin connector for your caravan lights and also a pin connector to allow you to charge up your caravan battery and keep your fridge running whilst you tow your caravan. The connecting wire(s) from the caravan electrics need to be secured to the electric point(s) on your towbar. Check at this point that the lights on the caravan work and correspond to the lights on your vehicle, i.e. brake lights, indicators and on tow lights etc. It is a good idea to keep spare bulbs for your caravan lights.
Clear view: Get hold of a decent pair of towing mirrors so you can see the cars behind you easily. Having mirrors that allow you to see you clearly an area which is 4 metres wide from the side of your caravan at a distance of 20 metres behind the driver is a legal requirement. Having a pair of towing mirrors means that you can comply with this legal requirement.
Stabilisers: If you’re new to caravanning, then it might be useful to get hold of a stabiliser bar if your caravan has not got an automatic anti-snake device automatically fitted into your caravan’s towing hitch. The built in anti-snake device, sometimes known as an ATC (Automatic Trailer Control), provides some protection against swaying and pitching when you are towing your caravan on the road. Your caravan manual should have details as to whether you have this device built in to your towing hitch from manufacture. It is also possible to get an ATC fitted as an aftermarket device. The ATC will only function with a rigid towbar and the electrical connection between the caravan and the towbar must be in good working order.
Insurance: Finally, take some time researching caravan insurance before you take your caravan out. The right research will allow you to determine the best caravan insurance policy for you – one that really does meet your needs. Speak to one of our experts to make sure you have the right cover in place.
Disclaimer: These tips have been put together with the help of our caravan insurance specialist team, to the best of our knowledge, but are for guidance only and we would always recommend carrying out you own checks and adhering to the technical specifications of your own vehicle.