Here’s our checklist to run through to ensure your caravan is holiday ready, with some extra support for first-timers.
Do caravans need an MOT?
This is a common question for first-timers, or those looking into buying their first caravan. Unlike motorhomes, caravans don’t need an MOT, with the owner being responsible for ensuring it is roadworthy.
Instead of an MOT, an annual service is recommended, to ensure the chassis, bodywork, ventilation and numerous other elements are in safe, working order. If you haven’t used your caravan before, or you haven’t used it for some time, ensure it is serviced before you head off on your adventures.
Check your caravan’s tyres
Check is the condition and pressure of the caravan’s tyres before towing.
Not only are you checking they are pumped up, but they can perish due to them being left in one spot for a prolonged period with too much weight on them and being exposed to sunshine. The last thing you want on your trip is a tyre blowout.
Use a caravan nose weight gauge
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.
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.
Check your caravan’s 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.
Test your caravan’s 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.
Check your caravan’s 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, plus 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.
Test your caravan towing mirrors
Get hold of a decent pair of towing mirrors so you can see the cars behind you easily. Legally, you need to clearly see an area which is 4 metres wide from the side of your caravan, at a distance of 20 metres behind the driver.
Check your caravan 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 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 will have details as to whether you have this device built into 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.
Test your caravan security
Hitch locks are often required by an insurer as a minimum security requirement. It’s a metal box designed to fit over the coupling head while the caravan is stationary. Once locked, the box pushes a ball into the coupling head, so it is lodged in a way which makes it virtually impossible to hitch onto the tow bar.
This is handy when your pitch up your caravan on a park and go out for the day. There are a variety available so do check which is best for your caravan.
Wheel clamps are also usually required as a minimum security measure when insuring your touring caravan. Wheel clamps encase the wheel and prevent them from rotating. You simply tighten the clamp over the wheel using bolts then attach casing to enclose the bolts with a second set of casing so they are inaccessible.
Like with hitch locks, you should check the wheel is suitable for your caravan. Some are not suitable for alloy wheels, but a quick Google search should help you establish if you’re looking at the right device.
For higher value caravans, you may find insurers requesting more security and a wheel lock. Just make sure you check which wheel locks are accepted by your insurer.
Obtain the right caravan insurance
Take some time researching caravan insurance before you take your caravan out, or work with a broker who can do this for you. The last thing you want on holiday is an uninsured break-in, or to have to deal with the cost of storm damage on your return. The policy needs to meets all your needs, and that of the make, model and year of your caravan.
Our caravan insurance experts are always on hand to help you make sure that you have the right cover in place and to answer any questions you may have. Contact our caravan specialists directly on 01527 879777.
The team also runs a community Facebook page for caravanners to connect and chat – you may even pick up a few hints and tips. Join the Facebook group ‘Caravanners Chat UK‘ and be part of our lively community.