Aussies love caravanning. According to the last census figures just over half a million caravans and motorhomes were registered in Australia and the records of distances travelled show that caravans and campervans went approximately 607 million km’s in one year across this lucky country.
That’s equal to driving to the moon and back 790 times!
With these amounts of km’s being travelled and with a growing trend towards caravans in the 1.6 to 3 tonne range then obviously towing safety is a major issue. Here’s what you need to know if you’re about to take a trip in a caravan.
The towing capacity of your vehicle
Towing a caravan or camper trailer is nationally regulated and there are limitations on what a vehicle can tow. You can find the tow rating in the manufacturers handbook. The rating will include both a trailer weight capacity and a trailer weight ball capacity.
Both of these ratings must not be exceeded. Your vehicles towing capacity factors in engine size, transmission, braking system, tyres, bearings, suspension and chassis structure.
The type of tow bar and the maximum load capacity of the coupling
For safe towing it’s mandatory to fit a properly designed and fitted towbar with a certified weight rating. The load capacity of the towbar and the trailer coupling must be equal or greater than the load mass of the trailer.
If you’ve bought a second hand vehicle with a tow bar attached have it checked for maximum load capacity before you hitch your caravan or trailer.
How to do safety checks before and during the trip
Regular maintenance is essential for safe driving and towing. Routine checks of your tow vehicle and caravan or trailer will reduce breakdowns and will ensure your safety and that of others.
In addition to the basic water, coolant, oil and brake fluid checks, make sure you inspect the trailer tyres for pressure and condition, especially if it hasn’t been used for a while.
Check the wheel nuts on your vehicle and trailer, and ensure the coupling and tow ball match and that safety chains are correctly connected. Make sure that the trailer brake and light connections all work. Spraying WD40 into the electrical sockets can help if they haven’t been used for a while.
Check that towing lights, number plates and registration labels are clearly visible. Things to keep a regular eye on are wheel bearings, tyres and springs. It’s also a good idea to routinely check gas bottles and LPG regulators.
How to avoid caravan sway
If your caravan or trailer starts to sway, stay calm and avoid braking. Using the manual control gently apply the caravan's electric brakes. Where conditions safely permit, continue at slow acceleration until the sway stops.
When the sway is corrected slow down and pull over and check your load making sure your load is evenly distributed within the trailer and that heavy items are placed over the axels.
How to slow and brake
Anticipating the conditions of what is happening ahead will allow easy and safe stopping. Slowing early when approaching traffic lights allows time for that traffic to clear and it’s easier on your vehicle and brakes, as well as saving fuel.
Use the gears on the tow vehicle for engine braking. This will help prevent brake fade and wear and is also very helpful for maintaining control, which is vital on long descents.
The thought of towing a caravan can be daunting. But it’s totally worth it to have an affordable and fun holiday. And remember, before you go, make sure you have caravan or trailer insurance.
- Visit Caravan Industry Australia and Australian Caravan Club Limited to get skilled up by doing caravan-towing courses.
- You can find more safety tips from the Caravan & Camping Industry Association.
- Need caravan or trailer insurance? Find out more here.
To see if NRMA Caravan Insurance is right for you, always read the Product Disclosure Statement from the product issuer, Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 trading as NRMA Insurance.