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.
NRMA Insurance Road Safety Expert Chris Emerson said: “It’s great to see a revival in caravanning and so many more people taking the opportunity to explore regional areas.
Mr Emerson added, “Before heading out on the road, we encourage caravanners – and all motorists – to ensure they’ve completed all the necessary vehicle checks to ensure their safety and that of others, particularly inspecting caravan and trailer tyres for pressure and condition, especially if they haven’t been used for a while.”
NRMA Insurance has provided the following tips for towing a caravan safely:
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 manufacturer’s handbook. The rating will include both a trailer weight capacity and a trailer weight ball capacity. Understand the load capacities of your setup, and what you are carrying and try to avoid loading up to or beyond the weight limits.
- Be mindful of maintaining a balanced load in the caravan. As you travel and use up items like water and food, this can cause an imbalance so you will need to adjust this over the course of your journey, ensuring adequate tow-ball downforce of 10-15% caravan loaded weight.
- Ensuring everything is in working order 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 on your vehicle, make sure you inspect the trailer tyres for pressure and overall condition. If your caravan hasn’t been used for a while, be sure the tyres are not too old, have adequate tread and you know the correct pressure for the tyres.
- 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 contact spray into the electrical sockets can help to ensure a robust connection for the caravan’s lights and brakes 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 shock absorber temperatures. 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 immediately apply your caravans override button on the brake controller without heavily applying the car brakes. These are sometimes located centrally in a vehicle and if so, ensure your passenger is also aware of this, and can apply them if needed.
- 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. Make sure the wheels are not unusually hot and the tyres look ok.
How to slow and brake
- Anticipating the conditions of the road 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.
- Be considerate of other road users. If you're travelling on single lane roads, look for spots along the road where you can pull over and allow traffic past, before returning to the road.
- Carrying a UHF radio to communicate with other users, so you can help each other overtake safely.
- On long steep descents use the gears on the tow vehicle for engine braking. This will help prevent brake fade and assists with maintaining vehicle speed and control.
The Sloways initiative is for new and seasoned caravan drivers alike and features regional route planners and suggested itineraries, all available via: NRMA.com.au/sloways.
There are two Sloways routes including:
New South Wales:
From local cafes to caravan sites, fishing and forest picnic stops, the Northern New South Wales Sloways route focuses on Sydney to Byron Bay taking in the Central Coast, Fisherman’s Bay, Forster, Port Macquarie, Arakoon, Nambucca Heads, Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Grafton and Yamba.
From art trails to bakery stops, rainforest tracks and koala sanctuaries, the South Queensland route travels from the Gold Coast to Yeppoon via: Brisbane, Hazeldean, Kingaroy, Gympie, Noosa, Tin Can Bay, Woodgate Beach, Bundaberg and Rockhampton.
Further information about The Sloways routes plus pre-holiday tips and planning advice for caravan drivers are available at NRMA.com.au/sloways.
All motorists should check the Australian Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) website to ensure their trip complies with current domestic travel restrictions.