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Towing a Caravan

Towing a caravan is not as difficult as it might appear to be as long as you have practiced manoevring you car and caravan before you go on a touring holiday. It is important to be aware of the extra length that has been added to your vehicle which will necessitate more space between your vehicle and other traffic when you are on the road. In order for you to have more time to stop safely remember braking distances will increase by as much as 20% if you are towing a caravan.

It is a good idea to go on a short journey when you have bought your first caravan to get use to the new experience of towing it. Afterall, it is important to get a feel for those new stopping distances as well as turning around a corner, where you need to take a wide line to ensure the caravan does not clip the kerb, whilst keeping a watchful eye on both door mirrors. There is also reversing and parking to attempt as well. When reversing into a space, turn the steering wheel the opposite way to normal to start the turning process, then slacken off and turn the normal way to enable the car to follow the caravan. If you oversteer your caravan it could jack-knife and cause damage. Therefore, stop, pull forward in a straight line, and retry. Remember you don't really want to be trying this out for the first time when you go on holiday with it.

Other points to watch out for are:

When towing a caravan you are restricted to a maximum speed of 50mph on single carriageway roads, and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways, provided no lower limit is in force.

You are not allowed to use outside lane of a three or more, lane motorway when towing, except where there are lane closures which restrict the lanes to two or less, or when instructed to do so by the police.

When towing a caravan the weight of the vehicle should not generally exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. Most vehicle manufacturers state the maximum towing limit in their hand books.

If you are towing a large high sided caravan you may require extended door mirrors. These will help visibility along both sides of your vehicle and caravan.

Try to put all heavy items over the axle and make sure they are secured to prevent movement when cornering or braking. If possible, put heavier items in the car and larger lighter items in the caravan.

Consult your caravan and car handbooks to establish the correct "nose weight" for your caravan. This is the weight that you can puy safetly on the tow ball of your vehicle. Most cars state 50kgs to 100kgs.

When coupling your car to the caravan it is far easier to reverse the car up to the caravan. Adjust the jockey wheel so that the caravan coupling head is approximately 2" to 3" above the tow ball on the back of the car. It can be helpful to have a companion to guide you when reversing your vehicle, so that the ball is underneath the coupling head of the caravan. Lower the jockey wheel and lock the coupling head onto the ball, making sure it is properly locked on.

After You have coupled up your car and caravan cannect the break away cable to the hook on the tow bar, not ball, and connect electrical plugs to car. Check all the lights work

As long as the caravan is evenly loaded, nose weight is correct and the whole outfit sits level on the road you are unlikely to experience a problem with snaking, except for high sided caravans where side winds or passing HGV's can unrest the caravan. If this might be a problem you may need a stabiliser. These reduce snaking by increasing the turning friction between towing vehicle and caravan. However a stabilisr will not compensate for bad loading, weight distribution.