Everyday there are scenes of caravan towing accidents on Australian roads, and as caravan insurance repairers in Melbourne, we see a range of damage to caravans. Some are minor dents and scrapes, and some not so minor. As we approach the holiday season, it’s a good time to re cap the basics of towing weights and talk about how knowing a few simple numbers could save your life.
As we all know, accidents happen and that’s why its important to always make sure your caravan insurance is up to date when you set out on the road.
Comprehensive caravan insurance should cover theft, accidental damage, natural disaster damage, as well as liability and compensation if you are at fault in an accident. If you are new to caravanning, make sure you read your policy and understand clearly what you are covered for.
How to avoid a caravan accident
While insurance is important for protection and for peace of mind, its also important to be pro active and understand how to minimise the chances of an accident.
There are many reasons why caravan towing accidents happen. One of the more common causes of caravan accidents, however, results from a caravan being overloaded. Exceeding towing weight limits can result in a caravan becoming unstable. Having to swerve unexpectedly with an overloaded rig, makes it more likely that a caravan may topple, causing serious danger to passengers and other vehicles on the road.
Understanding towing weights
We’ve spoken before about towing weights, but when it comes to caravanning, they are fundamental to knowing how to set up your rig for safe travel. Avoiding having a caravan accident today or tomorrow means taking just a few moments to learn the correct calculations and then putting what you learn into action.
You will need to know weights for your towing vehicle as well as your caravan. You can check you final weights on a weighbridge.
Caravan towing weights
Lets start with your caravan. A caravan has a tare weight, which is the weight of the caravan at manufacture. This is the weight of the caravan when it is empty. The Tare weight will be listed on the compliance plate of your caravan, however – and this is important – if your caravan has been fitted with aftermarket accessories, this tare weight may not be accurate and may be more than at manufacture.
The second weight term you need to know is the maximum weight you can load your caravan. This is known as the Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM). The ATM is the tare weight + everything you load into your caravan (food, clothes, games, cooking equipment, even the water in the water tanks etc.). You’ll be surprised by how quickly you may reach your maximum weight.
The calculation for the maximum weight you can load into your caravan when you are going on a trip
Maximum weight = ATM – Tare
Lets say the Tare of our caravan is 2000kg and the ATM is 2500kg
2500kg – 2000kg = 500kg
The maximum weight you can load in your caravan above the tare weight is 500kg.
Car towing weights
When towing it is important to make sure that the caravan is matched to a towing vehicle that can safely tow a caravan of that size. Many caravan accidents come about as a result of a towing a caravan that is too heavy for the towing vehicle. You also must make sure your towing vehicle is not overloaded.
Calculating the maximum weight you can load into your vehicle is similar as it was for your caravan. The two terms to use are the tare and the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM).
Maximum loading weight = GVM – tare
When your caravan and vehicle are hitched.
There is an additional weight consideration you need to know when calculating the the final weight of your vehicle. When a caravan is hitched to a towball, it exerts considerable downward pressure. This weight is transferred from the caravan to the car and is usually about 10% of the ATM.
If the ATM of the caravan is 2500kg, when it is hitched to the towball, an extra 250kg (10%) will be added to the vehicle.
This extra 10% needs to be taken into consideration when calculating whether or not your vehicle weight is exceeding its maximum weight. At the same time the extra weight is lost off the weight of your caravan.
The effect of the downward pressure of the caravan on the towball when the caravan is hitched, adds additional weight to the total vehicle weight.
Other towing considerations for caravan safety
Observing caravan towing weights is a fundamental aspect of ensuring your rig is safe. There are other safety considerations, including adjusting the way you drive to different driving conditions and learning good caravan towing tips.
It’s also important to understand that different towing vehicles will behave differently, even if they are loaded correctly. Do your research when you match a towing vehicle to a caravan. Our mates at Clayton’s Towing recently wrote about caravan towing accidents and had some interesting observations to make about caravan and car towing weights.
Understanding the terms that are used to indicate maximum towing weights is an important part of towing safely. Once you’ve done the calculations on your rig a few times, it will be much simpler. Of course, the best way to ensure you are travelling with a safely weighted rig is to take it to a weighbridge. You can also purchase a towball weight scale from Repco or Supercheap Auto to calculate the ball weight of your caravan or trailer.
Caravan towing accidents are all too common. Before you head out on the road take some time to understand towing weights. With the right knowledge and some safe driving tips you’ll enjoy many adventures, stay safe and hopefully avoid an accident.
Emu Caravan News
There have been a few changes at Emu over the last few months. Here are a few updates, for those who haven’t caught up.
Bike Racks: If you are planning a holiday and taking bikes, we can fit the Aussie designed and made Gripsport Van Rack. Emu are now official distributers and fitters.
North Coast Campers in Ferntree Gully: Are you looking to upgrade your camper trailer? We are the exclusive Victorian dealership for the popular North Coast Campers. There’s a size for every type of traveller who wants to get off road and have a real adventure. Visit us to take a look at the range of North Coast Campers for sale.
Caravan Insurance Repairs: Have you had an accident and need your caravan fixed before summer? We are authorised caravan insurance repairers and can get you back on the road and looking great for summer. All your need is your claim number. Give us a call on 9752 2988 to discuss your repair or contact us.