Updated 17 August 2017
Towing A Caravan & Avoiding Unnecessary Caravan Repairs
While it’s not necessary to be a mechanic when you are towing a caravan, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of some of the most important aspects of caravan safety. These are things that you will encounter on a daily basis. This includes understanding your caravan and you car’s towing capacity, understanding how to pack your caravan, basic awning safety, using a safety checklist each day, and the basics of safe driving.
How Much Weight Can I Tow?
You are legally required to adhere to towing limits when you hit the road with your caravan, so you need to have a basic understanding of how to pack your van and how much you can safely tow. An overloaded caravan can cause instability, which can result in the caravan rolling. It can also result in the gears failing.
A heavier van will need to be matched with a vehicle that can tow it. Once you have matched the towing capacity of your vehicle and caravan, and loaded your van, check the weight of your loaded van on a weigh bridge to make sure you are not exceeding those limits.
The basic rule of towing is
The ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) of your caravan or trailer must be smaller than the towing capacity of the car or vehicle that is pulling it.
Important Weight Numbers To Know When Towing A Caravan
Towing Vehicle: In your manual you will find the braked maximum towing capacity of your vehicle. This is the maximum weight your vehicle can tow.
Towball: You will need to know the maximum weight that can be applied to the towball. This is the maximum downward pressure exerted on the towball from the towed vehicle. This will be a percentage of the braked maximum capacity of your vehicle (see above). If the weight on the towball is too heavy or too light, weight distribution is compromised and the stability of your rig and road safety is compromised.
A weight distribution hitch may be able to assist with distributing weight evenly across the front and rear axles of the car.
Caravan: The Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) is the most your caravan can weigh when it is fully packed up and ready to go. This amount is the Tare Mass of the caravan (what it weighs at manufacture, before adding any extras) plus payload. This weight cannot be exceeded.
It is important to note that any extras that were added to the caravan, such as an air conditioner or water tanks, that were not present when the caravan was manufactured, are included in calculating the ATM.
Once you know your towing capacity, packing and calculating the weight of your rig will become easier each time you travel. You’ll also become familiar with the essentials you need to take with you that won’t overload the rig.
Don’t load heavy items high up in your van and always store them where recommended. Only pack essentials for your trip and if in doubt it’s probably good to leave it out. Packing less will prevent having to live in overly cramped conditions. You’ll save yourself stress, expensive caravan repairs, or worse.
Keep Your Caravan Awning Safe
One of the most common caravan repairs are to caravan awnings. Keep a watch on the weather forecast if you are going to be away from your caravan and before going to bed in the evening.
In really windy conditions, the awning can end up wrapped over the top of the van, causing considerable damage. If windy weather is forecast, close your awning and be aware that heavy rain can also cause damage.
It may sound obvious, but always look around and up and be aware of trees and anything overhead that could damage the awning and the arms. It is also recommended to reinforce your awning with extra guy ropes for stability.
When you bring in your caravan for a service we can do all repairs to your awning at the same time. There’s no need to search further. Emu Caravan Repairs offer end to end caravan repairs in Melbourne.
Have A Caravan Pack-Down Check List
Caravanning is meant to be fun – it’s not meant to be some type of regimented boot camp. However, in order to avoid expensive caravan repairs, having a checklist that you use before you leave your camp site each day is essential.
Working through the list each day will ensure you don’t end up driving down the road with door swinging open, the fridge defrosted or the tv antenna still up.
Typical Safety Checklist:
- Handbrake off
- Fridge switched to 12V
- Gas off
- TV antenna down
- Legs up
- Roof clips on
- Annex locked
- Front boot and doors locked
- Water tank
- Trailer plug and chain attached
- Benches clear
- Fridge door locked
- Disconnect power cord
- Disconnect water and waste hoses
- Lights off
- Tow ball lock on
Driving Safety When Towing A Caravan
After making sure your rig is the right weight, sticking to a safety checklist, and keeping track of the weather and your awning, the final thing to be aware of is safer driving techniques.
Even though you may have been driving for many ears, driving with a 3000kg or more caravan requires a different approach to turning corners and reversing. Paying extra attention to the load you are carrying, and modifying the way you drive accordingly will help make you a safe driver.
Caravan Repairs – Get It Done Before Your Leave
Before you head off on holiday towing a caravan, make sure you have your caravan serviced by a qualified caravan service centre to make sure the brakes, chassis, tyre pressure and suspension are all in safe working order. For qualified caravan repairs Melbourne, Emu Caravan Repairs, located in Ferntree Gully, In Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is your one-stop-shop.
With a little bit of planning and some basic knowledge you can avoid unnecessary caravan repairs. Caravan and camping safety requires a little bit of planning, but before long it will be second nature and you won’t even notice it.
What do you think? What does your checklist look like? Let us know.