Got your caravan? All packed up and ready to go? Great! Now you must make sure your 4×4 is right to tow your caravan and adheres to all the safety and road rules. If you’re a beginner caravan owner, getting the towing down is one of the trickiest parts to get right. Here are six tips to make sure your caravan is safe and secure, street legal, and trouble free to tow.
1. Know Your Weights and Equipment
You wouldn’t go out for a multi-leg stopover holiday without checking a map. The same goes for your caravan and 4×4. You need to know the maximum weight your 4×4 can tow and your caravan’s weight before setting off and doing some real damage to either. You need to take into consideration the braked weight of your 4×4 laden with equipment and supplies AND the same for the caravan. If you did the sums on paper with factory specs, this doesn’t cover it. As a general guide, your towball weight should be a minimum of 10% of your caravan weight, without exceeding your rated towball weight.
Pictured: Hayman Reese Heavy Duty Towbar
2. Be Street Legal – 750kg+ Caravans and Brakes
Did you know caravans – in fact any towed vehicle – weighing more than 750kg (either loaded or empty) require fitted brakes? Electric brakes can be operated via a brake control unit. The brake control unit separates your vehicle brakes from your caravan’s brakes, which is important if your caravan begins to sway, independent brakes for the caravan can correct this sway. Using both at the same time can worsen the sway, due to inertia. You can also install mechanically activated brakes, but the rules are the rules – you need brakes for 750kg or heavier loads.
3. Use a Weight Distribution Hitch System (WDH)
A Weight Distribution Hitch (WDH) is a simple device that balances the load across the caravan and vehicle, reducing the likelihood of a “sagging” of the rear end of your 4×4 or vehicle. It gives you precise control and better performance by spreading the load from your hitch point to the entire chassis. Note that this is different to airbag suspension, which only levels out your rear axle. It does not distribute the weight of a caravan and is not considered an effective solution by manufacturers or caravan enthusiasts.
4. Check Serviceability of Your Parts
There’s nothing worse than going out on a holiday and finding something’s wrong with your 4×4, caravan, or both. Make sure your tow ball and hitch are perfect fits for your caravan, and that there are no weak links in your safety chains. You should also consider a logbook or general service of your 4×4 if you haven’t done so for at least six months, as this may reveal performance issues that can slow down your 4×4 and decrease fuel efficiency. You should also do a safety check of your caravan, to prevent any issues from occurring.
5. Tyres and Mirrors
Your tyres should be in as good as condition as possible before heading out – if they aren’t, get them replaced. They should also be inflated to manufacturer requirements. You should also install towing mirrors to make sure you can see around your caravan – it could save a life.
6. Make Sure You Have Insurance
Caravans cost a lot of money and will leave you massively out of pocket if it gets broken or stolen…so you must insure it! Make sure you have up to date caravan insurance. It should cover manufacturer fault (which can cost you thousands to fix if uninsured), accidents, and water damage. Read the fine print, or approach a broker to help.