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Caravan Towing Tips And Reversing Advice

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For newbies and others lacking in confidence, we’ve pulled together some caravan towing tips and advice. We’ve even got a couple of ideas on how to handle reversing, something many people find difficult.

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Towing Weight

To be able to tow a caravan, you need to know what your towing weight is and the capacity for your towing vehicle. This is how you work that out:

  1. First, you need to know the unloaded weight of what you’ll be towing. This will be in the trailer somewhere and is usually near a door or in a cupboard.
  2. Then you need to add your estimated cargo weight to give you a total towing weight.
  3. Refer to your owner’s manual or car dealer to find out what the towing limits of your vehicle are and use this to see if it has the capacity to safely tow the total weight.

We were fortunate enough to get our sticky paws on the Volvo XC70 for our vintage caravan expedition. The towing capacity of this car is 2100 kg so we were well within the limits with our vintage caravan, which weighed just 750 kg.

Hitching Up

Caravan towing advice hitching up

Hitching up

Most caravans have a trailer hitch, crank wheel, electric hook-up, coupler, latch and lock, safety chains and handbrake at the front. Before you do anything, make sure you are familiar with all of these before attempting to hitch your caravan.

Line up the hitch ball on your vehicle with the trailer coupler on the caravan. Then lower the caravan by turning the crank handle. Raise the handle to release the coupler and let the hitch ball move into position.

Caravan towing tips and advice safety chain

Safety chain

You will know when your vehicle is attached to the caravan by lifting the trailer hitch. If it also lifts the car then you are attached. If you find it difficult to attach the caravan, use your body weight to be sure it’s fitted properly.

Once attached, secure with the lock above the coupler and fix the safety chain. Then plug your electrics in and do your final checks with the lights and load position on the road.

This is particularly important because if your caravan is running too low at the back, you might knock it on the road when going over a bump. People have been known to leave part of their caravan on the road when this happens, and you don’t want that!

Towing final checks lights

Be aware that when you are manoeuvring the caravan by hand into position to hitch it up, the smallest bumps and holes in the road surface can cause it to move forward unexpectedly fast, so take care at this point.

On The Road

Often a caravan is wider than the vehicle pulling it so add extra mirrors to ensure maximum visibility.  Also, be aware of the dimensions of your load, especially when driving through tight spaces. You don’t want to remove the roof of your caravan like a sardine tin on the way to the campsite!

When driving on the road it’s advisable to take corners wider than normal. This will make sure your caravan doesn’t hit the kerb or other obstructions at the side of the road.

Also, take some time to get used to reversing. Everything happens opposite to what you are accustomed to in a car so the risk of jack-knifing is high if you don’t prepare in advance.

Here are our favourite trailer and caravan reversing tips:

  1. Disengage the reversing brake on your caravan or trailer.
  2. Move the vehicle slowly and steadily and make sure you have maximum visibility or a helper to direct you into position.
  3. When reversing using your mirrors turn the wheel in the opposite direction to the way you want the caravan to go.
  4. When reversing while looking out of the rear window, look over your left shoulder if you are sitting on the right side of the towing vehicle or your right shoulder if you are sitting on the left side. Then put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and turn it in the direction you want your caravan to go.

There are towing courses available for additional support and training but our advice is to take your trailer to a large area with no traffic, set up some small obstructions (such as cones) and practice manoeuvring and reversing.

Chock, Level And Lock

When you’ve reached your destination and parked, you need to chock your wheels. This helps to secure them but also helps get your caravan level on uneven ground.

When secure and you’ve put the handbrake on, you can raise the caravan with the crank handle until the coupler lifts off the hitch ball. Remember to raise the lock and handle to release the coupler. After you’ve moved the vehicle forward you can adjust the height of the caravan to keep it level.  A carpenter’s spirit level is perfect for the job. Then all you have to do is attach a wheel lock and enjoy your time at the campsite.

Take a look at our recent inspiration article about Small Travel Trailers.

Inspired Camping

Picture Credits: Roy Riley

A huge thank you to Mark, Sam and Betsy for letting us borrow their gorgeous vintage Safari caravan to demonstrate the caravan towing tips and reversing advice.

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