Towing, at some point in our lives we all have to do it. Whether that is moving houses or helping your mate or family move something bulky, we all become mini-removalists at one point or another. Thankfully, most of the time this happens in suburbia, so you’re familiar with the road rules and conditions.
But it’s a whole different kettle of fish when it comes to off-road towing. In this blog, we cover several tips for safe off-road towing.
It goes without saying that the most important factor is watching your speed and keeping it down when you are towing a caravan or camper trailer that is particularly heavy.
If you are towing anything under 4.5 tonnes State and Territory speed limits apply. In every State, except Western Australia, you must abide by the posted speed limit. In WA, the speed limit is 100 km/h for all trailers.
Vehicle and/or trailer manufacturers can also apply limits such as:
- Trailer maximum speed limit – if stated on the trailer’s compliance plate
- Towing vehicle’s towing speed limit – if stated by the vehicle manufacturer
- Trailer and towing vehicle tyre speed rating – rating must be equal to or greater than the manufacturer’s specification
In NSW, the maximum speed limit for vehicles with a GVM or GCM over 4.5 tonnes is 100 km/h.
Apart from keeping to the road rules, slowing down also has other benefits such as avoiding windscreen damage, which can occur with rocks coming off the front and rear tyres from passing vehicles.
Lower speed also means less stress on the engine, drive train and suspension components. And by slowing down, you are ensuring you can react quickly but most importantly safely, before catastrophe strikes.
One way or another, you're going to come across some dirt roads in Australia!
If you must overtake, there are some things to consider:
- If you have a UHF radio you can attempt to contact the vehicle in front to organise an overtake, most courteous people will slow down and let you overtake safely
- Ensure you have plenty of visibility, around 2 – 3km ahead, so you can plan accordingly
- Overtake on flat ground or downhill so gravity will assist you in keeping the trailer steady
- Use your electric brakes manually to keep your van towing in a straight line
This video below from The Practical Guide to Modern Towing by RV Daily provides some terrific tips on safer towing.
If it’s not safe to do so, or the conditions aren’t ideal, the best thing you can do is to take in the sights or pull over for 10 minutes and have a cuppa.
Another important factor is tyre choice and tyre pressures. It is recommended to go for a Light Truck tyre as they are designed to carry loads evenly and are more stable on trailers when cornering.
Tyre life expectancy is 5 years from the date of manufacturer, after this it might pay to invest in a new set. Rubber ages, so even if not fully worn, they are getting to their use by date by this time.
Where tyre pressure is concerned, this should be checked daily. One tip is to reduce the tyre pressure by 28kpa or 4psi in off-road/dirt roads and if you are travelling long distances. It is also important to remember that you should adjust your tyre pressure dependant on the weight of your load.
Ensuring you have the right tyres is so important when towing off road
When tackling water crossings, make sure it is first safe to do so. If the water is flowing very fast or there are large bits of debris, look for an alternative route.
Test the water current and depth by walking in and note where potential hazards like rocks and holes may be lurking. Once you have planned your route accordingly, brake firmly in a straight line and release the brakes just prior to entry, to raise the front of the vehicle to reduce the impact.
The key here is to maintain a steady speed, which will create a bow wave in front of your tow vehicle. This will help retain momentum and traction.
Watch out for the crocs!
When cornering, ensure to wipe off speed before you reach the corner and then accelerate out. Aim the towing vehicle to the outside of each corner and use as much lane as possible – approach it as if you have a semi-trailer behind you.
So the next time you hit the road, make sure to have these tips in mind and always be aware of the road conditions and other drivers around you.