If camping with a few more creature comforts is more your style than roughing it, investing in a caravan or camper trailer is for you. But towing for the first time can be quite a daunting task, especially if you’ve never had any towing experience. We’ve put together a few things to know and consider before heading out on your first caravan trip.
Picking the right tow vehicle
Before setting off, you’re going to need to make sure your vehicle is up to the job of pulling a caravan. Not every car can haul 2 tonnes (or more) behind it and come away unscathed. A caravan should never tow you, so you’ll need a vehicle that has a towing capacity to match your fully stocked caravan or RV. You’ll also need a vehicle that is compliant with towing rules and regulations as having a non-compliant vehicle has the possibility to void your insurance policy and be disastrous should something go wrong.
When looking to pair a vehicle with your trailer, weight is the most important factor to consider. Trying to decode the weight rating placards to find out what you’re legally allowed to tow can get confusing, but the most essential piece of information you need to know is that you must not exceed the tow vehicle’s manufacturer set limit, the Gross Combination Mass (GCM). Exceeding this number is illegal and is where things can get tricky with your insurance should you get caught. For more information on calculating exact towing capacities check out uncovering the truth about towing capacities.
When to get an electric brake controller
For all trailers with a Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) between 750kg and 2000kg you need brakes on the wheels of at least one axle. For a trailer over 2000kg, you must have brakes operating on all wheels. This means that for almost every camper trailer or caravan you tow you will need a trailer brake controller. Often trailer brakes are electric brakes so you will need an electric brake controller. Electric trailer brake controllers allow you to safely slow down, without the added weight and momentum of your trailer making it dangerous. Having an electric brake controller eliminates the chances of the trailer pushing your vehicle into a crash by activating the trailer’s brakes when the vehicle brakes are applied. The Tow-Pro then uses inertia to judge how much braking is needed to safely slow down and stop the trailer with the vehicle. For more information on towing safely check out top tips for safe towing.
Balancing your weight
Having a balanced caravan load means that you’re much less likely to experience caravan sway whilst driving. One of the most common causes of caravan accidents, caravan sway is something almost all caravan drivers have seen or experienced. Packing correctly can have a massive effect on reducing or avoiding caravan sway whilst driving. A good rule is to pack all heavy loads as close as possible to the axles (never at the rear of the caravan or camper trailer). By packing heavy loads at the rear of the trailer, any interference on the road can quickly cause a pendulum effect. Check out the diagram below for the best place to pack your heavier items.
Keeping tyres maintained
As the most direct connection to the road, it is critical that your tyres are in good condition. Camper trailers and caravans tend to sit for long periods of time between trips, the tyres often develop flat spots and the rubber can become compromised due to time and exposure. What many people don’t know is that trailer tyres are subject to the same rules and regulations as vehicle tyres, so it’s important to keep them well maintained. You’ll also want to make sure all your wheel nuts and bolts are tightened to manufacturers specifications and well maintained.
All your trailer tyres must have correct tyre pressure and be load and speed rated to suit the Gross Trailer Mass. Keeping tyre pressure correct will give you the best safety, fuel economy and performance from your caravan or camper trailer. You will need to adjust this pressure depending on the terrain if you’re planning to go off road or hit some rough corrugations or surfaces, because of this it can be handy to carry a portable air compressor.
Try a towing course
Before setting off on your first towing adventure or even if you’re an experienced tower, it can be helpful to complete a towing course. Whether you’re learning for the first time or just having a refresher, knowing how to tow properly is critical for both your and other drivers’ safety. It’s also important to make sure that you have a backup driver that is competent with towing your whole rig in case of sickness, accident, or emergency.
We hope that some of these tips and tricks take away some of the stress of towing and travelling with your new caravan. For more information on travelling with a caravan or camper trailer check out our blog on the top 6 things to know when planning to go caravanning or caravan sway and how to avoid it. With REDARC on board, there are NO LIMITS to where you can go. Take a look behind the scenes and find out how we turned a stock Hilux into an off-grid powerhouse.