A Beginners Guide To Towing A Caravan Like A Pro

What do I need to consider when towing ?

Do you have any experience with towing a caravan or 5th wheeler ? The overall length of your vehicle and caravan or 5th wheeler can be very daunting if you have had no prior experience. To get some confidence it is recommended you undertake a towing course.

Nationally recognized training courses are available and cover weight distribution and hitch set up, reversing, parking and how to use your caravan/camper trailer off road. The passenger can also be taught to provide hand directions to assist the driver with manoeuvring and parking. They also run courses for the 4WD vehicle itself. If you have yet to acquire your caravan or camper trailer some course providers will supply these for you.

For example, the RACQ (Queensland) as part of their driver education program run a caravan and trailer towing workshop as well as a 5th wheeler towing workshop. RACV (Victoria) also have a ‘Learn to Tow Your Caravan, Boat or Trailer’ drive school.

4WD driver training courses are run by 4WD clubs and places like Australian 4WD & Advanced Driver Education (A4ADE) Qld, Misty Mountains 4WD Tours NSW, 4WD Off Road Driver Training Pty Ltd (4WDORDT) Vic, Adventure 4WD SA and others.

Towing Mirrors

The law states that you must be able to see clearly down both sides of what you are towing so this will mean for most of you caravanners that mirrors will be required on both sides.

There are various bonnet, guard, door and clip on mirrors available. Some are better than others as the force of the wind from passing semi-trailers has been known to blow some clip on type mirrors back against the tow vehicle driver’s side door.

How To Reverse A Caravan

Arguably one of the most important skills you can learn when owning a caravan is reversing as in most parks and areas you stay will require you to “Reverse In” at some points. This can seem quite daunting at first but as with most things, the more you do it the better you get. We feel that reversing a caravan is such an important skill to master, we have written a whole article on it here http://www.lets-getaway.com/caravanreversing

If your in a rush or don’t have time to read it here are some key takeaways from our article

  • Always use a guider (if Possible ) and decide beforehand what terminology you are going to use before starting.
  • Its a good idea to purchase a handheld Two Ways as it can be hard to hear the directions from the guider over your engine.
  • If your vehicle is a Manual 4WD, its worth using low range as this will help prevent you “Riding the Clutch”
  • Make sure the guider is standing so they can see you in there mirrors at all times and not in direct line with the caravan
  • Usually the shorter the caravan, the more difficult to reverse
  • It’s worth practising in a carpark in your hometown before you trip as to save some frustration and embarrassment 

Caravan Towing Towing Tips

Adequate stopping distance between yourself and the vehicle in front should be allowed and braking or acceleration should be smooth and gentle. This is particular important in wet or slippery conditions.

Avoid applying the brakes if the caravan begins to sway. If the caravan is fitted with an electric brake system this can be operated by using the manual control. A constant speed should be maintained or even slight acceleration until the swaying stops and the caravan straightens out again behind the tow vehicle.

Engage a lower gear when travelling downhill. This will save both the tow vehicle and the caravan’s brakes due to overheating with constant use.
Allow adequate distance when overtaking. Remember you will not have the acceleration you are used to.
When possible have someone standing (in your line of sight) at the rear of the caravan when reversing. A hand-held UHF radio can be useful for communication between the person guiding the caravan and the driver.

When travelling on narrow or single lane bitumen roads it is safer to completely pull off to the side of the road when you see a large truck or vehicle approaching. Allowing the larger vehicle to occupy the single lane roadway will prevent you from being showered with rocks as he passes.
How can I avoid “suction” from other vehicles as they pass me?
You can minimise or overcome this problem by driving at a reasonable speed or when you observe a larger vehicle about to overtake, marginally reduce your speed as this will also allow the overtaking vehicle to pass you more quickly. Firmly grip the steering wheel and be alert and ready for the buffeting that may occur.

WDH and Sway Controllers assist with the handling of your towing vehicle.

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