Towing a caravan – how do you do that? Driving tips to getting it right

Driving with a caravan might initially seem like a game of operation where you are trying so hard to concentrate on not making a mistake or touching anything that you shouldn’t, but after a short time you gain confidence and realise that is a piece of cake and so much fun! Within this blog we are going to share with you some skills and tricks that can make your towing experience a lot easier.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Before moving the caravan at any time, make a routine check to ensure that everything is in order for travelling.

Firstly, ensure that the coupling is properly connected, the safety chains and the break-away wire are secure, and that the trailer plug is firmly plugged in. Next, check that the handbrake is released and that any gas cylinders have been turned off.

Make sure that the weight distribution hitch (if applicable) is secure, tensioned and that the safety pins are in place.

Walk around your caravan, checking that all windows/roof hatches are closed, wheel wedges (chocks) have been removed and the corner stabiliser legs are raised.

Checking the outside is great – but don’t forget to look inside the vehicle too. Check that everything is secured down so it won’t go flying all over the shop whilst you’re driving and finally, ensure that your caravan’s taillights are working. That’s it! You’re done and ready to go!

Wait, now I have to go backwards?

Like all good things, the skill of reversing a caravan requires time and patience. It’s always best to just take your time, not rush and always use a buddy to help guide you.

The first rule of reversing with a caravan is to remember that opposites rule. To move the caravan to the right you need to turn the steering wheel gradually to the left. To turn the caravan left, do the opposite – turn the steering wheel to the right. Seems fairly straight-forward?

Right-hand turns with a caravan are generally easier to manage than left-hand turns as they provide better vision. Reversing is easier when the driver side of the vehicle is on the inside of the reversing arc (the right side). This allows you to see the full length of the caravan while you’re backing up and your buddy can cover your blind side. When it comes to mirrors, stick to using the side mirrors, particularly the right-side mirror as the left won’t show you much until you straighten up.

Should you over steer in one direction, or the caravan begins to turn in a circle, stop and move forward in a straight line until the caravan has straightened up completely behind your car.

Don’t expect to get it right the first time – if you do, reward yourself with a beverage of your choice or see if you can palm off a couple of extra driving hours to your co-pilots. Practice makes perfect, so do this at every opportunity you get. You’ll be on your way to becoming a caravan reversing master in no time!

Smooth sailing

Whether accelerating, braking or cornering, the key to successful towing is to drive smoothly, which will minimise vehicle wear, reduce your fuel consumption and generally result in a safer and more relaxed trip.

Keep it smooth on the open road. Continually decelerating and accelerating will use more fuel than maintaining a constant speed and can result in premature brake wear and unnecessary strain on driveline components such as the engine and gearbox.

Make sure to plan ahead for any steep inclines and descents. If you’re driving a manual vehicle, select the appropriate gear before tackling a hill, as you can lose momentum by shifting gears halfway up. When driving downhill, use your gearbox to keep speed in check by downshifting early, which will increase control and again minimise brake wear.

Suddenly changing direction can seriously upset the stability of your towing set-up, so don’t brake at the last minute and decide to turn into a corner. Prepare for corners well in advance by slowing down on approach and gradually turning into it. Remember – it’s not just your car you are driving. The caravan cuts angles sharper than your vehicle would, so take the wider path and do it slowly. The extra few seconds are worth it.

How to hitch and unhitch your caravan

We’ll begin with unhitching because when you collect your caravan, you’re likely to have help from the owner with the hitching – but now you’re on your own!

The main thing to remember is the breakaway cable, which is the red plastic covered cable that’s attached to the car. When hitching, this should be the first thing that’s attached and, when unhitching, the last thing to be detached.

So, I’m all alone now, how do I unhitch?

  • Apply the caravan handbrake.
  • Disconnect the electrics. If it’s a 13-pin connection, twist the plug through 90 degrees anti-clockwise and it should come out.
  • Release the jockey-wheel clamp and lower the jockey wheel until it’s a few inches from the ground, then unwind it so that the wheel is on the ground. If you simply lower it to the ground, the wheel will not pivot as the arms will remain in the locating slots, plus you might need the leeway if you’re parked on a slope so that you can get the caravan level.
  • If you have a hitch stabiliser fitted, lift the handle as vertically as it will go.
  • Then, whilst raising the hitch handle as high as it will go, wind the jockey wheel until the hitch detaches from the car’s tow ball.
  • Finally, detach the breakaway cable.

Hitching up is basically just the reversal of the above. When attaching the caravan to the car, raise the hitch handle, and it should remain up until the hitch is lowered onto the tow ball of the car, when it will click down.

With this done, wind the jockey wheel back up so that the caravan hitch lifts the back of the car. If it does, you know that it’s been coupled properly!

Things to cover when you arrive at your Campsite

1. Levelling your camper
Wouldn’t it be great if all camp sites were level? Well unfortunately they’re not, so you need a way to level your caravan or trailer.

With an abundance of levelling ramps on the market you have plenty of options available. The ramps are light weight plastic that is easy to clean and colourful, so you don’t leave them behind. Otherwise, even a couple of planks of wood could even do the trick or a simple spirit level on your floor or silicone to your drawbar is also a great idea.

2. Power
Caravans and Motorhomes have two power circuits – 12 volt for most lights and some 12V appliances, and 240V circuits for your power points like those at home.

But the 240V is not the same as at home because it is not permanently hardwired. In your house every circuit starts from your fuse box. Each circuit has a limited capacity because the wires running through your walls have a limited capacity.

With your RV, the limit starts from where your power cord is connected to the power source e.g. at a caravan park. All RV’s accept incoming power through a 15amp extension cord. One cord provides power for one circuit within your RV. In many cases 15amp’s will not be enough, so a second and sometimes even a third circuit is required.

Rather than having just one really long extension lead that will suit every location, a handy tip is to also carry a shorter one as well, for convenience. Note: It is illegal to join two cables to your Caravan to give greater length as this may jeopardise the operation of your RCD, the life saving device that will trip if YOU become the earth.

3. Fresh Water Hoses
The reason you shouldn’t use a normal garden hose to fill your tanks or connect to your Caravan mains water inlet is to prevent the bad taste you will get. Always use hoses classed as ‘drinking water or ‘beverage hose as these will not taint the water. Filling a tank using a garden hose will take many, many, many flushes to try and remove the taste (yuck).

4. Grey Water Hose or Bucket
What is grey water? This is the waste water from your shower, basin or sink.

Most campsites/parks will insist you do not run grey water onto the ground. The cheap low volume method is a bucket, but this is only useful for a sink and for a short time. A better method is a sullage hose which you connect between your drain and the site sullage point. As this point can be at various distances, we recommend a few lengths that join together when needed. Use the smallest length possible.

5. Awnings
The ultimate outdoor feature for your camping holiday! You can extend your weatherproof living area so you can set up tables and chairs, BBQ’s and anything else you would like to keep away from the elements. Awnings can vary with some being manually operated with a winder handle or they can operate electrically at the touch of a button. When renting a vehicle, make sure the owner specifically shows you how to use the awning as well as providing you with a guidebook or video to refer to if possible. Awnings are super expensive and if used incorrectly, it can be a not so nice expense added to your holiday.

If after reading the towing tips above, you’re still a little nervous by the thought of towing a caravan, don’t be. Everyone must start somewhere, and you’ve already taken the first step by reading this blog!

Familiarising yourself with the towing tips above, getting out and having a go and using common sense should have you safely and confidently enjoying a caravan holiday!

See our vehicles

 

Have more questions for us? No problem, you can contact us at support@camptoo.com.au or call us on 03 9988 6111 for more information and assistance.

Happy trails

Camptoo Support Team

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