How to safely tow a caravan

Caravans are immensely popular and can provide an exciting way to travel and enjoy the sights and sounds of the countryside. However, a number of accidents result each year on the motorways due to drivers who are not familiar with how towing a caravan can affect the properties of the cars they know and love. Here is a guide to safely towing your caravan so you can focus on making the most out of your trips.

Perhaps the first thing to keep in mind is the caravan laden weight; this is the maximum weight the caravan can safely support when it is filled with equipment and passengers. Under no circumstances should you attempt to tow more than the maximum weight for your caravan and car that you are permitted to tow with your current driving license; this may put you afoul of the law and you may have to pay heavy fines.

Similarly, you should not attempt to tow any caravan that weighs more than the recommended towing limit that was published for your particular car. If you attempt to do, you are likely to damage the transmission of your car and may experience significant difficulties when attempting to stop in an emergency situation.

As a rule of thumb, it is good to keep the full weight of your caravan within 80% of your car’s maximum gross weight, or the maximum amount your car can weigh when filled with luggage and occupants. This rule of thumb should be reduced accordingly if the value it would supply is greater than the towing limit for your car as specified by your manufacturer.

When driving, it is important to do what one can to minimize the risks of snaking, or whipping from side to side in response to a sudden change in speed or direction. First of all, make sure the load weight of your caravan has been distributed evenly from front to rear. Also look for some kind of stabiliser attachment, or even better, a towing hitch that comes with a stabiliser built in.

If you are on the motorway and your caravan begins to shake, you’ll want to keep driving in a straight line to the best of your ability. While it may be tempting to try to correct the snaking through steering out of the turns and twists, it is best for most drivers not to do so, as few drivers will be capable of reacting quickly enough, and sudden changes in direction from the leading car are likely to increase the resonance and frequency of the snake.

During a snake, it is also important not to brake suddenly, as this might result in a jack knife twisting of the caravan relative to the leading car. If you need to slow down, it is best to down shift, whether you are in an automatic or a standard manual transmission, while gently removing your feet from the pedals.

If you need to slow down while heading down a hill, shift into a lower gear and gently press on the brakes to limit your speed. It is also important not to try to speed up and out of a snaking event, as most vehicles will not be powerful enough to accelerate quickly enough to counteract the rapidity with which the caravan is snaking behind them.