Beginner’s guide to towing a caravan

With the weather warming-up, and a bank holiday on the horizon, it’s prime time for caravaners to hitch-up and hit the country’s roads. If you’re new to caravanning your first-time towing can be daunting; so take the following steps to ensure a safe trip:

Do Your Homework Get extra tuition by enrolling on a manoeuvring course run by a reputable provider such as the Camping and Caravanning Club.

Know your Limits Speed limits tend to be lower when you’re towing a caravan and you shouldn’t exceed: 50mph on a single carriageway, 60mph on a dual carriageway, or use the outside lane on a three lane motorway.

Watch your Weight Towing weights depend on when you passed your driving test and things can get complicated, so strap in and enjoy the ride:

If you passed your test before 01/01/1997 you are allowed to drive a car and caravan up to 8,250kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM).  If you want to tow a heavier combined load you’ll need to pass the Category C Theory Test and C1+E Practical Test.

If you passed your test after 01/01/1997 you are allowed to drive a car weighing up to 3,500kg and tow a caravan (or trailer) weighing up to 750kg (4,250kg MAM). Anything heavier and you’ll have to pass another test to gain B + E Entitlement.

If you passed your test after 19/01/2013 you are allowed to tow a caravan weighing up to 750kg provided the combined MAM is no more than 3,500kg.

Courtesy Counts Caravaners have earned a reputation for being slowcoaches and blocking-up the country’s backroads; so if there’s a queue of traffic building-up behind you can confound expectation by pulling over and letting them pass.

Size Matters For cars weighing up to 3,500 kg (including most 4x4s) you’re allowed to tow caravans or trailers with a maximum width of 2.55 meters and a maximum length of 7 meters.

Snaking & Pitching Snaking refers to a loss of control as your caravan begins to swing horizontally from side to side behind your car. Pitching refers to a similar loss of control as the caravan begins to see-saw vertically up and down behind your car. In both instances take your foot off the gas and allow the engine to slow naturally while continuing to drive straight ahead. Attempts at ‘corrective’ steering or braking are likely to make matters worse.

Enjoy the View There is some confusion over whether caravaners must fit towing mirrors, but the law is actually fairly straightforward. If your caravan is wider than the back of your car; you’re legally obliged to fit towing mirrors (providing clear vision 4m either side of your caravan and 20m behind the driver).

Under Pressure Caravan tyres work hard and need to be inflated to the correct pressure to carry the load. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and check tyre pressure regularly and certainly before long journeys.

Pitch Perfect If you’re new to caravanning parking can be a real problem and it pays to plan ahead. Get in touch with sites you plan to visit and book a pitch that’s easy to reverse into, or better still, one you can drive straight into.

Confidence Counts Always stay cool, calm and collected behind the wheel and don’t get flustered by other road users.

Perfect Packing As a rule of thumb you should try to keep the heaviest items as close to the floor and the axle as possible.

Smooth Operator Give yourself more time and space on the roads to allow gentle acceleration and braking.

Wide Berth Driving a long vehicle means you’ll need more room for cornering or you’ll end-up mounting the kerb.

Lights & Numbers Your caravan number plate must conform to British standards (the days of DIY plates made from cardboard and marker pens are long gone) and must be illuminated when driving at night.

Get Covered While caravan insurance isn’t a legal requirement; it does make shrewd financial sense. It’s a common misconception that comprehensive car insurance provides adequate cover for caravans, when in reality it’s typically limited to third party liability cover. On a practical level that means your caravan won’t be covered against fire, theft or damage. The solution is simple: take out a competitive caravan insurance policy with Quoteline Direct and enjoy the peace of mind that you’re completely covered.

 


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