Even if you’re a confident driver, hitching a 3000-kilogram van to your car does dramatically change the way a vehicle handles. Here are our top tips for safe towing.
1. Take a towing course
The first thing to do is to put your ego aside and sign up for a towing course. The best ones will include information about hitching, reversing, braking and cornering, as well as driving on rough bush tracks. Look for one that also instructs you on safety and maintenance.
2. Match your caravan and tow vehicle
When purchasing a caravan and/or tow vehicle, both need to be compatible in terms of weight. The tow vehicle must be able to handle the weight of the caravan, with a light tow vehicle (around 1300 kilograms) likely to lose control if the caravan it is towing begins to swerve. You’re not stuck with a four-wheel drive tow vehicle, either, with many passenger cars providing good options as tow vehicles even for larger vans.
3. Choose the right tyres
Choosing the right tyres is paramount for safety and comfort on the road. Caravans generally use LT (light truck) tyres, which have stronger sidewalls than P (passenger) tyres, making them more resistant to punctures and harsh roads. They can also bear a greater weight than P tyres. To work out what kind of tyre tread you need, consider the type of driving you’ll be doing – along sealed or unsealed roads, highways or dirt tracks. Off-road journeys are best undertaken with high pile-count tyres, with 10 being the highest pile rating (for rugged terrain), and four being the lowest (for sealed roads).
4. Distribute weight
Ensuring that your caravan’s weight is balanced makes a huge difference to how easily it handles. Think carefully about where you store things in your caravan. Heavy objects like spare wheels, gas bottles, and water canisters should be kept down low, as extra weight stored up high in your caravan, or on the roof, will make it top-heavy, which can cause dangerous swaying on the roads, particularly in high winds.