How to tow a caravan
Towing a caravan for the first time can be a daunting and unusual experience. However, thousands of people do it each year - and equipped with the right knowledge you will soon be effortlessly navigating the byways and roadways. Here are a few tips on how to tow a caravan.
Braking, slowing and pulling away
With the extra weight of a caravan, braking, slowing and pulling away from junctions will all take longer than when driving a car, which is not towing. When approaching junctions and roundabouts you should brake earlier and when pulling out it will take you longer to get up to speed, so make sure you leave a greater distance between you and oncoming vehicles.
When towing, the best option is to drive slowly so you are always in control. You should also take corners wider to allow for the extra width and length, so you don’t clip the kerb.
Know your speed limits
It’s important you are aware of the speed limits when towing a caravan as they differ from the standard limits for car drivers.
In built-up areas cars towing a caravan must keep to 30mph while on single carriageways the limit is 50mph. Caravan towers using dual carriageways and motorways need to stay under 60mph and are not allowed to use the outside lane on a three-lane or more motorway.
Indicators and number plates
It is a legal requirement to have working, flashing indicators fitted at the back of the caravan that conform to size requirements and bear the CE mark. A caravan must also have a clearly visible rear number plate, which matches the towing vehicle and is illuminated at night.
Snaking is the term used when a caravan sways from side-to-side excessively. In the very worst cases it can drag the back of the car with it and cause the driver to lose control. It’s important, then, that you know what to do if your caravans starts to snake while you are driving. The Camping and Caravan Club advises you take both feet off the pedals and bring down your speed using your car’s engine braking. It says you must not brake manually and that you should keep steering in a straight line, and warns that trying to steer out of the sway can make the problem worse.
Prevention is obviously better than cure in these instances, and ensuring you have loaded the caravan well, kept your speed down and chosen the right weight of car for the weight of your caravan should minimise the chance of snaking.
Leave space when overtaking
When towing and overtaking leave plenty of space behind you before you pull in again as you will be driving a much longer vehicle with the caravan attached. Drivers towing caravans tend to use their mirrors a great deal and they can come in very useful when overtaking, so you can make sure you don't cut up the driver behind you.