Towing tips and accessories
advice / new caravans / pre-owned caravans
Towing for the first time can be daunting! In fact, towing for the first few times or after a long break from towing can be nerve-wracking too! Rest assured that once you’ve built up your confidence, you’ll be towing like a pro!
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time so that you’re relaxed and not rushing. If you’re towing for the first time, it might be a good idea not to venture too far until you have gained some experience.
This blog will walk you through the towing set-up process so you know a bit more about what to expect. We’ll go through how to couple your car to your caravan and give you some tips for driving with your caravan in tow. The more familiar these things are to you, the more relaxed you’ll feel about actually doing it!
Key things to remember is to distribute weight around your car and caravan evenly to increase the stability. If you can, go to an empty car park and practise reversing before your trip - and don’t worry, it's not as hard as you think it will be!
If you’d rather have some professional guidance before giving it a go, the Caravan and Motorhome Club run two towing courses, one for beginners and one focusing on manoeuvring for the more experienced caravanner - find out more today!
Top 10 towing tips
1. CHECK YOUR TOWING LIMITS
Most cars have a maximum weight they can tow, which can be found in the handbook, online or by contacting your local dealer. Before you purchase a caravan, you will need to check that your car is able to tow a caravan and if so, what your towing weight limit is. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will tell you the weight of your car, and as a novice tower it is recommended that the weight of your caravan does not exceed 85% of the weight of your car.
If you passed your driving test on or after 1 January 1997, you cannot exceed a combined weight of 3,500kg, so note down your maximum combined weight and keep this in mind when browsing possible models. For example, the weight of a Ford S-Max starts at 1,784kg, so that combined with a caravan weighing 85% of that weight would make it a legal post 1997 towing combination. Those who passed their driving test prior to 1 January 1997 are able to tow up to 8,250kg.
2. GET KITTED OUT
There are a few towing accessories that you must have to comply with the law. The first thing you’ll need to get if you don’t already have one, is a tow bar. Make sure it’s a good quality one and one that is suited to your make and model of vehicle. Towing mirrors are also essential as they extend from your wing mirrors to offer a fuller view of your caravan as you drive.
You must also fit a breakaway cable, which will activate the caravan’s braking system in the event of a detachment and is imperative for safety. By law, you must also ensure that your caravan has your car’s registration plate on the back of it so that it’s visible to other road users. Caravan stabilisers are also a good idea. Although not legally required, they offer an extra layer of safety and prevent additional swaying that may be experienced on gusty days or if you hit a pothole for example.
3. GET THE POSITIONING RIGHT
Having someone to help you manoeuvre your car to meet the caravan - especially on uneven ground - is preferable. Ask your helper to guide you close to where the hitch is and reverse back slowly. Before you attempt to couple your car to your caravan, ensure the car’s handbrake and the caravan’s hitch brakes are on. Use the jockey wheel to adjust the height of the caravan hitch so that it is higher than the towball before reversing the car a little more into position.
4. COUPLING TO THE TOWBALL
Follow the manufacturer's instructions to couple your caravan to the towball. Many coupling heads have a coloured visual indicator which you must check to confirm the attachment was successful. Hitches with an integral stabiliser are now almost universal and require extra vigilance. Some require a second handle to be operated and may give an audible click on the correct location. Double check that the coupling is fully engaged over the towball, with handles correctly located.
5. STOW THE JOCKEY WHEEL
After double checking the coupling, make sure you retract the jockey wheel fully. Wind up the wheel forks into the slots of the outer tube. Loosen the clamp on the A-frame and lift it all up, ensuring the wheel is as high as possible, then retighten the clamp. Do not over tighten the clamp and handle, do it by hand only - otherwise you may cause damage. Alternatively, you can opt to remove the jockey wheel from the clamp altogether and store it in your car or caravan instead.
6. BREAKAWAY CABLE ATTACHMENT
All newer tow bars will have a breakaway attachment point near the towball. The breakaway cable will apply the caravan’s brakes if it becomes separated from its towing vehicle. Ensure there’s enough slack in the cable so that it doesn’t become taut during normal use.
7. CONNECTING THE ELECTRICS
Newer caravans will typically use the 13-pin twist socket. Ask the dealer to show you how to locate this and how far to twist it to ensure secure connection. With assistance from your helper/partner, test and check the brake lights, both indicators, fog lights and headlights before setting off.
Use the same routine every time you hitch up so it becomes familiar and you are less likely to forget a step.
9. SLOW AND SAFE
Take the drive more slowly than you would if you weren’t towing. When towing, a 30mph speed limit applies on all roads with street lighting (unless shown), a 50mph limit on single carriageways and a 60mph restriction on dual carriageways and motorways. Towing vehicles are not permitted to drive in the right-hand lane of a motorway with three or more lanes.
10. DRIVING TIPS
Keep in mind that when accelerating it will take longer to get up to speed, so allow yourself more time when overtaking or joining a motorway. Also consider your additional length before pulling away from a junction and into traffic. Remember that you will need around 20% more distance to stop, so brake earlier! At corners or on roundabouts, use your mirrors and take a wider path to enable the trailer to clear the kerb and other obstructions.
We stock a range of towing, security and levelling items in our accessory shop. We offer a range of towing mirrors, so be sure to check out our selection and the Bulldog AJ10 Hitchlock is ideal for keeping your caravan secure when stopping at services en route and after you’ve pitched.
Check out our towing and security/levelling accessories online or pop into the shop for a closer look. Our team is ready and waiting to assist you and if you have any questions, please call 01962 714 844.
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