By Ellen Morgan
Published: Friday, August 28, 2020
To keep you safe and comfortable in your home on wheels, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you get out on the bitumen.
Itching to get out and explore our South Aussie backyard? It’s time to whip off the cover, dust off the tow bar and hook your caravan up for an adventure.
Whether it’s making sure you have the right accessories, your vehicle’s packed correctly, or you know about potential mishaps that may happen along the way, here are a few things to consider before you get out on the road.
Even weight distribution
For a safe and comfortable journey, ensure your caravan’s weight is evenly distributed. An evenly weighted caravan will allow you to steer accurately and brake safely.
Heavy items must be placed low to the ground and be evenly distributed on both sides. Pack them just above the axles if possible. Lighter items can be placed higher or in cupboards.
Weight distribution systems are also a great tool to invest in. The metal rigs are a connector tool from the vehicle to the caravan, assisting in balancing the weight between them.
If you have found that hitching your caravan has created some noticeable unevenness in ride height of the tow vehicle and caravan, fitting a weight distribution system (or load level hitch) may improve this as it transfers more load forward and rearward to level out the connection. These systems can also help to reduce sway, and potentially improve the tow connection and driving quality.
Make sure you check with your vehicle manufacturer if you have a genuine towbar, as some manufacturers do not allow the use of weight distribution hitches.
Know your limits
An important aspect of caravanning is understanding the limits of your vehicle and caravan combined, especially when it comes to weight, speed and movement.
The weight of what you’re towing (a caravan, for example) is not allowed to exceed the capacity of your tow bar or vehicle (whichever is lowest). Driving with a caravan that’s too heavy is not only unsafe, but could also see you hit with a hefty fine.
Towing a caravan will make your vehicle behave very differently with both acceleration, stability and fuel consumption greatly affected. Snaking – when your caravan sways from side to side – is a common issue and can be extremely dangerous. In fact, it’s a major cause of crashes involving caravans.
To avoid issues like snaking, it’s important to always drive to the road surface, conditions and recommended speed limit. If in doubt, stick to a slower speed. This will ensure you can brake safely, and that your caravan doesn’t sway while driving.
Check your tyres, lights & mirrors
Before every trip, it’s recommended that you check your caravan’s tyres, particularly if it’s not been used in some time. To do this, look for cracks in the rubber or general wear and tear.
If your home on wheels has been sitting in direct sunlight for long periods of time, tyre rubber can harden, which can speed up its deterioration.
Checking your caravan’s tyres is particularly important as you are not likely to feel any signs of deterioration in a towed vehicle like you might with a car. For example, in a car you might feel vibration or loss of power, which could be a sign of tyre damage.
It’s also recommended you check your caravan tyre pressure before departing and make sure your spare is at the right pressure, too. You can play it extra safe and purchase a tyre pressure monitor which allows you to check the pressure from inside your car.
Another useful check before you head off is to have someone stand at the back of your caravan while you’re in the car to check all the lights are working. It’s best to make sure these are operational before you get on the road.
Make sure your towing mirrors are secure and adjusted before you head off, too.
When you’re out on the open road, reception can be unreliable, which is why having a UHF radio on board can be a great back-up plan.
UHF radios can also allow you to tune into roadwork updates, hear about potential hazards, and even communicate with other road users.
You can choose from either hand-held or in-vehicle mounted units, with some drivers even opting to purchase both if heading out on a long journey. With technology constantly improving, these days you can purchase affordable radios with extra-large digital screens, as well as water and dust-proof casings.
Make regular stops
Any lengthy journey should incorporate regular rest stops to decrease the dangers associated with driver fatigue. Plan your journey to incorporate a rest stop every two hours of driving.
A common cause of crashes, fatigue can be avoided by stopping at roadside rest stops, many of which have dedicated caravan spaces, or staying at a caravan park overnight on long trips.
Refuel, grab a snack, or stop for a drink and a natter.
Take a course
Are you new to the world of caravans or feeling a little rusty after keeping your caravan in storage for the past few months?
RAA offers a range of driving courses, including safe caravan and trailer use. This course will take you through the ropes of attaching a caravan properly, driving safely and even setting up camp. To book, call 8202 4444.