How to tow a caravan: what you need to know
To ensure that you tow safely and confidently, there are a few essentials you need to know before setting off with your caravan; some are legal requirements while others cover practical advice on how to tow and how to handle difficult situations.
Legalities of towing a caravan
The four main legal issues are:
1. Make sure your driving licence covers you for towing a caravan.
2. For best control, plus maximum fuel consumption, ensure the weight of your caravan and its contents are suitably matched to the kerb weight of your car. Broad Lane uses the latest industry-approved Towsafe technology for safe matching.
3. Know and drive within the towing speed limits (50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways/motorways).
4. Remember that it is illegal for anyone to sit inside a caravan while it is in transit; it is also potentially dangerous to transport an animal inside the unit.
Practical advice on how to tow a caravan
• Load your caravan correctly in order to avoid ‘snaking’ and ‘pitching’
• Don’t be tempted to tow with water inside as it could get very messy!
• Give yourself more time and space for everything, including accelerating
• Try to brake earlier than normal as you will need a longer stopping distance
• Take corners wider to prevent the back of the caravan from clipping the kerb or cutting the corner
• Only tow in the ‘outside’ lane of a three-lane motorway if instructed to do so
• Your number plate must display your car’s registration, comply with the relevant British Standard and be illuminated at night
• Check your rear light panel is working
• Avoid towing in high winds if reasonably possible, otherwise take extreme caution
• If you have to tow through flood water use normal common sense
• Fit tyron bands to the wheels so that they can run flat even if you have a blowout
• Fit extension mirrors to obtain a clear rear view; remember to remove them when you’re not towing
• If a queue of traffic is building up behind you, pull over somewhere like a lay-by to allow it to pass
• Don’t park your caravan where it may cause an obstruction and never in a metered bay
Snaking and pitching
These are the two words that most caravanners are afraid of. ‘Snaking’ is the term used when the swaying movement of the caravan becomes excessive and, in extreme cases, can drag the rear of the car with it until the driver loses control. ‘Pitching’ is when the caravan’s front end moves up and down, so that the car is pulled around like a seesaw.
The most effective way to avoid snaking and pitching is to ensure your car and caravan are well matched and carefully loaded. However, if you should find the back of your car being pulled by your caravan because of air turbulence from a passing HGV, allow the engine to brake slowly by lifting off the pedals and keep steering in a straight line. Avoid the temptation to apply the brakes or try to steer out of the sway.
For more advice about towing, driving and reversing a caravan, see our articles on Towing a caravan: dispelling the myths and Caravan driving tips. Or pop in to see our friendly and knowledgeable staff in Alcester or Kenilworth.