6 Tips for Towing a Caravan Safely
Whether you’re an experienced caravan tourer or towing a caravan for the first time, it’s important to carry out regular safety checks on your vehicle. If you follow our top tips, driving a caravan should be a hassle-free experience.
1. Check your licence
The licence you’ll need to tow a caravan is dependent on when you took your driving test, as well as the MAM. The MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass) is the vehicle’s weight plus the maximum load it can carry. You can find out the weight of your caravan in your V5C registration document.
If you passed your test (which is classed as a category B licence) before the 1st January 1997, you can drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg.
If you passed your test on or after January 1st 1997 you can drive vehicles up to 3,500kg with up to 8 passenger seats, with a trailer up to 750kg. To drive a caravan between 3,500kg and 7,500kg you will need a category C1 license.
If you would like to tow a caravan over 7,500kg you will need a category C licence. If you are still unsure which license you will need, you can use the DVLA’s online service to check what vehicles you can drive.
2. Keep a record of your vehicle height, width and length
It’s important to know the dimensions of your combined vehicle. You can often find the technical specifications of your caravan in your registration document, or use an online specification finder to find the height and width in both metric and imperial units. Once you’ve taken note of this information, keep it to hand in case you encounter any bridge height restrictions or narrow roads. You can also purchase sat navs, which are designed specifically for towing a caravan. They have the ability to input the length, width and weight of your vehicle, and then will calculate the safest route.
3. Load your caravan responsibly to avoid snaking
If you aren’t already familiar with the term snaking, it is the commonly-used term for when the caravan becomes unstable and can be seen swaying from side to side. This is normally caused by sudden swerving, being overtaken by larger vehicles with strong crosswinds, driving at high speeds or having flat tyres.
To avoid this, you need to make sure you load and tow responsibly. When loading your caravan, make sure the heaviest items are on the floor, with the very lightest items in storage units such as cupboards and drawers. In addition, the caravan should be loaded low and directly over the wheel axle. You can also fit a safety device such as an electronic stabiliser to stop your caravan snaking.
4. Checking your tyres
A third of road-related caravan insurance claims are due to problems with tyres, so it’s vital you check that your tyres are in good condition before every journey. Under-inflated tyres will increase rolling resistance and could dent your fuel consumption by as much as 20%, or worse – your tyre could explode. Due to the danger of tyre explosions, tyre pressure monitors were made mandatory on all new cars from 2014, but unfortunately, the laws didn’t include monitors for caravans. You can buy a tyre pressure monitoring system, such as those found here, which clips onto your dashboard and wheels, and will automatically check your tyre’s pressure. If you decide to purchase one, let your insurer know as some offer a safe driver discount.
5. Be aware of the national speed limits for towing a caravan
The speed for driving a caravan differs from driving a normal car. The maximum national speed limit for towing a caravan is 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph for both dual carriageways and motorways. For built-up, street lit areas its 30mph for both cars and cars towing caravans. Remember that the speed limit is the maximum speed allowed, and you may need to drive at a slower speed depending on traffic, light or weather conditions.
6. Slow down before approaching a corner
The weight of the caravan will add momentum to your driving, so you will need to break earlier than usual around corners, as well as maintain a greater distance between your car and the vehicle in front. The general rule of thumb is to aim to finish braking before you enter the corner and use the accelerator to maintain a constant speed through the turn. This should help avoid the snaking mentioned earlier, as well as improving tyre grip.
These 6 tips should help you stay safe when on the road. Now you can enjoy owning a caravan free of tyre issues, speeding tickets or caravan snaking.