The road trip can be the most exciting part of the caravan holidaying process and understanding how to tow with safety and confidence is crucial to the enjoyment of your trip. To help you move smoothly down the winding road, we’ve compiled this basic guide to towing.
The first rule when it comes to towing is to check the capacity of both your current tow vehicle and your tow bar, making sure you follow whichever capacity is least. For example, if your tow bar capacity is 1500 kilograms and your vehicle capacity is 2000 kilograms, use 1500 kilograms as your maximum load weight guide. To find out how much load your car can carry, check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s towing recommendations. There is also a towing mass guide available that lists the towing capacity of a large number of vehicles. Be sure to note the differences between aggregate trailer mass (ATM) and gross trailer mass (GTM) remembering that:
- ATM is the total laden weight of your caravan or trailer including the load you add (cargo, water, gas) and the tow ball mass.
- GTM is always a lower amount than ATM and is the total laden weight of your caravan or trailer including the load you add (cargo, water, gas) but excluding the amount that rests on the tow bar when coupled to a towing vehicle.
Find a public weighbridge and visit twice if your can, weighing your towing outfit both with and without your intended luggage. This will give you a more accurate understanding of your unladed and laden position.
Know your limits
The next thing to check on is any legal restrictions. It’s always best to use a powerful vehicle to tow the smallest, lightest caravan or trailer, although there are limitations on the combinations you can drive on the road that you must consider. Keep abreast of current legislation and conduct a road test to ensure everything tows in a safe and satisfactory manner.
In some instances, additional equipment can assist you to manoeuvre your outfit. For example, trailer sway can be significantly reduced with a properly installed weight distribution hitch, ensuring the weight of the trailer is distributed to the towing vehicle. For maximum safety, this should also be combined with the installation of an electronic stability control system (ESC), which works like ESC in your car to monitor and control the stability of the caravan in an emergency. Also, brake control units are required for all trailers with electric brakes. ‘Motion sensing’ brake controllers provide the ultimate efficiency between vehicle and trailer.
Handle with care
When ready to start towing, apply some basic common sense safety principles. Drive at a safe speed and allow extra space for turning manoeuvres. Keep in mind the width and height of the caravan and remember that your van contains contents that could become loose throughout the journey. You should also take extra care when climbing and descending hills.