A caravan without a tow is no good at all. If you are looking to travel to far-flung holiday destinations in safety as well as style, but are unsure about the basics of how to tow your caravan safely, then read on.
Before you tow: get the right driving license
Firstly, you need the right license to legally tow a caravan on the UK’s roads. It’s of paramount importance that you have the correct entitlements on your driving license, otherwise you’ll be breaking the law and invalidating your insurance.
If you obtained your license before the end of 1996, you will be entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8,520 kg maximum authorised mass (MAM). That is until this license expires on your 70th birthday.
If you obtained your license on or after 1st January 1997, you will be limited to towing a car and caravan/trailer combination of only 3,500 kg MAM, or less.
To be allowed to tow a heavier car and caravan combination, you’ll need to pass another driving test known as the B+E test. The Camping and Caravanning Club has information and a list of course providers available on their website.
On the road towing
Some rules to live by when towing your beloved caravan on holiday:
- Give yourself more time and space for everything
- Brake earlier than usual as your braking distances will have increased
- Remember that you will accelerate slower when pulling out of junctions and roundabouts
- Take corners widely because of the extra length of your outfit, so as not to clip kerbs and other vehicles
- Remember the legal speed limits for caravans are different, being 50 mph maximum of single carriageways and 60 mph on dual carriageways
- You may not travel in the inside lane of a motorway (the furthest right), unless instructed to do so
- It is a legal requirement to have a good view of the rear of your outfit which means fitting extension mirrors in most cases
- You must affix a rear number plate to your caravan showing your car registration number and it must be made of yellow reflective material
- Your rear light clusters must always be in working order
- If you find that traffic is building up behind you it is always recommended to pull over when safe to do so in order to let the other vehicles pass
Snaking, pitching and correcting
These are terms that put novice caravanners off taking to the road. However, with a little forewarning of the action to take when a caravan is towing erratically, you should have no reason to avoid caravan towing altogether.
Snaking is when a caravan begins to sway from side to side in an excessive way. This movement is technically known as the ‘yaw’ of the caravan and in extreme cases, it can begin to drag the rear of the car with the direction of sway. To this end, the driver can lose control of the outfit.
Pitching is used to describe vertical destabilisation. If the caravan’s front end is moving up and down, this can cause the car to experience a see-saw effect.
To avoid snaking and pitching, choose a good caravan and car combination. They should be equally matched in terms of weight and stance with no extremes at either end. Electronic and friction stabilisers are also useful in reducing the problem.
Even with these precautions, you may experience pitching or snaking in high winds, or when a large lorry or coach passes and causes air turbulence.
To correct pitching or snaking, simply release both feet from the pedals and allow the engine braking to slow the outfit down at a progressive rate. Resist the urge to use the brake pedal as this could make things worse. Keep steering in a straight line. Trying to steer the problem out can certainly make things much worse. Patience, confidence and slow deceleration are the key.
Learn to tow your caravan
If you believe that some professional towing tuition would be the best option for you, the Camping and Caravanning Club offers a number of one day towing courses throughout the year up and down the country. You can also contact the DVLA for other courses they might recommend. Most of these courses require you to use your own familiar towing car, that will be hitched to a course caravan.
Glenns Motorhomes are a leading supplier of quality motorhomes in Nottingham, Chesterfield and Derby, offering a huge range of vehicles from motorhomes to campervans. Our expert team are on hand to provide friendly and professional advice to help you find the ideal motorhome whatever your needs or budget. For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Glenns today.