Owning a caravan can change the way you holiday forever, with no need to worry about hotel check-in times or locations, and the opportunity to bed down whenever and (within reason) wherever you want to. However, if you’ve never driven with a caravan behind you before, it can be pretty daunting. You’ve suddenly at least doubled the length of your vehicle, and added a home on wheels; it would be understandable if you didn’t feel 100% safe to begin with.
However, just remember that there are thousands of people across the country, and millions worldwide, who take their caravans for a tour on a regular basis. Each of them, like you, was once wondering how they could take to the road with a caravan behind their car, and each of them cracked it and is now appreciating the resulting freedom. So, to get you on the road and enjoying the benefits of a caravanning lifestyle, read on for our essential advice.
Check the weight of the caravan
Before you do anything else – indeed, before you buy a caravan – it is essential to make sure that you are buying (or hiring) a caravan that can safely be towed by your car. As a rule, if your caravan has brakes fitted (and it should, if it weighs more than 750kg), then you can tow it so long as its total weight is less than 1.5x the unladen weight of your vehicle. You will be able to find the weight of your vehicle in the owner’s manual. Bear in mind that this means you’ll be well-advised to carry very little weight inside the caravan.
Check your car
It is always essential that your car is in good, safe working order. When you are towing a caravan, you’re suddenly giving it a lot more to do, so it becomes all the more vital to carry out a thorough check on your tyres, brakes, and all the fluid levels under the bonnet of the car among other things. You should entrust this kind of check to a mechanic, and allow them to remedy anything that might not be 100% right. A full tune-up may be your best choice at this time. Not only is this important for your car’s ability to safely tow a caravan – it also needs these things to be right in order to safely transport you, and a mechanic will have carried out this work many times before.
Ensure you have towing mirrors fitted
One thing that all caravanners need to get used to is the fact that with a caravan, they are suddenly taking up a lot more space on the road, and this necessitates the fitting of towing mirrors to allow greater visibility. The professionals who fit them will be able to give you a run-through of how to check them for your car and caravan.
Watch the weight distribution of your caravan
Ideally, you’ll be carrying as little as possible in your caravan while driving, but for the things that you have to leave in there, remember that the more weight there is at the front of a caravan, the more pressure this puts on the hitch. The more there is at the back of the caravan, the less stable the car/caravan combo will be. As far as possible, keep whatever weight the caravan is carrying in the middle.
When on the road – go gently
As essential as all of the above information is, the care you need to take when on the road is all the greater. So, particularly in the beginning, you must be cautious when driving a car with a caravan attached. Go slowly, be more deliberate about everything, and don’t slam on either the brake or the accelerator.
Be courteous to other road users
The unavoidable truth about towing a caravan is that it makes you more of an obstacle to other road users – you’re harder to overtake, you drive more slowly and you take up more space. So be aware that other motorists may get frustrated, and do what you can to make life easier for them. Indicate that you are ready to be overtaken by flashing your lights, and slow down to allow drivers to tuck back into the correct lane after overtaking.
Learn to reverse
The trickiest part of driving with a caravan is reversing – everything you thought you knew about driving in reverse gets a little bit more confusing. In truth, only practice will make it easier, so that’s what you’re going to need to do – with the help of a few guidance videos, you’ll get there sooner than you thought.
Ask the experts
Every driver will have their own issues when it comes to towing a caravan, and there are courses designed specifically for this purpose. If you still have questions, it is worth taking a class to make sure your own questions are answered.