Going away with the family and a caravan, trailer tent or camping trailer is a great experience. But it’s important to ensure your caravan or trailer is roadworthy and loaded correctly.
IAM RoadSmart has partnered up with the Caravan & Motorhome Club to offer some advice for a successful holiday trip.
Before starting your trip, make sure you have checked both your car and caravan or trailer. Especially check the tyres. They should be inflated to the correct pressure, have a good amount of tread (no lower than 1.6mm) and be free from damage.
The caravan breakaway cable (or safety chain on smaller unbraked trailers) should be in good condition and connected correctly. If you have a caravan or large box-shaped trailer, you will almost always need to fit extension mirrors. They will help make sure you have a good view behind you and comply with the law.
Remember when loading your caravan or trailer to make sure it is not overloaded, as this can put you at additional risk of instability and mean you are breaking the law. Ensure your heavy items are positioned correctly over the axle, low to the floor with lighter items higher up.
A quick refresher of the Highway Code will remind you that travelling in the right-hand lane of a motorway with three or more lanes is not allowed. Your speed limit when towing is 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways and 50mph on single carriageways, unless a lower overall limit applies.
Be extra vigilant on downhill stretches, as your speed can easily creep up and get too high – this is a common contributory factor to a caravan or trailer losing stability. Remember, you will need more room to stop when towing and you should always have a big enough gap to be able to slow down and stop in an emergency.
Towing in high winds needs additional care and perhaps a change of route should be considered. However, it’s not just windy days you need to be mindful of. Overtaking large vehicles can place you in their ‘bow wave’ and this can cause instability of caravans which are badly loaded and/or being towed too fast.
“Towing a caravan or other trailer can be unfamiliar, but doesn’t need to be intimidating,” Martin Spencer, Technical Manager at the Caravan & Motorhome Club said. “By getting the basic set-up right, then following straightforward advice over issues such as speed and safety around other vehicles, towing can be relaxed, easy and comfortable. Above all, it will be safe.
“In almost all cases, serious incidents only occur because inexperienced drivers have not taken the right advice, or experienced ones have become complacent. The Club has 15 training centres across the country so anyone just starting out, or those needing some refresher training can receive the best possible guidance.”
Neil Greig, Director of Policy & Research at IAM RoadSmart added: “The advanced driving skills of observation, anticipation and planning are key to good towing. They will keep you a safe distance from the vehicle in front and help you predict problems ahead and around you. If you prepare yourself, your family and your vehicles for the road ahead, your trip will be as relaxing as possible.”