8 Things you Need To Know About Towing Caravans
If youâ€™re planning on towing a caravan for the first time this year, or youâ€™d just like to know how to do so more confidently, then following a few simple rules will help to keep you and your passengers safe, and also stay on the right side of the law. Weâ€™ve created a list of eight things you need to know about towing caravans that will help you develop good driving techniques, from having visible number plates to understanding how to safely match your vehicle to your caravanâ€™s weight and size.
1) Firstly, ensure that you carry the correct type of driving licence. If you passed your driving test before 01/01/97, you are entitled to drive a vehicle/caravan combination of up to 8.25 tonnes MAM (maximum authorised mass) until your licence expires.â€¨â€¨If you passed your driving test on or after 01/01/97, you can only drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes authorised mass, towing a caravan weighing no more than 750kgs, or a caravan/vehicle combination of up to 3.5 tonnes MAM, providing that the caravanâ€™s MAM doesnâ€™t exceed the un-loaded mass of the towing vehicle. If you need to exceed these weight limits, you will need to pass an additional test in categories B and E.â€¨â€¨If youâ€™re in any doubts about your entitlement, check with the DVLA.
2) Never overload your car or caravan. The AA and transport experts recommend that the weight of your loaded caravan should never exceed 85% of your carâ€™s kerb weight. In addition, the combined weight of both loaded vehicles must be less than the maximum â€˜trainâ€™ weight for the car. Whilst caravans might seem extraordinarily spacious, resist the urge to overload, and keep your heavy items down low and close to the axle. The easiest way to find out how much your caravan weighs is by taking it to a local weighbridge; else, you can weigh all the individual contents separately to calculate the total weight.
3) In the UK, it is not a legal requirement to insure your caravan under a specific policy, as the majority of car insurance policies will cover you to tow on a third-party basis. However, if your caravan is damaged in an accident, by a fire, or is stolen, then specialist touring caravan insurance policies will provide you with peace of mind.
4) Tow brackets must use the mounting points recommended by your vehicleâ€™s manufacturer, and must be tested to the appropriate British/European standard. If youâ€™re unsure whether your vehicle is suitable for towing or it has no mounting points, it is best to check with your vehicle manufacturer.
5) UK regulations for caravan width have recently been brought in line with the rest of Europe, and the maximum legal width is now 2.55m.
6) Caravans must not be towed in the outside lane of the motorway, or a dual carriageway with three or more lanes. Also, you must not exceed the maximum speed limits of 50mph on a single carriageway, or 60mph on a motorway/dual carriageway.
7) When you are towing uphill, make sure that you change gear in plenty of time. If youâ€™re stuck behind a slower vehicle, keep to the nearside lane, safely out of the way of other vehicles. When towing downhill, change down a gear and reduce speed on approaching the slope to ensure you do not gain speed.
8) Your number plate must show your carâ€™s registration number, conform to the relevant British Standard and be illuminated at night. This means no felt-pen on cardboard!â€¨â€¨Following these eight simple guidelines will help to make towing caravans a far safer and more enjoyable experience.
Alex Johnson is a freelance writer and motoring fan based in Oxford, writing on behalf of MORE TH>N.
Image of car towing caravan by John Carver