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Travelling safely with a caravan

Taking a caravan or boat on holiday can be great fun, but getting there requires extra driving skill and some amount of preparation, especially if your caravan has been idle for a while.

Tyres and wheels

Check their condition before you set off and replace any worn or damaged tyres. Not only is it dangerous, a blow-out could leave your holiday home and belongings scattered all over the motorway.

If tyre(s) on one side are a different pressure to the other, it could cause the caravan to veer to one side when it's being towed.

Wheel nut torque should be checked before every trip to ensure they are tight to manufacturer's specification.

Last year there were more than 500 caravan and trailer towing incidents on the Highways England network involving a tyre or wheel failure.
 

Load

Correctly loading your car and caravan is important for stability - and that means safety.

Before you set off everything needs to be carefully stowed away. Towing an overloaded caravan is illegal, so check all weights carefully and make sure what weight there is has been evenly and correctly distributed.

Heavy items should be carried across the line of the axle, on the floor. Roof lockers should be empty, or virtually so, with the overall intention to lower the centre of gravity.
 

Coupling

Nose-weight on the tow-ball should be around 5-7% of the caravan's actual laden weight (typically 50-100kg) but you should never exceed specific limits for the car, caravan and tow-bar.

Once hitched, the caravan will follow you wherever you go - but don't be tempted to forget it's still there! The caravan is more than likely wider than your car and the caravan-car combination is of course a lot longer, so you will need to steer and manoeuvre accordingly. Sudden steering can cause the caravan to swing, especially at speed, and the extra weight means you will need to brake carefully and gently, especially going downhill.
 

Journey time and breaks

Towing needs much greater concentration than just driving. It's sensible to plan for a much slower journey with stops for a break every two hours at least.

When you do stop, do a walk-round and run through a little routine of checks. Feel the tyres for heat - if they're abnormally hot they're probably under-inflated; check the coupling, make sure the lights all still work and that catches are secure. Stand back and check the overall stance; if it's leaning to one side you may have a broken spring or suspension.