If you’re planning on taking a caravan on the road, there are a number of things you should be aware of that will make you a better driver – and keep you safe on the road when you’re towing a caravan behind you.
Knowing how to drive with a caravan will see that you reach your destination happily, enjoy your holiday, and get back home again.
Loading The Caravan
You’re going to be much safer on the road if you load your caravan properly. Put all your heavy items in first, and load them over the caravan’s axle, trying to keep the centre of gravity low in the caravan for better handling. Try to make sure smaller items are wedged in so they don’t fly all over as you drive. It’s important, too, that you don’t overload the nose of the caravan. You shouldn’t pack more than about 45kg in that area.
Make sure, also, that your vehicle is powerful enough to tow your caravan, otherwise you’ll end up with an overheated engine. Check your owner’s manual for full information.
Before You Leave
You’ll be a lot safer if you develop a quick checklist before you hit the road. Make sure the towball is fully secure in the coupling and that the jockey wheel that supports the front end when the caravan is unhitched has been properly raised. The safety chain needs to be on, and the caravan handbrake off. The lights need to be hooked up (it’s best to have someone visually check before you leave), and everything closed, with the caravan door locked.
On The Road
You should never leave home towing a caravan unless you have a pair of extension mirrors fitted that let you see the road beyond the caravan on both sides. Use the side mirrors even more than you would when driving normally to remain very aware of traffic around you.
Be certain of the speed limits; this can save you an expensive speeding ticket. On many roads you can just observe the normal speed limits, but you’re not allowed to exceed 60 miles per hour on the motorway, and 50 on A roads. That doesn’t mean you should always keep those limits; drive more slowly if the conditions are poor. A caravan is a high vehicle, and you can’t control it well when you’re towing it. So, when the wind is blowing hard, go slower, at a speed you feel comfortable with, safe, and in charge. The same applies in other bad weather and when going down hill. Adding a stabiliser will keep you safer when driving with a caravan.
When you’re slowing down or coming to a stop, all that weight behind you is going to have an effect. You need to allow much more time and distance for braking than you would without a caravan. Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front. When someone pulls to overtake you, pull back a little to give them room.
When big lorries overtake you, the slipstream is going to make the caravan sway. Be prepared for this and slow up a little. At the same time, you don’t want to go so slow that traffic builds up behind you. Check your mirrors regularly and if there’s a queue of cars, pull over and let them pass. Whenever you pull out or turn at a junction, go carefully. That caravan means you’ll need more room to corner, so you have to be aware and be prepared for that.
Much of what you need to know for driving with a caravan is common sense, and applying all the things you absorbed when you were taught to drive. Above all, remain aware of all the vehicles around you, your own speed, and give yourself plenty of time to do everything.