Touring caravans have been around since the 1800s, when well-to-do Victorian holidaymakers, inspired by the romantic idea of nomadic Romany life, first used kitted out horse-drawn trailers to satisfy their seasonal wanderlust. The idea caught on and to this day us Brits continue to love our touring vans, with an estimated 550,000 of them currently in the UK. If you are new to the game this summer, we have put together some towing tips for caravanning newbies:
Know before you tow…
- Make sure you have the correct towing licence. If you have held your car driving licence prior to 1st January 1997, you can drive a car and trailer with a combined weight of up to 8,250 kg MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass). If you obtained your licence after the 1st January 1997 you can drive a vehicle of up to 3,500 kg and tow a trailer of up to 750 kg. For further info go to direct.gov.uk.
- The tow bar on your car must be “type approved”, meaning it complies with EU regulations and is the right model for your car. (This does not apply to cars first used before 1st August 1998).
- Make sure you take out specific caravan insurance and bear in mind that this is invalidated if you fail to have the correct towing licence.
All in the planning…
- Practice tricky manoeuvres such as reversing before you set off on your maiden trip, in a suitable space such as an empty car park. Extension mirrors for towing are a great help, particularly to novice towers, as they give a clear view down both sides of the caravan.
- Plan your first caravanning trip carefully. Don’t be too adventurous the first time out and work out your route and timings in advance, preferably avoiding rush hour traffic.
- Put together an emergency kit – tow rope, spanner, screwdriver set, WD40, spare fuses and battery leads.
Hitched up and good to go!
- Check the brake and indicator lights on your caravan are working properly before you set off.
- Always keep the size of your caravan in mind, allow more space and time for cornering and overtake other vehicles with caution.
- Be aware of the speed limit – when towing a caravan this is 50 mph on a single carriageway and 60 mph on a dual carriageway / motorway.
- Never let passengers travel in the caravan while it is being towed – this is dangerous and against the law.
- If your caravan starts to sway or snake, reduce acceleration and loosen your grip on the steering wheel. Stabilisers can be fitted to prevent this.
- Be considerate of other road users (not everyone is a big caravan fan!)
Above all have fun and enjoy the freedom of your new hobby. The caravanning community is a supportive one and there is sure to be a seasoned pro pitched nearby able to lend a hand and offer towing tips. Just remember everyone was a newbie once!