Caravanning Tips

Below are a caravanning related tips.

1. Buying the van

  • Be aware of your ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) – the total laden weight of the caravan including payload. If exceeded insurance and warranty may be void.
  • The dealer should advise the type of towing equipment & tow bar suitable for your van.
  • Understand Ball Weight – the impact of the weight of the van on the towing vehicle. Usually Australian design vans have between 10% and 15% of total van weight on the tow ball with a gross trailer mass allowance of 300kg on a single axle and 400kg for a tandem model.
  • What maximum weight can your vehicle tow? Check your vehicle plate.
  • What is your vans recommended tyre pressure? On average about 15kpa above normal.

2. Understanding driving alterations when towing your van

  • Acceleration is slower.
  • Braking is slower and increases stopping distance. However, most new vans are fitted with electronic brakes requiring the tow vehicle to have a brake controller fitted.
  • When travelling downhill a lower gear must be used. This gives better control and reduces the load on your brakes.
  • Accelerator, brake and steering must be smoother to avoid sway or “snaking” causing loss of control.

3. Safety on the road – for you and others

  • The increased braking distance means that an increased distance between yourself and any other vehicle is essential for safety.
  • Allow for increased time and distance required when overtaking due to larger overall rig length.
  • Allow for a wider berth when turning due to increase in overall vehicle length.
  • Parking is seen as the most difficult exercise but practice makes perfect. Try using a guide to avoid accidents.
  • Be aware of height restrictions, especially if your van is higher than your vehicle.
  • Remember that driving tired can kill. Take regular breaks to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

4. Weather conditions

  • High winds may mean loss of control. Serious accidents can occur if your van is top heavy.
  • Wet Roads.
  • Drivers must heed any “Dangerous Crosswinds” signs. Gusts may affect the stability of the caravan.

5. Packing your van correctly

  • Pack heavy items at floor  level with particular weighty items over the axle.
  • Place light items is elevated cupboards to avoid being top heavy.
  • Ensure all items are secured so nothing becomes lose and moves around the van whilst in motion.

6. Helpful accessories

  • Extended mirrors are needed  to see behind the van.
  • Brake controller – activates  the vans brakes simultaneously with the brakes of the towing vehicle.
  • Necessary tools required to  fit parts on your van and any spares you have.
  • A fire extinguisher is essential.

7. Special requirements for different vans

  • Van is wider than 2.1m: Side lights are required for night driving.
  • Van weighs over 2 tons ATM: A breakaway system is required.
  • Automatic vehicles should  use manual control in a low gear when climbing / descending steep slopes.
  • Up to 2.5 tons Gross Vehicle Mass: One safety chain is required.
  • Between 2.5 to 4.5 tons Gross Vehicle Mass: Two safety chains are required.

8. General checklist before the trip

  • Wheel Bearings – Grasp the tyres & rock firmly. Is there excessive movement?
  • Load Mass & Weight – Does the suspension look right, properly distributed & balanced? Is it below the weight limit?
  • Brakes & Brake Fluid – Do they function correctly? Are your brake fluid levels correct?
  • Handbrake – Has the handbrake on the caravan / trailer been correctly released?
  • Tyre Inflation – Are your tyres correctly inflated to suit your van?
  • Caravan / Trailer Coupling – Are trailer coupling and safety chain/s securely fastened?
  • Crossed Safety Chains – If 2 safety chains are fitted cross them to prevent the draw bar from contacting the road if the trailer becomes disconnected.
  • Awnings – Is the roll-out awning stored away and locked in position?
  • Jockey Wheel – Remove jockey wheel from clamp and store in boot or lock in travelling position.
  • Stabilisers – Are the front & rear stabilisers in up position? Stow the winder in a safe place.
  • Pop-tops / Camper Trailers – Ensure that all pop-top  & camper trailer roof clips are in place.
  • Gas Cylinders – Check gas levels &  that all cylinders are turned off.

NO ONE IS PERMITTED TO RIDE INSIDE THE VAN.

Credit: CaravanWA