As we enter the Caravanning Season it may be time to become more aware of a few things that may make the trip a safer and happier event.
First, be aware of any restrictions or weight limits that your tow vehicle or caravan may have. Also be aware of any local legislation relating to towing a vehicle such as speed limits, etc.
It is vital to ensure you’re legally within the specified limits set by the tow bar and tow vehicle manufacturers. Having too heavy tow ball mass can significantly impact handling, which leads to caravan sway, loss of traction, and steering control.
Failure to abide by the towing regulations, including maximum loads, may result in – a fine, or in the case of an accident, refusal of the insurance claim, and the possibility of further legal action
Ball Load is the amount of weight the fully laden trailer imposes (vertically) on the tow bar of the tow vehicle. Trailer Ball Load is not a specification defined by the trailer manufacturer but by your motor vehicle manufacturer and towbar supplier
NOTE: Please check the specification for your vehicle and Towbar Supplier.
Towing Capacity (Tow Load):
The maximum towing weight specified by the vehicle manufacturer equates to the trailer’s ATM (ATM is the combined weight of the trailer and its load when NOT connected to a vehicle)
Your vehicle handbook will specify the Maximum weight of a Trailer with brakes and without brakes and any towing speed restrictions.
This is the difference between the TARE Weight (Unloaded weight) and the ATM (Aggregated Trailer Mass or Loaded Weight). Check this specification with your van manufacturer.
Loading your Van
From the above information we find that there is much to consider before loading the van up for a trip. You need to ensure that you do not overload the van or get the weight in the wrong place.
Consider the following:
- Keep the centre of gravity low – heavy items on the floor or as low as possible and over the axles so as not to unbalance the van.
- Sometimes one side may be heavy with a fridge, stove, water tanks etc., when packing try to balance this.
- If avoidable, don’t travel with full water tanks unless water is unavailable at your destination.
- Secure packed items such as glassware etc, nothing worse than having to clean up when you arrive.
- Invest in a portable ball weight scale – These scales allow you to confirm your caravan has been loaded correctly to prevent sway
Before you go:
Connect your van to the vehicle and check that all your vehicle lights (Stop, tail, turn signals) are working correctly.
Check that your van house batteries are charging from the vehicle if a DC-DC charger is fitted and that the connectors are not corroded or loose.
If solar panels are fitted, ensure that they are clean and secure and charging the batteries as expected.
Check all your battery connections for loose terminals, corrosion etc.
Check operation of your trailer brakes, and for electric brakes it may be an opportunity to install a Baintech TowMate variable brake controller.
The Baintech Tow Mate Remote Trailer Brake Controller operates with a pre-set braking force utilising microprocessor technology. Approved for use with AL-KO ESC, this new generation of brake controllers has been designed for both single and dual axle trailers using negative earth (ground) systems only.
Rugged and compact, easily installed with the simple connection of four wires and comes with a remote control. The remote control is simple to install and makes adjusting and monitoring the brakes even easier – it can be located up to 1m from the brake controller. The easy mount remote head requires a single hole to install, is compact (20mm x 31mm) and unobtrusive.
The Baintech Tow-Mate incorporates an override function for independent braking of the trailer from the vehicle brakes – which helps to prevent potentially dangerous swaying and snaking. Perfect for off-road towing, the Tow Mate offers safety and control, giving drivers peace of mind.
Check the tyres and your spare and make sure you know where the jack and wheel brace is and how to use them
If you don’t get to tow your van as often as you would like, hook up and go for a practice around the block a few times.
This will remind you of the additional weight, the width – Now you can check if you need additional towing mirror width and get a feel for how the brakes react. An excellent opportunity to practice reversing you van into a tight spot such as you may experience in a van park.
Finally setting off
- Ensure Towing hitch and safety chains are connected and secured.
- Power to van lights is connected and lights working
- Nothing loose or dangling from underneath
After travelling for a short while, stop and check that everything is where it should be and that your load has not shifted.
Don’t over do the travelling, driving whilst towing a caravan may be more fatiguing than just a normal vehicle as you need to concentrate on two vehicles and be more aware of stopping and turning distances.
Each time you stop, take a walk around the van just to check everything is where it should be.
If a TowMate is fitted, try different brake settings so you know exactly what to expect.
Jockey wheel and rear supports secure
Enjoy, live the good times!