As caravanners, we are always learning. Sure, there are people who are very experienced, but regardless, there is always room to remind ourselves of best practices and perhaps even learn a new tip or two.
Here at Without A Hitch, we’re always keen to impart the ideas and advice we’ve learned along the way. That being said, here are five caravanning tips that might make all the difference during your caravan adventures.
1. TOW VEHICLE
When choosing a new caravan, aim for the towing capacity of the tow vehicle to be greater than the loaded weight of the van, rather than being right on the ATM.
Generally speaking, the heavier the tow vehicle relative to the weight of the van, the better. This will make it harder for the ‘tail to wag the dog’, so to speak.
For example, the first-generation Isuzu MU-X can legally tow 3000kg with 300kg on the towball. However, that doesn’t necessarily make towing that way an excellent idea. From experience, I can tell you the vehicle feels more stable and settled with no more than 2500kg hitched up.
2. CUTTING IN
Fact: any caravan will take a shorter path around a corner than the vehicle to which it is attached. This means as you round corner, the van is in some danger of striking the curb, a street sign, a tree or worse.
It is imperative, therefore, that approach corners as widely as practical – and within reason and the law, of course. Keep your eye on the tow mirrors, looking for overhanging branches, pedestrians, etc. And remember: while the van will cut in on a corner, it will under some conditions, likely have a wide outside tail sweep, meaning the rear of the van could strike someone or something.
If your caravan and tow vehicle combination is longer than 7.5m, you are legally entitled to display a ‘Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle’ sign on the rear of the van, which would be worth considering.
3. TYRE CONDITION
Before heading off on a trip, inspect the remaining tread on your caravan/vehicle tyres. A minimum of 5mm tread depth is recommended.
Check for uneven wear. On your tow vehicle, this could indicate that the front wheels are in need of an alignment.
Be sure to check for foreign objects embedded in the tread pattern, such as stones or even screws. Soon or later, it’s likely that such objects will cause a leak.
Further, carefully consider the correct pressures for your tyre types. Applying the so-called ‘4psi rule’ for light-truck tyres is one way to obtain the correct pressure. Essentially, measure the psi of your tyres when they’re cold, i.e., before heading off for the day. When the tyres are at operating temperature – after an hour on the highway, for example – measure the pressure again. You’re aiming to see an increase in pressure of 4psi.
4. MOVING THE VAN
If you struggle to reverse your caravan, or you need to manoeuvre the van into a tight storage spot at home, we recommend a caravan mover. They are on the pricey side but they are well worth it.
There are numerous such movers on the market, from portable devices that can be clamped to the A-frame in place of the jockey wheel, to movers that are permanently fixed to the chassis, with ‘wheels’ that act upon the caravan’s wheels to ‘drive’ and ‘steer’ the caravan in the required direction – all at the push of a button on a remote control.
5. DYNAMIC BALL WEIGHT
Remember: the amount of weight being imposed on your tow vehicle’s towbar via the caravan’s coupling is a dynamic thing. It will change from one trip to another, depending on how and where payload is located inside the van, whether or not the water tanks or gas cylinders are full, etc.
Therefore, we highly recommend investing in a portable ball weight scale – and make sure you use it – periodically during a trip. This is a great way to ensure you never exceed the maximum ball weight of your tow vehicle.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Max Taylor has been caravanning since he was a kid and was the editor of some of Australia’s most well-known RV publications for almost 10 years.