The coupling is the vital link that joins your caravan or trailer to the tow vehicle. It comes in many variations. The type you choose depends on the load you’re towing and whether or not you are touring on freeways. If you’re heading into the rugged outback, this is when you will really need an off road coupling.
Why won’t standard coupling work off road?
When you’re hauling your caravan down gullies and across rocky stream beds, coupling with just the Australian Standard degree of articulation (or angles of available movement) just won’t make the grade.
On-road ball coupling has limited movement, so it could pop out or snap off when the tow vehicle and caravan move up and down or side to side with the terrain. An off road coupling is specifically designed to offer 360-degree articulation so you know that it will follow you anywhere.
What’s different about off road coupling?
Off road couplings need to move freely in all directions. Let’s take a look at some of the different types available.
- Tow ball coupling: If you have an Australian Standard 50mm tow ball, there are excellent engineered off road couplings offering 360-degree head articulation for both fixed and override brake systems.
They also have positive tow ball latching* which makes connecting a breeze, since they require no pin or hole alignment. This means that hitching up will be easier in awkward locations where other couplings would need a pin to be inserted.
- Poly block coupling: Some off road hitches consist of a block of polyurethane welded onto the coupling and linked using a detachable U piece and spring pin. Generally offering 360-degree rotation and 70-degree vertical oscillation, the polyurethane block has some shock-absorbing properties and reduces noise and vibration from the trailer to the vehicle.
- The pintle hook and ring coupling: This is an off road hitch for heavier vehicles such as those used for farming or military purposes. It has limited sideways capability, is noisy over rough terrain and excessive movement can cause wear and tear, so it’s not ideal for caravans.
They must also be easy to disconnect. If you suddenly find yourself bogged with the caravan at an awkward angle behind, you’ll need a hitch that disconnects with minimum fuss.
So if you plan to take your caravan into gullies and along uncharted riverbeds, keep it together with the best possible off road coupling and enjoy the ride.
* Positive latching means that the hitch will ‘lock on’ securely to the tow ball without any further action required.
Before you take off into the great outdoors with your caravan, use our caravan maintenance checklist to make sure it’s in top condition.