Every caravanner must use tow mirrors. They are an unavoidable fact of the lifestyle unless your rig is unusually small and narrower than your tow vehicle. The fact is, the standard factory-fitted mirrors on your tow vehicle are highly unlikely to provide the unobstructed rearward vision required by law when driving.
There is a wide variety of tow mirrors – also known as extension mirrors – available, from the kind that simply clip to the existing mirror housing, to mirrors that can be secured by an assemblage of straps and ratchets, as well as large mirrors designed to replace the mirrors fitted by the tow vehicle’s manufacturer.
Disregarding the latter variety, how should you go about setting up your tow mirrors in order to provide compliant rearward vision when caravanning?
TOW MIRROR INSTALLATION
A good first step when fitting your extension mirrors is to set them up wide enough so that when you stand at the back corner of your caravan and look along the side, the very inside edge of the extension mirror is in line with the side of the van.
Another approach: with your van hitched up, stand directly in line with the rearmost corners of the van, at a distance of about 20m from the mirrors. You should be able to see all the mirror. If you can’t, you are unlikely to be legal.
Seated behind the wheel, you must have an unobstructed view along both sides of the van. If you can’t see the rear side corners of your van in the mirror, on both the offside and nearside, you should adjust your mirrors.
The mirrors should also provide a wide view of the traffic or road behind, out to at least 4m. While you could certainly test this with a tape measure before departing, common-sense would dictate that if you can’t clearly see your van’s rear side corners and all activity in the road lanes to the left and right, then your mirror setup is unsafe.
ADJUST YOUR MIRRORS
Have you ever been passed by a road train only to have your mirror fold abruptly back against the car? The sudden increase of air pressure can act upon the flat surface of many clip-on mirrors, forcing it to move.
Other environmental conditions, as well as driving on uneven or jarring terrain, can cause extension mirrors to move, too.
It would, therefore, be wise to check their alignment from time to time and adjust as necessary. It should go without saying that your vehicle should be stationary and well off the road before adjusting your mirrors. Believe it or not, I have seen drivers attempting to adjust their tow mirrors while piloting their rigs. One was even simultaneously talking on his mobile phone!
Aside from being a legal requirement when towing a trailer that precludes the required rearward vision, properly adjusted tow mirrors make the world of difference to your ability to drive safely. To not use them would be almost the definition of driving blind.
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.