Picture this scenario: you and your significant other are set-up on, say, the Great Central Road. You’re hundred of kilometres from assistance. And, for the sake of this article, let’s assume the husband – who to this point has done all of the towing – becomes incapacitated. A bout of gastro, let’s say, and becomes in need of medical treatment.
It’s not my intention to come off as sexist by suggesting men do all the towing. Rather, it’s reflecting the reality that, for many touring couples, the man tends to take the wheel. But we all know it’s imperative that both partners in a relationship – be it straight or same-sex – are able to handle the rig in the event of an emergency.
A few years ago, my wife, Stacey, decided that she needed to develop her confidence and skills in hitching up and towing our van. This is her experience:
TOWING IS NOT JUST A MAN’S JOB
Honestly, I was nervous. I’d always relied on Max to handle the van, since he’s the one with all the experience. I had no idea how to hitch up, let alone back up the van. So I approached everything with an analytical mindset and went through the process step by step.
First, I thought about the connection between the van and tow vehicle, even double-checking the tightness of the tow pin. I asked Max to guide me as I reversed back to the coupling but our vehicle has a reversing camera, so I’m certain I could do this in the future without his help.
I secured the safety chains, making sure they were crossed and that there was enough slack to allow me to turn corners.
With the jockey wheel removed, and the caravan plugged into the car, it was time to tow. The first thing I noticed was how obvious the extra weight was on the back of the car, and how it took longer to accelerate. Our vehicle has a manual transmission – I found it took longer to get the car to the right rev range before I could change gear and this all took a little getting used to.
Once on the open road, and travelling at about 85km/h, I was constantly mindful of how the van ‘felt’ back there. When the wind picked up, the van felt a little more ‘twitchy’, which made me want to slow down, and when large trucks passed, I really felt it.
Our van is a wind-up camper that sits quite low, so I could only imagine how much more a large caravan would be buffeted by strong winds and passing trucks.
After a while though, I began to feel more confident about towing the van on the highway; however, when I pulled into some side streets in a small town, I became quite nervous. Negotiating the narrower roads, and especially turning sharp corners, was somehow more harrowing than driving on the highway.
I had a go at reversing the camper and, despite Max’s advice, I found it much more difficult than I expected. The van kept wandering to one side or the other. Making small corrections helped, but just remembering which way to turn the wheel was a challenge. However, I now have the basic idea and feel that with a bit more practice, I will be able to manage.
For years, I’d just let Max handle the hitching up and towing – he just knew what to do and I let him do it. But even after a relatively small amount of time on the road towing the van, with him in the passenger seat to offer advice and encouragement, I feel much more capable to handle the rig, and – as importantly – empowered to manage things in the event of an emergency.
So if you’re like I was – a bit uncertain about towing and happy to take the ‘back seat’ – take it from me: you can tow the van and, let’s face it, you really should.
– with Stacey Taylor
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.