TOWING a caravan or trailer of any kind requires a different skill set compared to normal motoring. It presents many issues never faced by those who remain unhitched.
Unfortunately, many people underestimate these challenges and their consequences.
Here are a few important points to remember.
Firstly, you need to keep in mind that towing a trailer of any sort behind your vehicle will have an impact on the tow car's performance and handling.
Towing has a higher level of difficulty because you've increased the overall length and weight of the vehicle. These factors will alter your acceleration, braking and cornering and therefore you'll need to modify your driving to compensate.
You also have legal obligations to ensure that the vehicle and trailer are legal and comply with all the relevant standards.
This includes issues like:
- Correctly fitted towbar and couplings
- Safety chains
- Braking systems
- Not exceeding the vehicles towing capacity
The exact details can be obtained from your local transport department so be sure to check these out and make sure your rig is legal.
Vehicle manufacturers stipulate load limits upon towing capacity and tow ball weight. These must always be adhered to.
Exceeding these limits is illegal and dangerous.
Correctly distributing the weight you carry in your caravan will also have a dramatic impact on safety and towing performance.
As with any form of motor vehicle, the importance of correct tyre pressures cannot be underestimated. An under, or over inflated tyre will not only cause uneven wear, but in the case of a loaded caravan or trailer, can completely alter its handling characteristics.
Before you drive off have a good look at the rig from side on and make sure it is balanced. Having too much weight on the tow bar will lift the nose of the car up and affect your steering.
Once you're on the open road remember to be as smooth as you can with the controls. You'll need to allow for the extra length when entering traffic and a much longer braking distance.
Always brake in a straight line and be sure to use low gears when going down steep hills so as not to overheat the brakes.
Caravans, like all heavy vehicles require more room to stop and manoeuvre. All road users should make allowances for this. Caravaners too should always consider other road users and keep left unless overtaking, and pull over occasionally to allow following traffic to safely pass on narrow or single lane roads.
Russell White's experience in the driver training industry spans more than 24 years. He is widely regarded as one of Australia's leading road safety advocates. His business offers the complete range of driver training and fleet management services, visit driversafety.com.au
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