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Having the Right Towing Vehicle for Your Caravan
Make sure your towing vehicle can pull your caravan. Check the manufacturer’s handbook for the maximum recommended weight and make sure you stay within that limit. It is an important part of planning your caravan holiday to ensure that your towing vehicle is safe, well maintained and well equipped.
Size and Towing Capacity
The majority of travelers don’t have the luxury of choosing a custom tow vehicle to match their new van; in most cases it is to find a van that will match the existing vehicle.
Car manufacturers specify a safe towing weight for each vehicle and Australian national regulations are built around these specifications. As a general rule, the most suitable towing vehicle is one that is heavier than the caravan being towed. This will then allow the full weight of the caravan to be towed. Small cars are usually limited to towing camper trailers, folding caravans, and small caravans or pop-tops. Larger cars can manage caravans and pop-tops in the larger aftermarket. In addition to the weight, it is important to take the overall measurements of the unit to be pulled. If your caravan is very tall or wide then extra power is needed to overcome wind resistance.
Off Road Vehicles
Four-wheel drive has become a popular and highly capable towing vehicle. They can tow a large van, and manage a boat and some other stuff. Many travelers use their vehicles on the road without ever leaving the highway. Others travel a lot inland, unhitching the van when the terrain becomes too rough and either take a tent or swag with them, or sleep in the back of the car.
The choice between manual and automatic transmissions is a personal choice. In the past, manual transmissions were always the preferred choice for travelers, but modern improvements in automatic transmissions mean they do the same today. In fact, the automatic four-wheel drive performs well on the road.
Tools and Spares
When going out on a full touring holiday it is important to carry a tool kit to carry out small repairs to the vehicle and to carry out household repair projects around the caravan. The tool kit should include the following items:
- Blade screwdriver
- Phillips head screwdrivers
- Wrench set for your car and van
- Small adjustable shifter
- bigger shifter for gas bottles
- Wheel spanner
- A set of spike-resistant jumper leads
- Tire pressure gauge
- Drill string or drill string
Make sure the jack and handle are attached to the vehicle and that the jack is working properly. Make sure the same jack fits your vehicle and caravan. Before you leave home, make sure you know how to change a tire and where the jacking points are for your tow vehicle and caravan.
Carry out jacking board, approximately 250 sq. mm, to place under the jack when the ground is soft, uneven or wet. A piece of checker-plate aluminum is okay.
The wheel studs that fit your car may not fit the wheel studs on your caravan. Check before leaving home.
Bring a good spare tire for your vehicle and one for your caravan. If you plan to travel off track, you need two spares for each unit. In some camper-trailers, the wheels are interchangeable with the towing vehicle. In that case, a total of two spares will be sufficient in most situations.
TOWING EQUIPMENT and modifications
Fitting towing equipment and modifying towing vehicles is a specialized activity and should only be carried out by professionals. Dealers will often fit a tow for a new vehicle upon request. You need to determine if you need one that fits the vehicle maximum towing capacity so you don’t end up with something only suitable for towing a small household trailer. If you already own the vehicle, contact your specialist dealer and mechanic; check the Yellow Pages on “towing” or find one over the internet.
All tow bars produced commercially in Australia are built to stand up and should perform well. Different brands and models will have different features and different prices.
The lightest bar is suitable for towing trailers and vans with a gross weight of 1,000 kg or even less. Heavy-duty bars, such as those attached to large four-wheel drives, have the capacity to pull a mass of up to 3,500 kg. Each tow bar has a specified maximum trailer mass and maximum static ball weight. The latter, which is the difference in weight between the caravan and the vehicle, should be about 10 percent of the total weight of the trailer. So, if the weight of the loaded trailer is 1,000kg, the weight of the ball should be around 100kg. All tow bars are limited to the maximum recommended capacity of the vehicle. To make sure you’re not towing more than you need to, get your caravan fully weighed. Exceeding the towing weight limit can result in accidents, fines and non-payment of insurance claims.
The tow bar is equipped with a choice of towing hitches. Most standard caravans and trailers can handle 50 mm balls, while off-road models require more complex off-road obstacles.
Caravans and trailers must be fitted with safety chains; this must be securely attached to the towing vehicle.
In 1999, the National Road Transport Commission (NRTC) introduced a set of recommended towing limits, which were adopted by all States and Territories. Up to the point of up to five different towing restrictions applied across Australia, which meant a lot of confusion for caravanners crossing State and Territory borders.
National regulations, as defined by the NRTC, state that the weight of the loaded caravan must not exceed the recommended limits as provided by the manufacturer of the towing vehicle, or the capacity of the towing apparatus installed on the vehicle. If the manufacturer has not specified a limit, surprisingly, unlike usual, the weight of the loaded caravan must not be more than one and a half times the weight of the unloaded towing vehicle, if the caravan is equipped with brakes. If the caravan is not fitted with brakes, then the loaded caravan must be equal to the weight of the unloaded car. If you have difficulty in determining the parameters of this requirement, ask for advice from your dealer or tow manufacturer.
We’ve all seen the car and caravan combination with obstacles almost dragging it down the road. Weight distribution bars, available at caravan accessory shops, can be used to maintain the higher profile of cars and vans. This is standard equipment on larger vans, but should be considered for all but the lightest. These problems can also be solved by proper loading. If the load that can be moved in the caravan is all packed in front of the axle, this will increase the weight of the ball. If the load is more evenly distributed throughout the van, then the weight of the ball is less likely to be adversely affected. Do not load your caravan or trailer with more weight behind the axle than in front of the axle. (It is wise to secure the item to prevent movement).
This is page four of 23 with related information on making the most of your caravan holiday. See here for more pages www.crikey-adventure-tours.com/caravan-holiday.html
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