Caravanning is not only a Great British pastime, but the perfect way to enjoy a mini-break that doesn’t break the bank.
Before you buy a caravan or plan a holiday, however, there are certain things you must know about actually towing a caravan.
Do we cover caravans for breakdown cover?
If your vehicle breaks down and you are towing a caravan or trailer, we will recover your vehicle and the caravan or trailer. The Caravan or Trailer must not be greater than 3.5T in weight, 7 meters in length and 2.44 meters wide. Please note we are only able to provide assistance if the vehicle that is towing the caravan or trailer has broken down and not if the cause of the breakdown is the caravan or trailer.
Please note: The measurements are excluding the draw bar and coupling
Can my car tow a caravan?
From late 2021, all drivers are allowed to tow trailers with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of up to 3,500kg without the need to take a car and trailer driving test.
Drivers who passed their test before 1 January 1997 are allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg MAM.
Do I need a caravan driving course?
Many people, if not confident can book a course to be taught to tow a caravan or trailer, this will include hitching up, towing and the all important reversing. You do not need a specific license, but its better to be confident and have some experience first before setting off on an adventure. Maybe try a local pitch within 30 miles or so first to get some experience under your belt, travelling 200 or 300 miles on your first trip is probably not advised.
Personally, I was lucky my uncle is a HGV driver and took me out, showing me how to load a caravan, hitch and park. An invaluable afternoon that kept me in good stead. Its worth booking a course or asking family or friend if they have experience.
The maximum weight your car can tow (fully loaded car + fully loaded caravan/trailer) is usually listed in your drivers handbook.
Width and length rules
The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. The maximum length is 7 metres for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3,500 kilograms.
Unless you’re very experienced and confident, experts recommend that the weight of the loaded caravan shouldn’t be more than 85% of your car’s Kerb Weight.
With so much space available it’s all too easy to overload – try to keep the caravan as light as possible with the heavier items low down and close to the axle. Kerb weight is the weight of the vehicle including a full tank of fuel and all standard equipment. It does not include the weight of any passengers, cargo, or optional equipment. Kerb weight is considered the closest weight to the actual weight of the vehicle.
Stabilisers, snaking and pitching, what does it mean?
The word ‘snake’ can seem scary, but with a little care before your journey – and an awareness of what to do if a snake occurs, you will be fine taking to the road.
What is Snaking when towing a caravan?
Snaking is when the lateral swaying of the caravan behind a car becomes excessive. In extreme cases, the caravan swings ever more violently from side to side, eventually pulling at the back of the car with it so the driver loses control.
What is pitching when towing a caravan?
‘Pitching’ describes vertical instability – when the caravan’s front end moves up and down, pulling the rear of the car up and down in a seesaw motion.
The best way to avoid snaking and pitching is to have a well-matched car and caravan and to load your unit carefully.
Stabilisers for caravan or trailer
Electronic and friction stabilisers are fitted to many caravans, which can reduce these problems in a well-matched outfit, but will not rectify an inherently unstable combination.
But even with all these precautions, you might find the back of your car being pulled by your caravan because of the air turbulence caused by a passing lorry, coach or a crosswind.
What to do if your caravan snakes or pitches.
If the caravan does start snaking or pitching, take both feet off the pedals to bring down your speed using your car’s engine braking. Avoid the instinct to brake, but keep steering in a straight line. Trying to steer out of the sway by compensating can make the problem worse.
If you’re planning on driving your caravan in Europe CoverMy have European Breakdown Cover. Make sure you have this in place as our standard cover does not work outside the UK.