Summer’s just around the corner, and whether you’re a seasoned veteran looking for a quick refresher, or a newbie about to embark on your very first trip, here’s all you need to know about towing a caravan.
Before you hit the road, here are some important questions you need to ask yourself.
Can I Tow a Caravan with My Standard UK Driving Licence?
It’s essential to check that your current licence allows you to tow your caravan. If you’re involved in an accident and it turns out you’re not legally permitted to haul your rig, any insurance will almost certainly be invalidated. Here are the basics:
If you passed your test after 1 January 1997, you’re legally allowed to:
- Drive a vehicle of up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (or MAM) while towing a trailer of up to 750kg.
- Also, you can tow a trailer in excess of 750kg MAM, as long as the combined weight of the trailer and the vehicle towing it doesn’t exceed 3,500kg.
Anything heavier and you’ll have to take a car and trailer driving test (or B + E), and you’ll find all the relevant details on the UK government website.
For those of you who passed your test on or before 1 January 1997, it’s a little simpler. Generally, you’re allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combo of up to 8.25 tonnes MAM. So, unless you’re planning to haul a double-decker bus, you should be OK.
Keep in mind that new rules apply when you reach your 70th birthday, and your eligibility may be affected if your licence is suspended or needs to be renewed. As a result, it’s always worth double checking your status; and, again, the government website is a valuable resource.
Is My Car Properly Equipped to Tow a Caravan?
If you’re towing a caravan for the very first time, it’s important to make sure your vehicle can handle the load – most modern cars can but it’s best to check.
The maximum weight your particular make and model is capable of pulling should be listed in your vehicle’s handbook. If not, check the VIN plate. This should list your car’s ‘gross train weight’ – the maximum combined weight of your fully-loaded car and trailer. This must never be exceeded under any circumstances.
What Essential Checks Should I Make Before Setting Off?
These checks are particularly important if your caravan has been in storage over the winter months. If you’re hauling a newly-purchased caravan, most of these checks should ideally have been made at the dealership or private seller’s home. Either way, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
- Tyres – Accidents involving caravans peak during summer months, and poorly maintained tyres are often the most common cause. The same goes for your car as well; the added weight of your caravan will put extra stress on the boots, so you need to make sure they’re up to the job. Check tread depth, wear and pressures.
- Registration – Make sure your caravan is displaying the same registration as your vehicle. No hastily drawn cardboard cut-outs; the plate must meet British Standards, and be illuminated at night.
- Rear light panel – Test to make sure brake lights and indicators are working correctly, and keep a keen eye on your lights throughout your journey.
- Load – Pack light. A lighter caravan makes for a safer driving experience. Secure all drawers and cupboards and stow heavier items low down, close to the axle.
- Kit – Finally, ensure you have all the right kit – stabilisers, extension mirrors, jack etc.
Now you’re ready to hit the road. Here are some key questions to consider when towing your caravan.
How Fast Can I Drive When Towing a Caravan?
On UK roads, the maximum speed limits for a vehicle towing a caravan are 50MPH on single lane carriageways, and 60 on motorways and dual carriageways. In urban areas, the usual rules apply – 30MPH unless otherwise indicated.
What Do I Need to Look out for When Towing a Caravan on the Road?
If you’ve never done it before, driving with a caravan in tow can be a challenging experience, and you need to be prepared. Remember to be extra vigilant; try to avoid sudden or heavy braking, and allow yourself more time and space to perform everyday manoeuvres. Here are some other things you can do to ensure a safer, more comfortable ride:
- Be sure to allow more space between yourself and the car in front. With a trailer in tow, stopping distances increase by an average of 20%; so, keep your distance, and give yourself plenty of time to react.
- Extension mirrors will give yourself the best possible view so you can see your trailer, but remember to remove them when your caravan’s not attached. It’s illegal to drive with extension mirrors when you’re not towing, and you could face a hefty fine.
- Take corners wider than usual. The extra length of your rig means you’ll need extra space to prevent your caravan clipping the kerb or cutting the corner.
- To prevent snaking and jack-knifing, stick to the speed limits and keep an eye out for larger vehicles approaching from the front and rear. Passing lorries can cause dangerous cross-winds so keep your distance and drive carefully when they pass you. Again, use stabilisers to balance your rig and extension mirrors to improve your field of vision.
- Be mindful of other drivers, particularly if you’re travelling at peak times, such as half term or bank holidays. On a single lane road, traffic can build up quickly behind you; so, keep an eye out for safe stopping places, such as laybys, and pull over when appropriate to allow other vehicles to pass.
- When you’re travelling on a three-lane motorway, remember not to drive in the outside lane. There are certain exceptions, such as when you encounter accidents or roadworks, but generally this is a big no-no.
- Finally, never carry passengers in your caravan while it’s in transit. While it’s technically legal to transport animals in your trailer, from a safety point of view we wouldn’t recommend it.
Did you know you can use Tyreweld in a caravan? Read more about how it could save your summer holiday here.