Expert tips for towing your caravan and trailer
Navigating South African roads is dangerous enough; add a caravan or trailer to the mix, and the risks go up even more. Auto & General has you covered with these 10 safety tips that will help make sure you and your family stay safe on the roads no matter what you take with you on holiday.
1. Law of the land
Towing a trailer or caravan is not as simple as just hooking it up to your vehicle and driving. South Africa has some stringent traffic laws for towing, so make sure you familiarise yourself with these before you set out on your journey. And, if you’re crossing the border, know and understand the road rules of that country, too.
2. Don’t overload on the road
Consult the owner’s manual of your vehicle to see how much weight your car can tow, as well as what weight the trailer can handle. You’ll also need to check the trailer’s gross weight once it’s fully loaded.
3. The right parts in the right places
Check that you have all the right components to safely tow your caravan and trailer, which include safety chains, braking systems, lights, a hitch, and a tongue.
4. Is your vehicle tough enough?
In addition to being a legal requirement, it’s important to make sure your vehicle can handle the load of a caravan or trailer. Usually, your car will need to be heavier than whatever you’re towing because, among other factors, you can more easily and safely pass other road users.
5. Slow and steady, not speedy and sudden
Driving with a trailer or caravan attached takes some practice because it takes even more attention than usual. Avoid sudden stops, use a lower gear when travelling downhill, brake before you enter a corner, increase your following distance, and watch your braking when roads are slippery.
6. Gear down for safety
When you’re towing a heavy load, your vehicle is going to need extra power, so changing up a gear is going to take longer than usual. If you have an automatic vehicle, you may find the journey a bit easier – because you’re spending less time focusing on using the right gear, you can devote more concentration to checking road conditions and watching other road users.
7. Be awake when you overtake
Overtaking is a much more complex process when towing. You’ll need to factor in the extra length the caravan or trailer adds to your vehicle, the road surface (such as bumps), and consider the extra work your car must do to get to the correct speed. You may also not realise that aerodynamics play a role when you’re overtaking a large truck; you may be pulled towards the truck, so it’s vital to make 100% sure you can safely overtake.
8. Take time when turning
Slow right down when taking a turn so you can properly judge the angle of it. You’ll likely need to take it wider than usual (but don’t overshoot it) as your trailer’s or caravan’s wheels will be closer to the inside of the turn than your vehicle’s. You don’t want to hit the pavement or a telephone pole, spoiling your relaxing holiday before it starts.
9. Rehearse your reverse
When you reverse, begin in a straight line, then slowly turn your car in the opposite direction to the one you want your trailer/caravan to turn. It can help to practice this at home before you set out on a long journey if you’re not used to driving with a load behind.
10. Quality without question
When it comes to road safety, never compromise on quality. Use a trusted tow bar brand, or if you have a vehicle that comes standard with one, make sure it’s securely fitted. And, of course, check that it’s compatible with the type and size of your caravan or trailer.
11. Bonus tip
As stealing a trailer/caravan or the contents within is always a possibility in South Africa, it’s a safe bet to insure your trailer or caravan. Get the expert insurance that comes with over 30 years’ experience with Auto & General.
Sources: Arrive Alive