Click here a comprehensive towing guide to download.
If you want to learn to tow a caravan or drive a motorhome it’s worth considering a caravan or motorhome manoeuvring course. These are run nationally by both The Camping and Caravanning Club and Caravan and Motorhome Club.
Additionally, both clubs provide free advice and towing and motorhome manoeuvring courses at our shows. The courses are designed to improve your towing and manoeuvring skills but also remind you how to correctly load your caravan. Upon completion, you could receive a discount on your insurance premium.
What Can I Tow?
You will also need to consider what caravan your driving licence will allow you to tow the caravan you want, and if not, this will mean that you need to take a test to make this possible. Find out what your car can tow here.
All drivers who passed a car test before 1 January 1997 can tow trailers until their licence expires. This means they are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250 kg Gross Train Weight (GTW). This would cover most large cars/4x4s towing caravans and most sizeable motorhomes.
If you passed your test after 1 January 1997 you can drive a motor vehicle with a GTW of up to 3,500 kg. This includes saloon cars towing small caravans and smaller motorhomes - but for anything larger, you will need to take an additional driving test in order to gain entitlement to Category B+E and all larger vehicles. Find more information on the TowCheck website.
A couple of points to consider before you start towing for the first time:
• You might want to consider a stabiliser if your caravan does not come with one as standard. They can reduce snaking by increasing the turning friction between car and caravan. They aren’t necessary but something certainly to consider.
• Always consider time and space, don’t be too ambitious about manoeuvring until you’ve had some experience, practice and feel comfortable towing.
Towing tips to get you started…
• When you’re towing you need to remember that you’ll need more time and space for everything compared to simply driving your car – your outfit is now much longer and with limitations on manoeuvrability.
• You’ll also need to allow more time to brake with a caravan on the back!
• Your outfit length and manoeuvrability also means that you’ll need to take corners wider and slower to ensure you don’t cut the corner or clip the curb, or any bollards (or pedestrians!) that are present.
• The legal UK speed limit whilst towing is 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways.
• Also bear in mind that on a motorway you are not permitted to enter the outside lane (unless instructed to do so by road signs).
• Whilst towing you will need extension mirrors on your car to view the rear of your outfit, but when driving without your caravan you must remember to remove these.
• All passengers must travel in the car and cannot travel in the caravan.
• You must ensure that your car’s registration plate is always visible at the rear of your caravan. It must be illuminated at night, as per regulations.
• Ensuring that the rear lights on the caravan are working correctly is essential before setting off.
• As common courtesy to others, if you notice that traffic is building up behind you due to your restricted speed limits, then you could pull over into a convenient layby and allow them to pass.
• When you stop and park your outfit you must ensure it is in a suitable place that won’t cause an obstruction.
What to watch out for if towing a caravan:
• Snaking: this is when the caravan's lateral sway movement (the 'yaw') becomes excessive.
• Pitching: this describes the seesaw type movement that can occur on the caravan, which can occur from incorrect loading.
• The best way to avoid both snaking and pitching is to have a well matched outfit (car and caravan). You also need to check that the caravan is loaded correctly for optimum noseweight and distribution of weight internally so as not to unbalance the caravan. Fitting a stabiliser might also be an option to assist.
• Even when you have everything set up correctly, it could be that high winds or the air turbulence from a passing vehicle could cause snaking or pitching to occur.
• The best way to deal with them is to take your feet off the pedals and allow your car’s engine breaking to reduce your speed. You need to avoid the instinct to brake with the pedal as this can escalate the problem. You need to try to drive in a straight line because attempting to steer out of the motion can increase the problem.
• For more information on each of these it would be advisable to take a course, possibly with the Caravan Club or Camping and Caravanning Club.
Remember you can download our much sought-after guide here.
How do I hitch?
- To hitch, start by making sure that the caravan handbrake is on and the corner steadies are raised.
- Then use the jockey wheel to raise the caravan hitch height until it is higher than the car tow ball.
- Now you need to reverse the car until the tow ball is either underneath, or just beside the caravan hitch.
- Once in position, put the car’s handbrake on.
- Raise the hitch lever and lower the hitch on to the tow ball by winding up the jockey wheel, ensuring it is in the correct location.
- Keep winding the jockey wheel up until the hitch fits over the tow ball, and the hitch safety mechanism pops out, showing green, or in older types until the handle clicks back into place.
- To check you have locked on properly, wind down the jockey wheel until the rear of the car starts to lift.
- Return to winding up the jockey wheel, then stow it in the correct position beside the A-Frame, and tighten its retaining handle.
- Attach the 12V connector(s) for the lights etc.
- Attach the breakaway cable.
- Release the caravan handbrake.
- Check all caravan road lights are working, the steadies are fully up and windows and doors are properly secure.
- Make sure the towing mirrors are properly adjusted.
- Away you go!