How to Tow a Caravan Safely | Beginner’s Trailer Towing Tips

More Australians are looking for alternative life experiences that draw them to nature and offer a sense of freedom from the monotonous city life. Caravanning has become a popular means of adventure, as many of them prefer bushwalking and park visits to visit casinos and theme parks. As a result, caravan buying and towing has grown to be a favourite means of transport for this unusual life on the road. Here are some towing tips for beginners.


Choose the Right Car

Manufacturers have specific conditions regarding the towing capacity of a vehicle. Four measurements are used- ATM, GCM, GTM and TBM. 


  • ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) shows the maximum weight a trailer should have when everything is loaded into it. 
  • TBM (Tow Ball Mass) is the weight of the trailer pushing down on the vehicle’s tow ball.
  • GTM (Gross Trailer Mass) is the rating for a loaded caravan when it attached to the vehicle.
  • GCM (Gross Combination Mass) is the total weight of the caravan, the vehicle, the passengers and other items loaded into it. It is a sum of the GTM and GVM (the gross weight of the car). As such, if the vehicle has a GVM of 2950 and its GCM is 5700, you can only tow a trailer weighing 2750kg. 


However, motorists can upgrade their vehicles’ GVM if planning to carry heavy loads for the trip. Specialists install an approved suspension kit and attach a plate showing the upgraded GVM. The kit will also include upgrading a range of items, including control arms, steering dampers, shocks and coil springs. An upgraded GVM allows the motorist to drive in all regions of Australia, and you can sell the vehicle later via a car broker.


Obtain the Right Driving License

This subject has raised much debate as critics cite there is no need to applying for a different licence when towing a caravan. It narrows down to the type of vehicle you are using and the GVM. Vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of more than 4,500kg need a Light Rigid truck license. Similarly, motorists using vehicles with a GVM of more than 9,000kg and have two axles need a Medium Rigid trick license. When applying for either license, a driver needs to take a knowledge test and perform a practical driving test.


Ensure your Car has Been Recently Serviced 

People planning to tow the vehicle year round should consider servicing their trailers and cars for the long-distance trip. A few upgrades come in handy to ensure the car is in top-notch condition:


  • Mirrors: A towing caravan impedes the line of sight of the mirrors. As such, drivers should fit extension mirrors to the existing side mirror of the vehicle. There are removable options if you don’t tow often and permanent ones for motorists looking to sell their cars later through car brokers. Alternatively, car owners can replace the existing mirrors with a clear view of towing types. They can be extended when the trailer is attached and return when you are not towing.


  • Electric brake controller: The law requires caravans to use efficient braking systems by fitted electric brakes. The brakes reduce the push of the trailer from behind and allow smoother braking and stopping. Additionally, electric brakes minimise wear and tear and jack-knifing. If you are using a caravan over 2,000GTM, consider having electric brakes fitted.


  • Suspension: The additional weight of the trailer mounts pressure on the suspension. Most towing cars have standard suspension systems, but it is essential to upgrade them.


Check the Weight of the Caravan

The weight of the vehicle determines whether you can tow a caravan or not. A trailer with fitted brakes can go long distance safely drive as long as it is 1.5 times less than the unladen weight of the vehicle. The rule of the thumb is that you should not tow a caravan weighing more than 85% of a vehicle’s kerb weight. If it does not have the brakes, consider towing if it is lighter or equal to the weight of the car. The premise for this line of thought is that a heavy tow car is more stable than a light one pulling a trailer. Similarly, using a light vehicle to tow a heavy caravan poses the risk of tail wagging.


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