Check it before you tow it
The key to safe, pleasant, incident free caravan holidays is to ‘check it before you tow it’, Highways England says. It is also important to confirm you have the correct licence, suitable insurance, and any equipment that makes cruising through the countryside safer and more relaxing. It is holiday time, after all.
Your licence incorporates entitlements that define what types of vehicle you can drive and how much weight you can tow. Note the term maximum authorised mass, then. It is, for example, the weight of a car plus the maximum weight it can carry, e.g. in the boot. Alternatively, it is the weight of a trailer plus its maximum load.
Note too that entitlements are partially defined by when your licence was issued. Perhaps it was before January 1st 1997, for instance. If so, you can probably tow a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg (maximum authorised mass). Perhaps, in contrast, your licence was issued between January 1st 1997 and January 18th 2013 (inclusive). If so, the probable entitlements are:
- Car (or van) that has a maximum authorised mass of 3,500kg that is towing a trailer up to 750kg
- Trailer that is more than 750kg if it – combined with the vehicle – have a maximum authorised mass no more than 3,500kg
There is also varying criteria if your licence was issued from January 19th 2013. Clearly, therefore, it is important to refer to your particular licence to confirm what weight you can legally tow.
Caravan insurance reduces loss if there is a collision, theft, or fire. It is possible your tow car’s policy includes third party caravan cover – but it is not guaranteed. Also, third party only covers loses incurred by others. You get nothing. A separate, comprehensive, caravan policy is therefore a beneficial investment.
Your vehicle can only tow so much weight safely. How much is specified in the manual. Furthermore, the caravan cannot be wider than 2.55 metres. Its maximum length if towed by a vehicle that weighs up to 3,500kg is 7 metres (excluding A-frame). There are further considerations before you tow and on the move. For example:
- Add towing mirrors so you can see clearly
- Ensure the caravan is securely attached
- Stick a registration plate to the rear of the caravan
- Fit a stabiliser to make the car and caravan easier to control
- Check the tyre pressures throughout
- Confirm the caravan’s nose weight is correct
- Check the lights and indicators work
- Withdraw the jockey wheel
- Close the caravan’s windows, doors and roof light
- Note any lower speed limits, e.g. 60mph on motorways