Frequently asked questions
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Technical - Matching Car and Caravan
The UK definition of kerbweight is the weight of a vehicle as it leaves the manufacturer in its ready-to-use condition with supplied tools and spare wheel etc and a full tank of fuel. Many vehicle manufacturers are, however, now following European Directive 95/48/EC which specifies the kerbweight of a car as its weight when it leaves the manufacturer in ready-to-drive condition as above, but with the fuel tank 90 per cent full and a driver on board weighing 68kg and luggage of 7kg.
It all boils down to weights, the weight of the caravan, the weight of the car and its towing weight limits. The type of driving licence you hold may also affect your ability to tow, but again it depends on the car and caravan weights.
Download the Club Data Sheet Matching Car and Caravan, simply select Data Sheets from the menu on the left hand side. Another useful data sheet to start you off is Safe for the road, Safe on the road. Once you have read the data sheets you will be in a better position to understand some of the following towing FAQ’S.
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The 85% recommendation is based on achieving a safe and stable match and is therefore often, but not always less than the manufacturer's towing limit. This towing limit is not set by issues of stability, simply by the car’s physical capability. In an ideal world, with perfectly surfaced roads, no crosswinds, air turbulence from speeding HGVs etc, then this limit could be used for matching purposes.
What the towing limit does give is an indication of the pulling power of the car. Ideally, the weight of caravan should be below the towing limit by a reasonable margin – and more so when using an automatic car.
The Club recommend, for safety and stability, that the laden weight of caravan should not exceed 85% of the kerbweight of the tow car. However, it is important that this figure does not exceed the car manufacturer’s towing limit, nor should it give rise to your outfit exceeding the plated train weight of the vehicle.
Experienced towers do sometimes go over the 85% ratio as it is not a legal requirement, but they should never go over 100%. You should always aim to achieve no more than the 85% ratio.
Trainweight or gross trainweight (GTW) is the maximum weight that a vehicle can move on the road, as stated by the manufacturer. This is the combined weight of vehicle and any trailer being towed and is the largest figure shown on the vehicle’s VIN plate, which is usually found under the bonnet of the car.
The trainweight check is needed because the way the towing limit is set by manufacturers varies. Normally, the limit is set as the maximum weight of trailer that can be pulled away from a standing start on a 1 in 8 (12 per cent) gradient. Sometimes this limit is set when the car is fully loaded. Other times, depending on manufacturer or even model, the limit will be set with only a driver in the car or with a set number of passengers, but less than the full loading.
If you subtract the gross vehicle weight (the first figure on the VIN plate) from the trainweight (the second figure on the plate) you get the legal weight limit of trailer you can tow when the car is fully loaded. Hence, if the manufacturer has stated the towing limit when only the driver is present, then the subtraction from the VIN plate will give a much lower figure for the fully laden condition, but which is closer to the situation when the car is transporting the family and luggage.
When the manufacturer has stated the towing limit at the condition when the car is fully loaded, then the limit derived from the trainweight usually coincides with this stated towing limit.
Unfortunately, there are caravan dealers who are not fully aware of some of the idiosyncrasies of car towing specifications and if the weight is within the stated car towing limit say that it is OK (car dealers are even less aware of tow matching requirements). The problem is that car manufacturers do not have a standard format for quoting towing limits - see question above.
The Scenic often gives rise to queries about its towing limit because Renault nearly always quote the limit in promotional literature under driver-only conditions, which does give an over-generous view of the car’s towing capability in normal service. It is all the more important with Renault, because of the wording in its handbook. At present, the Scenic’s handbook repeats the driver-only limit of 1,300kg, but then specifies that for all other load conditions the limit drops down to 1,000kg or 950kg depending on model. This wording indicates that as soon as something like a bag of potatoes is loaded into the car with the driver the towing limit can drop by up to 350kg.
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