Before you begin to tow, it is vital to check that your car and trailer combination are correctly matched. This matching covers the safe physical and legal limits to the weight of the caravan that you should tow with your car - details are covered in our Data Sheet - Matching Car and Caravan.
TOWBAR - A well fitted and maintained towbar is vital for safety. It is the main connection between car and trailer. Although the towbar now falls within the remit of the MOT you should inspect the tow bracket regularly, checking for cracking or serious rusting and that the bolts are correctly tightened or get it checked out when the car is serviced.
Detachable towbars should be treated with extra care. Make sure both the housing and bar are clean before fitting. When in place, check there is no excessive movement. If you are uncertain about your towbar, have it checked by a towbar specialist.
TYRES - The only contact your car and caravan have with the road is through the tyres. Look after them and you will improve the safety and behaviour of your unit.
Carry a spare wheel, a compact spare or a tyre sealant kit, check that it is suitable for use when towing. Runflat car tyres are also often not suitable in a deflated condition when you are towing. Further detailed information is provided in Data Sheet 15 (Tyres and tyre care). If in doubt contact the Club's technical information helpline.
Check the caravan wheel nuts are tightened to the correct torque, don't forget that overtightening nuts can be as bad as having them too loose.
BRAKES - Brakes are life and death components. Maintenance is best left to properly trained mechanics. It's worth keeping an eye on your brake mechanism and cables. If you have any doubts, have them checked.
ELECTRICS - The road lights on your caravan are operated from the towcar through a standard seven pin (12N) socket and plug or selected pins within the newer 13-pin socket and plug system. Adapter cables are available to link a seven-pin and 13-pin system together.
You must have by law a visual or audible warning on the towcar to show the caravan indicators are working. Traditional systems give a positive indication that work separately from the car system, but now it is more common for caravan indicators to be monitored by the car's bulb failure system.
Before moving off, check all caravan road lighting functions are working.
SUSPENSION - Check the condition of both car and caravan suspension. It's important for safety as well as comfort. When your caravan is attached to your vehicle it should tow level or slightly nose down, preferably not with its nose up. If you find the car rear sags, you may need some form of suspension aid. Get specialist advice on the type required for your car from your car dealer or suspension aid supplier. Further advice is detailed in Data Sheet 52 (Suspension modifications).
Statistics show that caravans are safe and accidents rare, but to ensure your safety it is necessary to consider some important safety factors.
This Data Sheet looks at safety factors to consider before you set off and other considerations when on the road to keep you safe.
Many references are to caravans, but this can equally refer to other towed camping units such as a folding camper or trailer tent.