It was refreshing to receive a press release from the Institute of Advanced Motorists that wasn't merely vaguely relevant to caravanners or a handy bit of advice useful for those who believe their home is where they pitch it, but that was key to the caravanning lifestyle: towing.
Each week, the IAM shares motoring advice from "Britain’s top advanced driver, Peter Rodger", to quote the road safety charity. We've shared top tips on towing techniques many times before, but it never hurts to have your memory nudged. Why the IAM released this now, we don't know. But with the new touring season in full swing and maybe with others looking ahead to summer and wondering what tow car to buy, it is rather well timed.
"It is important to recognise the challenges which come with having to control not just one vehicle, but two," says Peter, before dispensing his first piece of advice. Many of you will be well aware that you must watch the weight of the towed vehicle. Whether you are towing a caravan, a trailer, a horsebox or whatever, this should not exceed 85% of the tow car’s kerbweight. Get the maths wrong and excess weight will cause instability.
Practical Caravan's Niall Hampton explains exactly how to calculate the weight match between your car and caravan in his article, How to... choose a tow car.
The IAM also touched on pre journey checks – which extends to much more than ensuring your van is clean and presentable. If you're getting your tourer out of storage and preparing for your first holiday of the year, make sure you've done all the right checks – and you can watch the video on our YouTube channel with expert John Wickersham for his top tips regarding caravan maintenance.
Are the tyre pressures of both the caravan and the tow car correct? Is your van carrying the numberplate of the tow car? You must also check that your caravan's electrics are connected and the rear lights are fully functional. Get somebody to help while you test the brakes and indicators. And make sure that the numberplate at the rear of your caravan is illuminated, too.
Make sure that your outfit is secure before pulling away, and each time you stop for a break, take a gentle wander round, checking for anything that might have come loose, that might be disconnected, missing or broken. You should also consider how you load your caravan – again, we have a video to help you out!
Once on the road, remember that stopping distances and the space between you and other vehicles should be increased appropriately when towing, to allow for the extra weight. Also, the IAM reminds us, remember to allow extra time for executing overtaking manoeuvres, for positioning yourself for turns, for parking, pulling into traffic streams, changing lanes, and also when joining and leaving motorways. And when towing your caravan, make sure you fit extended towing mirrors and remember to use them frequently.
Remember to check speed limits and the different speed limits that apply to vehicles that are towing. And if you are towing and are therefore limited to a speed that is lower than that for solo cars, remember to be courteous and to allow other road users to pass, where safe, and if appropriate.
The government's official UK speed limits for a car towing a caravan or trailer are: 60mph on motorways and dual carriageways, 50mph on single carriageways and 30mph in built-up areas (or less in special areas, as per road signs).
Whether you're an anxious first timer after some top tips, expert advice and words of calming reassurance, or an experienced caravanner with hundreds or even thousands of towing miles under your belt, it never hurts to be reminded of the basics. We hope that by sharing this, we've helped to keep you safe for a happy season of touring.