If you regularly skip those annoying routine jobs to get on the road quicker, the new year is a good time to start doing them again.
1. Ensure your caravan is serviced regularly and carry your insurance papers, emergency numbers and other documents for both your car and caravan. Your caravan should be serviced at least once a year to ensure the safety systems are all working properly.
2. Ensure your towing mirrors are correctly placed and that the caravan’s lights work correctly before setting off, even for short journeys. Check the straps, and be certain that they haven’t perished and that the clamps still work correctly. Otherwise you may lose one while driving, which is dangerous for you and other road users.
3. Clean, inspect and test your security kit, and take spare keys. Don’t forget to use it on site as well as in storage, or your insurance will be invalidated. Make sure none of the keys are damaged, or you may be unable to remove them and be stranded on site.
4. Check the torque settings of your wheel nuts, examine the tyres for damage and check the tyre pressures, and don’t forget the spare! If you have a tyre-pressure monitoring system, make sure it is working correctly and that the monitor battery and all of the sensor batteries are charged.
5. Spend an hour flushing out the fresh-water system and changing the water filter (if fitted) to keep bacteria at bay. What’s more, you can reduce your caravan’s weight by making sure that the water system, boiler and toilet have been fully drained before towing anywhere.
6. Test your smoke alarm, replace your fire extinguisher if its expiry date has passed and restock your first-aid kit. Make sure you know how to use them. It is prudent to carry a small tool kit with spare parts and that you know how to fit them.
7. Check the car’s oil and water levels before setting off, rather than waiting for warning lights to appear on the dashboard. Make sure that you have de-icer and antifreeze if the weather is frosty.
8. Run through a checklist for hitching up so you remember to attach the breakaway cable properly, keep the electric cable from dragging on the ground and ensure that all red parts on the hitchgear are in their correct positions. Then pull up the jockey wheel and secure it firmly.
9. Plan journeys carefully. Leave plenty of time to arrive at your destination, plan regular rest stops and follow the site’s approach instructions — do not rely on the sat-nav. This will avoid sticky turning situations, and reduce tension.
10. Clean your battery terminals and keep the battery charged over winter. When hooking up on site, plug the mains cable into the caravan before the hook-up point to prevent electric shocks. Make sure that you have read all the relevant manuals so you can make the best use of the heating, gas and electricity in your van.
11. Keep checking your speedometer and don’t break the speed limit. It’s 60mph on motorways and 50mph on single carriageway roads when towing. Going faster may be dangerous. Slow down when you’re going downhill or exposed to cross winds to reduce the chances of going into a snake.
12. Before hitching your van to your tow car, it’s a good idea to check the caravan’s noseweight, using a dedicated gauge or just a sturdy section of broom handle and a set of bathroom scales. Remember, though: heavy items should be positioned low down and over the axle, or go in the car.
Please share this story with your friends. Happy caravanning in 2014!