Unless you are towing a very narrow caravan (think Lunar Ariva or the new Swift Compact) with something like the huge Dodge Ram pick-up truck, you will need towing mirrors. Even the Swift Compact is over 2 metres wide, so hardly that narrow. Or put another even simpler way, if the body of your tow vehicle is narrower than the caravan, you will need towing mirrors.
How do I come to that conclusion?
Well, legally in your tow car’s external mirrors you must be able to see along both sides of the caravan (and that means seeing the rear corners of it!) and 20 metres to the rear of the mirrors see outwards to at least 4 metres.
As well as having been caravanning for more years than I care to remember, I have been fortunate enough to be invited to be a judge for the annual Tow Car Awards event since day one (2007), and in those years must have towed with well over 500 (yes, 500) different vehicles. There is not one that I remember that when towing a caravan didn’t need towing mirrors for us to have adequate rear view. There’s been the odd car that the towing mirrors which we had simply wouldn’t fit (last year this included the Polestar), and personally it scared the living daylights out of me. And bear in mind that we were on the test tracks of MIRA where there’s not much traffic, and all drivers using the facility are mindful that vehicles are being tested, so do expect the unexpected to a point.
We were not on a busy motorway with vehicles pulling out to overtake us every few hundred metres. Being blunt, it infuriates me when I see irresponsible caravanners merrily going along without a care for their own or anyone else’s safety because they can’t be bothered to spend a few pounds on a decent set of towing mirrors. When all you can see in the car’s mirrors is the front of the caravan and a little bit to the extreme of the offside, there’s not a chance that you can see a car (or motorcycle!) that’s caught up with you and has just pulled out into the next lane and is almost level with the rear of your caravan (that you can’t see). Just at that moment, you need to pull into the next lane, so blindly, you put your indicator on (it’s pointless looking in the mirror!) and start moving out……….
Could you be accused of Dangerous Driving? Possibly. Driving Without Due Care and Attention? Without doubt. In a worst-case scenario, there’s been a serious injury (or worse!) in the ensuing collision. Even if there is no collision, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll be doing nothing to enhance the reputation of caravanning. And all for the sake of not buying a set of towing mirrors.
Over the years there have been many different designs for towing mirrors, including the way that they attach to the tow vehicle. I’ve had ones that have clamped to the front wheel arches and slotted into the bonnet shut line (when there were big gaps!), others that have had some form of contraption that hangs onto the door and is held in place by a big rubber strap attached to the bottom of the door, and also a number of different ones (sometimes the car manufacturer’s own version) that clamp around the door mirrors, attached by rubber straps.
However, my own preference for good towing mirrors are the offerings from one of the biggest names in the industry, Milenco.
My preferred products from them are either their Grand Aeros, or latterly the Grand Aero Platinum towing mirrors. The reason why I like these is because they provide an excellent field of view and are highly adjustable (especially in the form of the Platinum which are designed so that they can be used with ‘standard’ (2.3 metres) width or the wider (2.5 metres) 8’ wide caravans.
However, it does come down to personal preference – some friends of ours prefer mirrors which have the tear drop shaped heads for instance.
Both the Grand Aeros and Aeros gave the choice of having either convex or flat glass. Because the convex glass gives a wider field of view, you do have to be mindful that a vehicle might be closer behind you than you realise, so exercise caution. In the case of the new Platinum models, they only come with ‘Automotive Glass’ meaning that the image is the same as that in the vast majority of car mirrors.
It is worth bearing in mind that some modern BMWs have such thin plastic for the mirror housings that attaching the towing mirrors has cracked the cases.
Pros for the Milenco mirrors are: –
- Excellent quality and conform to all required safety standards
- Endlessly adjustable
- Fit almost all vehicles (different clamps are available for some vehicles where the standard ones don’t grip)
- Generally pretty vibration free (although that does much depend on the car’s mirror units)
- Give an excellent rear view
- Not too expensive given the quality
Cons of the Milenco mirrors are: –
- Might vibrate on weaker car mirrors
- Might not fit all tow cars
- Passenger side one can’t be adjusted from the driver’s seat
As I have explained, my preference for towing mirrors won’t suit all drivers or vehicles. There are lots available, including ones that have electric adjustment or ones that are specifically made for specific vehicles.
Whatever you do, please, please make sure that you equip your outfit with a good set of towing mirrors, it’s not ‘cool’ or clever not to, but in 99.9% of cases it is illegal.
Are you looking for more great driving tips and advice? Then be sure to head to our Back to Basics: Driving category, where we’re sharing more great advice.
You have your towing mirrors sorted – it’s now time to choose a sat-nav! Our guide to the best caravan sat-navs will help you pick out the best device for you.
If you liked this, why not read these:
- We talk you through how to reverse a caravan
- We explain how you can deal with a snaking caravan
- We take a look at caravan weights and measures
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