No matter how carefully you plan, there will come a time when you need to reverse with your caravan in tow. We’ve put together a few tips to ensure you tackle your reversing manoeuvres with confidence.
Things that go bump…
When you pop your towcar into reverse, the caravan initially resists attempts to move it before freeing off with a bump. This is normal. This is the caravan’s auto-reverse brake feature and is the caravan’s way of working out whether it is rolling away and needs to engage the brakes, or whether it is simply being reversed.
Small van = tough reverse
The principles for reversing large and small vans are essentially the same, but they do react differently. Twin-axle vans are easier to control when reversing. The extra set of tyres scrub as the caravan turns and this makes things happen more slowly and easier to correct the manoeuvre. Single-axle tourers can pivot on the wheels, turning tightly if need be, but you have to be quick to correct the direction of the outfit. And the shorter the distance between the car towball and the van’s axle, the quicker the unit responds to steering input and the harder it is to reverse accurately.
Before you start a straight-line reverse, make sure your car and caravan are in a straight line themselves. This may mean you need to drive forward a few metres. Start with your steering wheel straight and reverse slowly. As you travel backwards, watch the van in your towing mirrors. If it begins to get bigger in one mirror, move the steering wheel down towards that mirror. You’ll only have to move it a small amount – less than a quarter of a turn. Once the van starts moving back to its original position in the mirror, bring the steering wheel back up to straight. If you get to a point where the car and caravan have moved right off the line, just pull forward to straighten the unit and try again.
Reversing around a corner
Turning a corner onto your pitch is a little trickier. But position yourself correctly to start and it needn’t be impossible. First, drive past the pitch until the wheels of the caravan are just past the edge of the pitch. Then look over your shoulder to where you want to go, and turn the wheel a full rotation in the opposite direction. You will be turning the wheel in the opposite direction to the way you would turn if you were reversing solo.
Start to move back slowly. The van will begin to move around the corner quite quickly. You need to concentrate because if you let the van move too far around you could jack-knife. Before the van gets to a position that is straight on the pitch, turn the steering wheel in the other direction so the car ‘follows’ the van on to the pitch. The steering wheel should be in the same position it would be in if you were backing up solo. If the van moves too far, or doesn’t move far enough, just pull forward to straighten it up or go back to the start and try again.
Remember, you don’t need to get the van into the perfect position. You can always push it to straighten it up once you have unhitched.
SIX STEPS TO BETTER REVERSING
Get your van into position to start – perpendicular to the pitch with the wheels just past the edge of it
Look where you want to go, then turn the wheel a full rotation in the opposite direction
Start to move back slowly. As the van begins to turn bring the steering wheel back to straight
Turn the steering wheel the other way so that the car ‘follows’ the caravan back onto the pitch
If the caravan turns too far, pull forward to straighten up a bit or even start again
You don’t need to get the caravan perfectly straight. You can push it into its final position when it is unhitched
Top reversing advice
- The biggest mistake people make when reversing is over-steering. You only need to move the steering wheel a small amount, often less than a quarter of a turn.
- Remember, if you get the caravan into a tricky position, pulling forward and starting again is often easier than trying to rescue the situation.
- Don’t let the car get too close to the caravan on a tight turn. You could damage both of them. Restart the manourvre.
- Take it slowly. The slower the caravan moves, the more time you have to make an adjustment if it isn’t doing what you want it to do.