How to tow a caravan

With warmer weather and holiday season approaching, we’ve got tips on safe caravanning practices to protect all Queensland drivers.

Caravanning is a popular activity in our Sunshine State. While modern cars are well-equipped to tow a home away from home, there’s some things you should know before and during your trip that will keep you safe on your journey.

Before you leave

Loading your caravan correctly will help distribute the weight evenly, allowing better balance and safety when on the move. When your load is correctly distributed your towing combination will have greater stability, steering and safer braking. Try to place heavier items closer to the floor, over the axles or slightly forward of them if you can. Look where heavier items are installed. If the washing machine, bed or fridge are all on one side – try to fill up the other side and remember to only pack what you need. Lighter hauls reduce your fuel consumption.

To be safe and legal, you need to ensure that your caravan doesn’t exceed your vehicle’s maximum towing mass, the maximum tow ball load specifications, or the maximum rating of your towbar. We recommend visiting a weighbridge to check the caravan’s weight.

It’s worth investing in extension mirrors – they aren’t a specific legal requirement, but you are required to have adequate visibility to the front, sides and rear of the vehicle to safely operate the vehicle, and they will help you do that. Consider a load levelling device which can help return the tow vehicle’s attitude to as near level as possible once the trailer is connected. This will improve stability. However, the towbar must be suited to load distribution hitch use. They aren’t intended to compensate for excessive tow ball load.  Some vehicle makers mandate hitch use when towing above a specified weight while others specifically warn against their use with particular models as use can result in major structural damage to the vehicle. You will need to seek the manufacturer’s advice.  Your towing vehicle and caravan must be roadworthy and registered and it’s recommended to increase the towing vehicles tyre pressure to the upper level shown on your vehicle’s tyre placard. If your van hasn’t been used for a while, give it a though check over before setting off.

Hitting the road

When you’re on the road it can take a little while to get used to towing a caravan. Gentle acceleration and braking can keep you and other road users safe. Indicate early, avoid high speeds, keep to the left and allowing others to pass are all good driving techniques caravaners should employ. Remember, the extra length and height of the vehicle and van combination when manoeuvring or passing other vehicles. Be aware that there may also be speed restrictions when towing- either a limit imposed by the manufacturer or by law (these can vary by State).

Remember, it’s unlawful for passengers to ride in the caravan while it’s in motion so stick to the towing vehicle while driving, and the caravan at camp.

Setting up site

Connecting power to your caravan really makes it feel like home. Usually the cost of power is included in your camping fees and you’ll just need a 15 amp lead to connect it. Always connect power after you’ve unhitched the caravan so it’s secure. To safely set up camp try to work with someone who can guide you while reversing and who will help unhitch safety chains and stabilise the caravan. The assistant needs to stay visible to the driver at all times, and agree on what signals the assistant should use to communicate with the driver.  For safety, don’t get behind a reversing trailer.

Caravan components

To help you have a safe and enjoyable trip, consider getting the following:

For more information on towing and caravans, visit our Fact Sheets.