Can towing a caravan damage your car? (7+ tips for safe towing)

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can towing a caravan damage your car? We will also give you a few essential tips for safe towing and some precautions to take before hauling a trailer or caravan. 

Can towing a caravan damage your car?

Towing a caravan will not damage your car, as long as you respect the maximum allowed mass that a vehicle can tow. A load heavier than the limit imposed by the manufacturers will result in exceeding the towing capacity of the vehicle to pull and stop the load, and could result in altering the structure of the towing vehicle, the chassis or causing an accident.

Depending on what you are towing, some special equipment may be needed. Most of the time, they are integrated into the trailer or caravan when it is purchased:

  • Brakes: Trailers over 750 kg must have a parking brake and a road brake that brakes the trailer and stops in the event of a breakage of the hitch. 
  • Mirrors: If the trailer obscures visibility in the outside mirror or if it is wider than your vehicle, you must have a second mirror on the right;
  • Lighting: White lights on the front, orange on the sides and red on the rear are required.

Simple precautions when towing a caravan

Beyond regulatory obligations, consider taking a few simple precautions when towing a caravan or trailer.

  1. Secure the assembly well: Whether it is the roof box, the trailer or the caravan, be sure to follow all the safety instructions. If in doubt, contact customer service or the reseller of the relevant equipment.
  1. Respect the limits: An overloaded roof box, a trailer that carries more than it should, and you put yourself in danger. Not only you but also other road users. Be careful not to overload this equipment.
  1. Adapt your driving: Be careful, you do not drive the same way with or without a roof box or a trailer. The wind resistance is different, so does the time required to brake … A vehicle towing a trailer close to its weight takes twice as long to stop. You should anticipate and reduce your speed. Although no specific limitation exists below 3.5 tonnes.
  1. Consider insuring your caravan: With caravans that have above 750 kilos of GVWR, auto insurance is no longer enough. It is, therefore, necessary to take out specific insurance for the trailer or caravan.

In particular, you can look for additional guarantees such as:

  • accident damage,
  • theft and break-in (for objects inside the caravan),
  • natural disaster and acts of terrorism,
  • juridic protection.
  1. Balance lesson: To stabilize the entire hitch, make sure you have the best weight distribution and secure storage so that you do not run into unnecessary danger. The combined weight of your trailer and tow vehicle should never exceed the Combined Gross Weight Rating (GWRW) as defined by the tow vehicle manufacturer.

A load heavier than the limit imposed by the manufacturers will result in exceeding the towing capacity of the vehicle to pull and stop the load, and could result in the structure of the tow vehicle, chassis or cause an accident.

Weight distribution hitches (torsion bars) are preferred and can greatly assist you in good driving by distributing the weight to the tongue.

  1. For towing a caravan, some vehicles are more suitable than others, especially the larger models which provide maximum stability. Needs vary depending on the type of RV.

On the engine side, power isn’t everything. At equivalent power, choose the model which has the most torques. By virtue of its operating flexibility, an automatic gearbox will adapt perfectly to driving a towed vehicle and simplify starting.

  1. Braking, less is more. It is important to keep your distance and to anticipate so that you know how to stop in time. Excessive pressure on the brakes is strongly discouraged. When going down hills, such a manoeuvre leads to overheating them and thus losing their effectiveness.

Additionally, learn to use the electric brakes and adjust the controller that operates them. Remember that the slightest pressure on the brake pedal of your vehicle also puts pressure on the electric brakes of the trailer. Do not touch the brake pedal unless you intend to use them.

  1. Before leaving: Mastering towing involves adjusting the tires, lights and mirrors. Tire pressure is one of the keys to safety. Cold inflation pressure refers to the tire pressure before the trip. Check the tire pressure regularly (at least once a month), including the spare tire.

Underinflated tires will cause the tire sidewall to flex excessively and generate high heat, leading to early tire failure and possible loss of control.

Also, check all lighting to make sure the trailer vehicle and caravan lights are working properly. Brake lights, hazard lights and flashing lights should be synchronized with those of the trailer vehicle.

Towing a caravan for the first time

If you have never driven a vehicle with a trailer before, find a wide and clear area (a paved esplanade would be ideal) and, before going into the city or through complicated areas, practice. The manoeuvres are the most difficult point at the beginning, especially when it is time to reverse. Bear in mind that the trailer, when reversing, is heading away from the towing vehicle. 

Always start the reverse manoeuvre with the trailer and the vehicle aligned, never try to make a very large turn in one go, and do not hesitate to abort the manoeuvre and start over as many times as necessary.

A hitched vehicle reacts differently than a towed unloaded car. Don’t go for too daring overtaking. Drive smoothly and smoothly, both under acceleration and braking, and adjust your speed (depending on the power of your car, you won’t have a choice anyway). 

Stay progressive in all your manoeuvres and avoid knocks with the steering wheel to ensure the best possible stability for the towed vehicle.

Weather and road conditions will require speed adjustments. Plan for slopes, street edges, road depressions; slow down well in advance. These conditions can cause severe shock to your vehicle, hitch, and RV and items stored inside the unit.

Conclusions

When towing a caravan, keep your eyes on the road and don’t get distracted. You should also have your other senses active, such as hearing, so leave the headphones at home. Loud music, radio shows, or podcasts can keep you from hearing another car’s horn or a pedestrian asking you to stop. 

Be careful on the road, and please let us know if you have any questions or comments on the content. 

FAQ on Can towing a caravan damage your car?

What caravan Weight Can I tow?

You can legally tow a caravan weight of 3500 kgs or 3.5 tonnes. Each car make and model have a specific towing limit for both braked and unbraked trailers.  

Can you increase a vehicle’s towing capacity?

You can’t increase a vehicle’s towing capacity as they are engineered with a specific capability. Some cars weren’t designed for towing at all!

How do you tell if you are towing too much?

You know that you are towing too much if you are over the GCWR and if your vehicle is leaning, or there is lots of bounce when you hit bumps along the road.

Can I tow a caravan heavier than my car?

You can tow a caravan heavier than your car without legal consequences, as long as you respect the maximum allowable weight. Thus, 3500Kg (approximately 7716 lbs) would limit the entire train of car + trailer. 

References

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