Before you set off: the ultimate touring caravan safety check
Of course, you’re itching to get on the road, especially if caravanning is still new and exciting for you. But, before you get going, there are some vital safety checks which have to be undertaken.
Check your towbar is well-fitted and properly maintained – this is the principal connection between your car and the caravan. Inspect the tow bracket, looking for rust or cracks, and ensure the bolts are properly secured.
Be especially careful if you have a detachable towbar. If you are feeling in any way uncertain, have your towbar checked by a specialist professional.
You have no other contact with the road other than through your car and caravan tyres, so take care of them.
Make sure you have a spare at all times, and that the wheel nuts on your caravan are tightened to the right torque – if they are overtightened, this can be just as potentially dangerous as having nuts which are too loose.
Again, have them checked professionally if you are in any doubt. They are far too important to take any chances with.
Check all caravan road lighting functions are properly working.
The suspension of both the caravan and the car that will be towing it need to be checked. Make sure that when you’ve attached your unit to your car, it will tow either level or with its nose pointing slightly downwards.
Make sure these have been adjusted properly – and remember to remove extension mirrors when you are not towing.
This is the weight of the items you can legally carry in your caravan, both for personal use and including essentials like the battery and gas cylinder. Your handbook will have the figure.
You can check your caravan’s loaded weight on a public weighbridge, or use another weighing device. Or weigh items individually. But don’t exceed the MTPLM, or maximum technically permissible loaded mass.
Don’t overload or you could cause huge problems. And ensure your payload is evenly distributed across both sides of the unit. Take into account cupboards, whose weight distribution may be uneven.
Keep heavier items as close to the axle as possible for the most stability.
The caravan coupling head must be completely engaged on the car towball. Often, there’s a coloured indicator on the head, showing when engagement has been completed.
Electrics and gas
Isolate the mains electric, check taps on gas cylinders are closed, set the fridge to 12V mode and engage the travel catch. Disconnect TV and mains cables and stow them away safely.
Windows and roof lights
Make sure these have been closed and locked.
Fresh water system
Drain the system, disconnect it and stow the pump. Empty and drain the toilet flush tank if necessary.
In summary, make sure you have checked the following before you set off:
• Safely secure all internal and external loads
• Close all windows and roof vents
• Turn off all gas cylinder valves
• Noseweight (the maximum load your caravan can have on your car's towball) should ideally be between 5% and 7% of the caravan’s actual loaded weight.
• Raise and secure the steadies and jockey wheel
• Breakaway and secondary cables should be correctly attached
Finally, there are the common sense things like ensuring everything inside the caravan is secured so it can’t slide around, and lowering the TV aerial or taking off the satellite dish if one is fitted.
The list may seem a long one. But allow enough time to hit the road safely, and get your break off to the best possible start.