1. Buying the van
- Be aware of your ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) – the total laden weight of the caravan including payload. If exceeded insurance and warranty may be void.
- The dealer should advise the type of towing equipment & tow bar suitable for your van.
- Understand Ball Weight – the impact of the weight of the van on the towing vehicle. Usually Australian design vans have between 10% and 15% of total van weight on the tow ball with a gross trailer mass allowance of 300kg on a single axle and 400kg for a tandem model.
- What maximum weight can your vehicle tow? Check your vehicle plate.
- What is your vans recommended tyre pressure? On average about 15kpa above normal.
2. Understanding driving alterations when towing your van
- Acceleration is slower.
- Braking is slower and increases stopping distance. However, most new vans are fitted with electronic brakes requiring the tow vehicle to have a brake controller fitted.
- When travelling downhill a lower gear must be used. This gives better control and reduces the load on your brakes.
- Accelerator, brake and steering must be smoother to avoid sway or “snaking” causing loss of control.
3. Safety on the road – for you and others
- The increased braking distance means that an increased distance between yourself and any other vehicle is essential for safety.
- Allow for increased time and distance required when overtaking due to larger overall rig length.
- Allow for a wider berth when turning due to increase in overall vehicle length.
- Parking is seen as the most difficult exercise but practice makes perfect. Try using a guide to avoid accidents.
- Be aware of height restrictions, especially if your van is higher than your vehicle.
- Remember that driving tired can kill. Take regular breaks to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.
4. Weather conditions
- High winds may mean loss of control. Serious accidents can occur if your van is top heavy.
- Wet Roads.
- Drivers must heed any “Dangerous Crosswinds” signs. Gusts may affect the stability of the caravan.
5. Packing your van correctly
- Pack heavy items at floor level with particular weighty items over the axle.
- Place light items in elevated cupboards to avoid being top heavy.
- Ensure all items are secured so nothing becomes loose and moves around the van whilst in motion.
6. Helpful accessories
- Extended mirrors are needed to see behind the van.
- Brake controller – activates the vans brakes simultaneously with the brakes of the towing vehicle.
- Necessary tools required to fit parts on your van and any spares you have.
- A fire extinguisher is essential.
7. Special requirements for different vans
- Van is wider than 2.1m: Side lights are required for night driving.
- Van weighs over 2 tons ATM: A breakaway system is required.
- Automatic vehicles should use manual control in a low gear when climbing / descending steep slopes.
- Up to 2.5 tons Gross Vehicle Mass: One safety chain is required.
- Between 2.5 to 4.5 tons Gross Vehicle Mass: Two safety chains are required.
8. General checklist before the trip
- Wheel Bearings – Grasp the tyres & rock firmly. Is there excessive movement?
- Load Mass & Weight – Does the suspension look right, properly distributed & balanced? Is it below the weight limit?
- Brakes & Brake Fluid – Do they function correctly? Are your brake fluid levels correct?
- Handbrake – Has the handbrake on the caravan / trailer been correctly released?
- Tyre Inflation – Are your tyres correctly inflated to suit your van?
- Caravan / Trailer Coupling – Are trailer coupling and safety chain/s securely fastened?
- Crossed Safety Chains – If 2 safety chains are fitted cross them to prevent the draw bar from contacting the road if the trailer becomes disconnected.
- Awnings – Is the roll-out awning stored away and locked in position?
- Jockey Wheel – Remove jockey wheel from clamp and store in boot or lock in travelling position.
- Stabilisers – Are the front & rear stabilisers in up position? Stow the winder in a safe place.
- Pop-tops / Camper Trailers – Ensure that all pop-top & camper trailer roof clips are in place.
- Gas Cylinders – Check gas levels & that all cylinders are turned off.
NO ONE IS PERMITTED TO RIDE INSIDE THE VAN.