Towing a Caravan for the First Time
Towing a caravan can be daunting – especially if you’ve never done so before. Here’s some caravan-towing advice to help you hit the road with confidence.
Caravan Speed Limits
Legally, you can drive up to the signposted speed limit with a caravan in all Australian states and territories except for Western Australia and sometimes NSW.
- The speed limit for towing a caravan in Western Australia is 100km/h.
- The caravan speed limit in NSW is the same as the signposted speed limit if the combined weight of your car and caravan is under 4.5 tonnes. If the combined weight is over this limit, you must not drive faster than 100km/h (i.e. same as WA).
However, just because you can drive up to the speed limit doesn’t necessarily mean you should, particularly if you’re inexperienced or not so confident with towing a caravan. Keep to a speed where you feel comfortable and in control of your vehicle.
Some manufacturers specify a safe speed limit for towing your caravan, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual before blitzing down the highway.
Taking a road less travelled by can reveal some fantastic locations. But there’s a reason it’s less travelled by – going off-road is tricky. If you’re planning to take your caravan on some rough surfaces, you may like to undergo some formal towing and 4WD training with a course provider such as Getabout first.
When it comes to driving through hazardous terrain (e.g. boggy ground, unpaved tracks, streams, dirt), make sure you have recovery equipment on hand and you know how to reverse your caravan if you hit a dead end.
If you come across 4WD-friendly beaches, prepare your vehicle for driving on sand by:
- Lowering your tyre pressure so your caravan can ‘float’ across the sand (don’t forget to reinflate when you leave the beach)
- Keeping your speed low but consistent to maintain momentum
- Equipping an electric brake system so you have more control over your caravan.
Towing a caravan in high winds can be a frightening experience and is strongly discouraged. When you’re planning a trip, it’s essential to check the weather forecast. If extreme winds are predicted, postpone your journey and keep your caravan parked in a protected place.
If the wind picks up while you’re driving and starts to sway your caravan, pull over into a rest area or safe spot as soon as possible.
When wind comes with rain – even a light sprinkle – keep in mind the road will likely become slippery. Reduce your speed accordingly and lightly brake while driving through wet stretches of road.
Steep inclines can be difficult to navigate with a caravan in tow. Consider these top tips:
- Driving down a steep hill: Shift to a lower gear rather than relying on your brakes (especially if there is signage in the area such as “trucks must use low gear”). Also, adjust your electric brake system so that the caravan will brake before your towing vehicle does – otherwise your vehicle’s brakes could overheat.
- Driving up a steep hill: Lowering your tyre pressure and dropping to a lower gear can help your car and caravan make it up steep off-road hills. Get out of your vehicle to find the most suitable route up the hill before you attempt the climb. And remember: don’t drive it if you can’t walk it!
Checklist: Essential Items When Towing a Caravan for the First Time
- Brake system
- Caravan-towing mirror and/or mirror accessories
- Reversing camera
- Towing accessories kit
- Trailer plugs and sockets
Towing a caravan for the first time will be a bit stressful, but it does get easier as you become more experienced. Follow these tips to stay safe on the road (and off-road) and enjoy your caravanning adventures.