Towing a large boat or caravan can be a harrowing experience, particularly for the inexperienced. Some common-sense tips can make all the difference.
You’ve hitched up your caravan or boat. The trip has been carefully planned. And you're certain that the tow vehicle is capable of legally towing the trailer and that it’s properly hitched. That’s a great start, but towing a large object at highway speeds or in city centres isn’t for the faint of heart. The truth is, it can be a stressful experience even for people with years of experience.
Some tips, however, can go a long way towards making the trip easier on you and safer for other road users.
A good set of extension mirrors are essential. In fact, unless yours is a particularly narrow trailer, they are essentially mandatory as the law requires the driver to have a wide, clear view along both sides of the trailer.
I’ve used the same set of Milenco Grand Aero mirrors for many years. They’re easy to fit and, thanks to their aerodynamic shape, they don’t blow inwards when a road train passes.
And no, a rearview camera on a caravan is not a substitute for a set of tow mirrors.
When negotiating tight corners, the caravan or boat will take a shorter path than the tow vehicle. If the driver does not account for this by taking the corner more widely than when unhitched, the van or boat could mount the gutter or, worse, swipe a street sign or other object.
If the combined length of the tow vehicle and van/boat is 7.5m or greater, a ‘Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle’ sticker can be displayed, which will allow you to legally occupy part of another lane when making a turn.
There are numerous reasons why a driver might feel uncomfortable towing a large trailer at highway speeds, though lacking confidence in the stability of the rig is a separate issue that should be addressed.
In gusty conditions, my personal rig doesn’t like travelling over 90km/h, so I’ll stick to the left lane and try to keep my speed constant, depending on traffic conditions, as this will give other motorists the ability to judge the timing of their overtaking manoeuvre without incident. In different road conditions, such as a winding, single-lane mountain road, I’ll pull over where possible to allow the following traffic to overtake – a friendly wave is usually my reward.
Naturally, there’s a lot more to towing a large trailer; however, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. Do your research and have a go, preferably with an experienced tower in the passenger seat, and always approach it with caution and common sense. This is the only way you’ll gain experience and confidence at the helm of a large touring setup.
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