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2020 SA Caravan & Camping Guide Download Here

Newcomers to caravanning are sometimes concerned with the prospect of manoeuvring a car and caravan combination. The problems that are sometimes encountered may be due to:

  1. an incompatible car and caravan combination,
  2. incorrect loading,
  3. lack of proper towing equipment,
  4. towing equipment not adjusted correctly.
  5. not familiar with the correct techniques

Once these points have been sorted out towing a caravan or camper trailer need not be any more difficult than driving a car by itself. There are several instances where a different technique may be beneficial. These are:

As automatic transmissions can use up engine power, smaller engines often perform better when coupled to a manual gearbox. One advantage of an automatic transmission is that the driver can keep two hands on the steering wheel. Manoeuvring, particularly reversing, is also much easier when the vehicle only has two pedals instead of three.


With a trailer in tow the acceleration rate of a vehicle is drastically reduced. If the tow vehicle has a manual transmission it is usually necessary to stay a little longer in each gear before changing up. With vehicles that have an automatic transmission it is a good idea to use the selector lever manually to control the gear changes particularly when going up hill.

Towing Vehicles


Because of the extra length and weight, fast speeds are not recommended. In some states the speed limits are lower when a caravan is in tow. Never drive too close behind other vehicles as it will take longer to stop than when the car is by itself. Leave at least a 60 metre space unless actually overtaking. This allows other traffic to pass your vehicle safely.

When approaching a hill and provided it is safe to do so, increase the vehicle speed slightly so as to make it easier to get up the hill. Always select a lower gear if the vehicle speed drops off noticeably. Once engine speed is lost it is difficult to pick up again. As a result the engine will struggle to pull the outfit up the hill.


Overtaking other vehicles, especially long trucks or other caravans, must be done with extreme caution. Not only is the acceleration considerably reduced but due to the extra length a greater distance has to be covered before it is possible to move back into the left hand lane. Remember to check the mirrors before pulling


By constantly monitoring the rear vision mirrors a faster travelling vehicle can be readily spotted. If road and traffic conditions permit, slow down and move as far to the left as possible.The greater the difference in speed of the two vehicles and the further they are apart while passing, the safer the situation becomes. When the other vehicle starts to pass apply some power to the towing vehicle. There is less chance of sway occurring if the caravan is being pulled rather than it pushing on to the car. In other words do not brake or allow the outfit to be on the over-run. When due to road conditions traffic builds up behind you periodically move off the road to allow other motorists to pass safely.


Always slow down and change to a lower gear before actually reaching the downhill section of the road. This is particularly important if the hill is a steep one. By adopting this procedure the need for heavy braking while going downhill is reduced. Excessive speeds or sudden braking while on a downhill stretch could create an unstable condition and result in uncontrollable caravan sway.

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