Why Caravans Crash

We talked to Mike Clayton from Clayton’s Towing. Started 45 years ago on the Sunshine Coast, Clayton’s now has 15 depots and 100 staff.

Have a listen to this podcast if you’ve ever towed a caravan. There are a lot of factors that you need to consider when planning your trip and those factors can change between the start of your trip to the end so knowing how to drive with a caravan is really important.  Please share with anyone who tows a caravan.

Mike drives a FJ Cruiser, goes offroad and tows a caravan – on top of that, he and his crew have seen a lot of caravan crashes. They are often one of the first people drivers talk to after having a crash while towing a caravan so he is in a unique place to talk about some of the reasons why caravans crash.

Claytons Towing has seen a lot of unusual crashes including a boat recovery off the beach, the sinkhole and aircraft crashes.  We will talk about how they have worked to use a winch for a boat of the beach and the technical difficulties they’ve faced with it.

Caravan crashes create a lot of mayhem on the roads and tend to get more publicity.

We will discuss towball weight, the weight of vehicles, electric breaking and caravan wobbles.

Towball weight can either be too light or too heavy and the weight on the towball can change during a trip, so a good understanding of what towball weight is and how it effects the towing performance is essential!

Vehicle weight – just because a car or ute is rated to 2.5 ton, doesn’t mean that you should tow that amount!  Some vehicles, especially utes can be quite light when towing a large caravan.

Electric brakes also need to be adjusted for different driving. Highway driving needs more brakes than city driving.

A lot of people think that when the caravan starts to wobble you should speed up, but Mike has seen many people who have sped up and it has only made things worse.  You might be better off using the caravan brakes to straighten out the caravan and pull it straight, rather than speeding up.

Be cautious on windy roads, especially when going downhill.

Mike isn’t an engineer but his wisdom is based on years of experience in dealing with caravan crashes.

Please share this podcast with anyone who tows a caravan so that we can help more people get to their holiday and return safe and sound.

Article from 4X4 Earth

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Comments 10

  1. I think that the main problem is that caravan buyers and sellers have been convinced by nitwits/unscrupulous types in the industry that your relatively lightweight vehicle that has a tow capacity of 3500 kgs can safely tow a van of the same weight. This is a terrible situation, one that the authorities should never have allowed to happen. It’s totally wrong, a much better guideline needs to be put in place. My old grandfather always said that you should never tow anything that weighed more than two/thirds of the tow capacity of the tow vehicle.
    That means that a 200 series Landcruiser should not tow more than 2333 kgs which is exactly what we have with our set up. This did not happen by accident, and as a result we have towed our van all over Australia effortlessly and safely. Our rig does not rely on bandaid fixes like load levelling bars or electronic systems to mask underlying stability problems. I can’t imagine these electronic things lasting long on roads like the Tanami track and many others that we take in our stride all because of sensible weight limits.
    I have encouraged my friends to adopt the 2/3 rule and I can say confidently that it works very well.
    Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

    1. Post
  2. Every one should listen carefully & take Note on how to avoid an unforeseen accidents
    especially With the electric brakes & weight distribution hitch’s. No1 cause

    the over ride button ( or apply brakes ) on the controller is your friend for for curing wobbels
    while towing & down hill & while accidentaly gaining speed
    Saved my bacon glad i knew about it as it was very scary!.

  3. My wife and I have been caravan owners for 36 years. We learned very early on that the safest setup is the tow vehicle having more weight than the van. Because in the reverse case you can actually feel the rear of your vehicle twitching even with sway bars. Then make sure that the van is level especially with tandem axles because you need every wheel carrying similar weight for maximum effective braking. Then towball weight. Towball weight scales are very cheap and should be used regularly and frequently. Before each trip and during the trip. Rule of thumb 10% of overall loaded van weight on the drawbar. And anti sway equipment is mandatory. We found out the value of a safe setup going down Clive Mountain on the divide back in the 80’s when towing our 22ft Viscount Supreme with our MQ Nissan Patrol. The electric brake unit failed (packed up) near the top but because we had a vehicle heavier than the van we were able to use the vehicle gears to hold the whole rig back. And managed to stop half way down to let the vehicle brakes and gearbox cool down. Incidentally both my wife and I have thought for the past 10 years that there should be driver training and a licence category to tow any braked trailer weighing over say 1000kg. And caravan sellers should have to be accountable so that tow capacity and GCM limits for the tow vehicle are not being exceeded at time of sale. Obviously after the sale the accountability then falls on the caravanner but this should be policed more stringently than is currently is.

    1. Hi Adrian,
      the 2/3 rule is 2 thirds of the tow vehicles weight. Say yours weighs 2200kg, therefore you can legally tow 1466.66kg .

    2. Hi Adrian the caravans weight should be not greater than the tow vehicle = tow weight of vehicle is 3.5 tonnes caravans weight should be no greater than 2.5 tonnes

  4. We also should take in account that the caravan manufacturer should be weighing there product with all of the water tanks full of water not empty. Once you put the engels in .
    All of your food your clothes just to name a few an all they give you is 500kg if your lucky .

    1. Hi Keith,
      agreed, I have purchased new van with ATM 3250kg, so when you deduct towbar, 33kg, front bar, 24kg, long range fuel tank (full), 196kg, towball mass, 212kg (which was spot on with our gauge), 2 passengers, camp table, 2 chairs, baby Q, we have just 108kgs spare. The manufacturer weighs the van in house (cert supplied) before shipping! We removed the washing machine on getting home!! (19kg)

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