Towing, at some point in our lives we all have to do it. Whether that is moving house or helping a friend or family move something bulky, we all become mini-removalists at one point or another. Thankfully, most of the time this happens in the suburbs, so you’re familiar with the road rules and driving conditions.
But it’s a whole different story when it comes to highway and off-road towing. In this blog we cover several tips for safe off-road towing.
It goes without saying that the most important factor is watching your speed and keeping it down when you are towing a caravan or camper trailer that is particularly heavy.
Make sure you abide by the speed limits in the State you are driving in.
Vehicle and/or trailer manufacturers can also apply limits such as:
- Trailer maximum speed limit – if stated on the trailer’s compliance plate
- Towing vehicle’s towing speed limit – if stated by the vehicle manufacturer
- Trailer and towing vehicle tire speed rating – rating must be equal to or greater than the manufacturer’s specification
Apart from keeping to the road rules, slowing down also has other benefits such as avoiding windscreen damage, which can occur with rocks coming off the front and rear tires from passing vehicles.
Lower speed also means less stress on the tow-vehicle, drive train and suspension components. And by slowing down, you are ensuring you can react quickly but most importantly safely, before catastrophe strikes.
If you must pass, there are some things to consider:
- If you have a UHF radio you can attempt to contact the vehicle in front to organize a pass, most courteous people will slow down and let you overtake safely
- Ensure you have plenty of visibility, around 1 – 3 miles ahead, so you can plan accordingly
- Overtake on flat ground or downhill so gravity will assist you in keeping the trailer steady
- Turbulence from other vehicles, either passing, approaching traffic or overtaking can cause instability in the tow vehicle. If this occurs use your electric brakes manually to keep your caravan towing in a straight line
If it’s not safe to do so, or the conditions aren’t ideal to pass a vehicle travelling slower than yourself, the best thing you can do is to take in the sites or pull over for 10 minutes and have a soda.
Another important factor is tire choice and tire pressures. It is recommended to go for Light Truck tires as they are designed to carry loads evenly and are more stable on trailers when cornering.
Tire life expectancy is 5 years from the date of manufacture, after this it might pay to invest in a new set. Rubber ages, so even if not fully worn, they are getting to their use by date by this time.
Where tire pressure is concerned, this should be checked daily. One tip is to reduce the tire pressure by 16psi in off-road/dirt roads and if you are travelling long distances. It is also important to remember that you should adjust your tire pressure dependent on the weight of your load.
When tackling water crossings, prior to entering the water, make sure it is safe to do so. If the water is flowing swiftly or there are large pieces of debris, look for an alternative route.
Test the water current and depth by walking in and note where potential hazards like rocks and holes may be lurking. Once you have planned your route accordingly, brake firmly in a straight line and release the brakes just prior to entry, to raise the front of the vehicle to reduce the impact.
The key here is to maintain a steady speed, which will create a bow wave in front of your tow vehicle. This will help retain momentum and traction.
When cornering, ensure to wipe off speed before you reach the corner and then gently accelerate out. Aim the towing vehicle to the outside of each corner and use as much lane as possible – approach it as if you have a semi-trailer behind you.
So, the next time you hit the road, make sure to have these tips in mind and always be aware of the road conditions and other drivers around you.