When we are looking for things to talk about in these articles we sit down and think ‘who is going to read them?’ One of the groups or readers we are aiming to reach is those new, or fairly new, to owning a caravan. That’s not to say that this article is of no use to anyone else because let’s face it, a little refresher is never a bad thing.
The next thing we do is spend some time thinking about things we know from experience that everyone who owns a van should be aware of, or things that people maybe would like to know. In this article we want to cover some basic rules for safely driving with your caravan.
It’s a bit of a cliché but, as many people say, there is really no substitute for experience. Unfortunately experience comes with practice and to get it you need to be out driving on the roads. So here are answers to some common questions we get asked here at Venture Caravans.
Q – Can I tow a caravan on my licence?
A – Very probably yes and the total Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) is the key to this. What you can legally (and safely) tow depends on when you passed your test. The following assumes you have a standard category B license
• For those who passed after 19th January 2013 you can usually drive a trailer of up to 750kg providing that the total weight of vehicle and trailer does not exceed 3.5 tonnes.
• If you passed your test before January 19th 2013 but after 1st January 1997 you can drive with a trailer of up to 750kg but your vehicle may be up to 3.5 tonnes so a total weight of 4250kg.
• If you have been driving since before January 1997 you may well have C1 + E entitlement and be able to tow a much larger trailer and possibly a minibus trailer combination.
These weights are based on what is known as the kerb weight or unladed weight of your vehicle. Basically this is the weight of your vehicle when empty.
Q – Where can I find my kerb weight?
A – Your manual will have the weight and it should also be on a plate (or sometimes a sticker) on your vehicle. The location may vary but commonly on a car it is on the body near one of the doors or under the bonnet.
Q – What should the balance of weight be?
A – The answer to this (where not covered by the MAM) is really about stability. It is important you do not allow your vehicles to become unstable and too much weight on the back could be very dangerous. Observe what is known as the 85 rule and you should be OK. The 85 rule means that the vehicle you are towing does not exceed 85% of the weight of the vehicle towing it.
Q – What about mirrors?
A – Our advice – get extended mirrors. Legally you need them if your caravan is wider than the narrowest part of your vehicle but for us this is hardly the point. It is simply common sense to not be driving blind through your mirrors.
Q – What are the speed limits?
A – Again common sense is the key here. Legally the speed limit on a major road like a dual carriageway or motorway is 60, it is 50 on rural roads and 30 in other areas unless the signs say otherwise. The maximum is not the suggested though. Please drive based on the conditions, your skill and the unexpected actions of others. You may well be legally allowed to drive through a built up area but do you really want to have to suddenly stop for a running child with a caravan on the back? Motorways are OK when the conditions are good but 60 is probably too fast if weather is not so good, or the wind is getting up.
One final thought on driving with a caravan. Please be honest with yourself about your own experience and skill. Confidence can be good but over confidence leads to accidents. Driving with a caravan requires far more concentration than regular driving. So, if you are new to towing play safe, have regular breaks, stay well within the weight and speed limits and take it easy. Arriving a little later than you expected is better than not arriving at all.
You can read more advice at the link below.
This blog was written by Dave Brown. Dave is a Director of his family business which began in 1971. He has a wealth of experience in this sector starting as a workshop apprentice straight from school in 1982. Married with two children, Dave has been an enthusiastic Rugby player since the age of 8, only retiring this year. He will now spend more time travelling in his VW Campervan and watching his favourite team, the Northampton Saints.