Congratulations on purchasing your dream van on caravansforsale.co.uk! You’ve already checked and rechecked that your car and tow bar are up to the job and read the manual from cover to cover, but did you know there's some things only physical practice will teach?
There's nothing worse than getting behind the wheel and feeling like a beginner all over again - so let's take a look at the additional skills of anticipation, vigilance, increased gear use and manoeuvring you will soon need to drive along with your new holiday home.
Take time before your planned venture, to identify an out-of-town light industrial or office area in the local area that is likely deserted from midday on a Sunday.
This will become your personal free practice area where you can learn and perfect these skills for hours unseen, without pressure, which can easily cloud judgement when surrounded by angry drivers or family members offering their kind but unknowing advice.
Once your caravan is connected to your car, take time to set your towing mirrors up - ideally while your car and caravan are completely straight so that you can see flat along both sides of the caravan with the maximum possible view out from the sides, but low enough to include wheel arches and the road at this point.
Firstly, simply practice moving forwards and backwards to the kerb, lining the caravan up with the kerb until you have a feel for what this new width involves and what will for now be “next to the kerb”.
When making any movement, a key lesson is to turn away slowly, moving forwards while watching in your mirror to ensure the rear of the caravan is clearing any obstruction.
When you are confident enough, make your way to your chosen practice area. Watch out for mini roundabouts and the need to swing widely enough so you don’t trundle right over the top with your van. Likewise tight left turns will require you to swing out wide into the centre of the lane of the road you are leaving and enter, watching the nearside mirror to adjust according to how the caravan wheel navigates the same corner.
The following maneuvers should be regarded as essential towing learning, with many drivers finding themselves needing to reverse into minor roads after taking the odd wrong turn.
Find a long straight or slightly curved length of road and repeatedly reverse parallel to it, several hundred yards backwards.
While doing this, remember while driving forwards you only need to make very small correcting movements, therefore it should be no surprise you will find the same true when driving backwards. If your caravan starts to kink towards the car too sharply, simply pull forward to straighten up and carry on again backwards - oversteering is the most difficult temptation to lay to rest when starting out.
The secret to steering in reverse without overthinking is to hold the steering wheel with your hands in the “10 to 2” position. If you notice while reversing the right rear side is starting to project in the right hand mirror then by moving your left hand towards the 12 o’ clock position you will see it start to even up again.
Likewise if you are aware of the left rear side becoming prominent then move your right hand anti-clockwise towards the 12 o’ clock position. In each case the larger side is reduced by gradually steering towards the growing side of the van in your mirror.
If you find yourself in a situation where your caravan is too unsuitable for the road, it can be inconvenient and time-consuming to unhitch, manually turning your caravan around. Imagine how much easier it would be to have a passenger jump out to alert the traffic behind your intentions to perform a U-turn using a convenient T Junction.
Start well out from the kerb and avoid the temptation to use huge amount of turn at the start, try to describe a gentle arc using as much of the width of the major road as you safely can.
Another useful feature of out-of-hours industrial parks is the number of parking spaces where you can practice parking your caravan. Moving from one to another backwards as your confidence grows.
You can avoid wear on the friction pads of your AL-Ko ATC anti-snaking fittings by lifting the control lever while reversing sharply into parking spaces.
When you finally do get out on the public highway with your caravan, here are some things to remember whilst on the road:
We hope you have found this guide helpful and informative. A massive thanks to Robert Didymus for all of the insightful information provided for this blog post. Robert, an articulated lorry and coach driver, has written this post “for the help of many who will find setting out with a caravan a terrifying experience”, we hope caravansforsale.co.uk and Robert have provided you with a great guide to first-time towing.
If so, please share it with your friends who might be in need of a towing education! What other tips do you have for first-time caravan owners? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page!