A Guide to Caravan Towing Accessories

Safe and effortless towing is all about following a few basic guidelines. The first is to ensure that the towing vehicle is rated for the weight. Most 4WD wagons and new utes are comfortable with trailers, boats, and caravans weighing up to 3500 kilos. SUVs turning all 4 wheels are good for half that (around 1800 kilos) and bigger sedans slightly less, at 1500 kilos. This is the braked towing weight, with independent braking in the towed vehicle.

source: caravanclub.co.uk

Next is connecting towed and towing vehicles with the right tow bar and hitch combination. Generally, you’ll be looking at a flat tongue towbar for lighter loads, and a horizontal hitch towbar for anything bigger. A 50mm receiver hitch with a separate ball mount allows the use of a tow ball. This is the most common setup, and good for most uses on the tarmac. Alternatively, the combination of rear step tow bars and articulating hitches is what you’ll often find on utes in off-road towing tasks.

Lastly, towing means that you abide by a few common-sense safety rules. Towing speeds are limited to 100 km/h in most states and drivers must remain a safe distance behind other traffic, generally 60 metres or more. This allows you to react accordingly to any changes in traffic and road conditions ahead since accelerating, braking, changing lanes, or turning will take considerably longer.

To ensure that you get to your destination safely, a few indispensable caravan towing accessories will make your journey free of unwanted drama and all the more pleasant. These include items like electronic brake controllers for controlled braking, a set of towing mirrors to safely negotiate tight spaces, and jockey wheels that help with manoeuvring the trailer during hitching or unhitching to and from the vehicle.

Electronic Brake Controllers

source: curtmfg.com

Electronic brake controllers are fitted to any trailer, boat, or caravan weighing over 750 kilos. These will have separate brakes from those in the towing vehicle. The purpose is to sync the braking in both towing and towed vehicles with the two sets of brakes activating or deactivating at the same time. This is to ensure safe towing and braking in all driving conditions.

Typical instances include when braking downhill, at higher speeds, and when slowing into turns to avoid trailer sway. Most variants also have manual override systems in the cabin for more control. There are two types of this caravan towing equipment available: proportional and time delay braked controllers.

The first applies the same brake force in both towing and towed vehicles, providing smooth braking and increased control. This cuts out the push-pull effect a heavy trailer can have since the brakes are applied at the exact same time and with the same intensity. To do this, proportionate brake controllers are supplied with accelerometers. The only downside is that there’s more consideration needed regarding where the sensors are mounted.

Time-delay controllers activate the trailer brakes at a predetermined intensity set by the driver, but with an inherent delay in braking between the two vehicles. This doesn’t provide for the smoothest towing experience and involves constant driver input. The upside though is that the voltage or braking intensity can be modified according to road conditions, such as when towing off-road or in wet weather.

Towing Mirrors

source: caravanclub.co.uk

Towing mirrors are caravan towing accessories that are a legal necessity when hauling trailers and caravans that are wider than the towing vehicle. While your stock car mirrors can give you a good sense of what lies around and behind the car, they won’t be good enough for much else. Safety is the primary concern here, as blind spots will make basic manoeuvres like backing up or merging extremely difficult, and there’s the risk of damage or even collisions with other vehicles.

Larger mirrors increase the field of vision to the back, so you know exactly what’s going on. Mirrors come in different designs and styles. Mirror-mounted varieties simply clamp or strap on to your existing mirrors, offer adjustment from the inside of the cabin, and are quick and easy to both install or remove when not needed. Most come in sleek designs that won’t pick up excess wind noise and remain stable at higher speeds with supporting arms.

Door-mounted mirrors are another popular example of caravan towing accessories. These are a bit bulkier as they fit onto the door via a system of ratchet straps, allowing for more stability. They are, however, a bit harder to get right, but offer better support at speed or high wind. But possibly the best solution is a towing mirror replacement. These by default are much larger than existing mirrors but still fit in the factory mounting.

They benefit towing by providing multiple positions, further out or closer to the doors, and can be completely folded when parking. The folding mechanism is either manual to keep costs down, while more expensive variants are power-operated. Since different designs cater to different vehicles, drivers also need to choose between convex mirrors for a wider field of vision out the back or a flat mirror design that provides a natural field of view.

Jockey Wheels

These serve the simple but important purpose of lifting or lowering the coupling head on the trailer off or on the tow ball. A jockey wheel is what also allows you to move the trailer, camper, campervan, or boat up to the towing vehicle, or position where it’s needed once disconnected. Every jockey wheel needs to be compatible with the towed vehicle in terms of weight capacity and lifting height, so manoeuvring or hitching up is simple and safe.

Standard swivel wheels operate with an easy pull on the release handle and the wheel rotates in a horizontal position when hitched up. Standard or fixed wheels are affixed to the trailer drawbar. Both have a winding handle that lowers or lifts the shaft and with it the trailer and accompanying vehicle to the desired height. Wheels also vary in size, ranging from 6 to 10 inches in diameter, and can be solid or pneumatic. Smaller solid wheels are preferred on tarmac or concrete, while bigger pneumatic tyres are easier to move on loose surfaces like sand.