You’ve packed the car. The caravan is all hooked up and you’re ready to go. You jump in your car and start heading off down the road. As you get up to speed you hear a noise and the car behind you starts tooting it’s horn and flashing it’s lights. You quickly pull over and jump out wondering what on earth is wrong.
You look back down the road and see that there is some debris laying on the roadway. With a feeling of dread you realise that it is off your caravan. You walk around the side and see that one of your windows has come away from the side of the van. You say angrily to your wife, “Didn’t you check that all the windows were closed?” She says, “No, I thought you did.”
WHAT TO CHECK BEFORE TOWING A CARAVAN
If the above were to happen it would be a terrible feeling. But if you know what to check before towing a caravan, this type of scenario could be largely avoided. Having a checklist that you routinely go through before towing your van, is a great way to ensure that nothing is forgotten.
As soon as you have your van hooked up to your tow vehicle take the time to do a final walk around. This is something you need to do every time you are ready to hit the road. It needs to be the same procedure every time you move. The only time it will vary is if you find something else you think you should add. It is a habit you need to perfect, fine tune and rely on. This final check could save you time, money, possible injury or maybe just an inconvenience. As the years go by people become complacent about the things they regularly do. That is when things can get damaged or people get hurt.
DAMAGE CAN BE PREVENTED
With over 30 years on the road in heavy vehicles I have seen things that should not have happened. I have seen roof hatches flapping in the turbulence created above the van. There have been front window covers on vans not latched down, ripped open and destroyed by passing trucks. Side windows open and flapping in the breeze. Safety chains dragging on the bitumen surface. All of these things should have been noticed and corrected on the final walk around. Damage to your van and pocket that is preventable.
Before you even think about locking the door, you need to check everything inside is ready to travel. Melissa routinely performs the inside checks. Starting at the opposite end to the door, which in our van is the bed end, these are the checks you need to perform.
- Doors and cupboards closed and latched – give them a tug to check
- Table in travelling position
- Hatches are closed and secure
- Windows closed and latched
- Blinds and screens are secured in the open position
- TV secure
- TV antenna is wound down
- Stove lid is closed
- Fridge doors latched
- Fridge switched from gas to electricity, if your fridge isn’t automatic
- En-suite door is latched in open position
- Shower screen door is latched closed
- Shower head is secure or resting on ground – we lay it on a folded towel
- Slider between the toilet pan and cassette is in the closed position
- Check for loose items on benches etc.
- Water pump is turned off
- Any non-essential electrics are turned off
This list is by no means exhaustive. Your list may vary a little, or maybe a lot. When you are happy it’s time to lock the door. Don’t feel silly if you double check or even triple check everything. It’s better to do this and feel confident that you’ve missed nothing. The inside is ready to go.
OUTSIDE CHECKS AROUND THE VAN
Now it’s time to start your outside checks. As you are performing your checks, make sure you are looking over the entirety of your van. You are checking for the following:-
- Power leads and hoses away
- Stabilizer legs raised and secure
- All hatches are closed and latched
- Windows are closed and secured
- TV Antenna down
- Door locked
- Step is in travel position and secure
- Gas cylinders off
- Toolboxes and Generator box locked
- Drop down picnic table is secure
- All other external hatches are closed
- All lights checked and functioning correctly
This will vary for your van as well.
Don’t forget to take a walk around your tow vehicle as well.
- Tyres are inflated
- Lights are working
- Indicators are working
- Any items on roof rack are secured firmly
- Canopy windows are closed and locked
Don’t forget to check things on your tow vehicle like lights and items on the roof are secure.
This is the most important check. No matter what style of coupling you have, if it is not secure, bad things can happen fast. You are checking the same things as you checked the last time.
- Is the coupling secure to the vehicle
- Safety chains secure, crossed and short enough to eliminate them dragging on the road, long enough to enable complete articulation from the hitch
- Trailer lights plugged in and checked that all lights work
- Trailer park brake is released
- Anderson lead plugged in
- Trailer breakaway attached
- Jockey wheel raised, secured or stored
Modify this to your needs but ensure it is followed religiously every time.
ONE LAST CHECK BEFORE YOU PULL AWAY
Jobs done, let’s go. Before you drive away, activate the caravans electric brakes from the controller. Try to move the van. Hopefully the brakes are on and you can’t move the van. It is far better to find the brakes are not working properly now, than when you are relying on them in an emergency.
30 MINUTE CHECK
A good habit to get into as well is just a quick walk around your van with your ears and eyes open each time you stop. You may find something that is not right before it causes an issue.
This may all seem a bit long winded now but you will simplify the process and speed it up. Your partner could do the inside while you do the outside, or vice versa. These procedures modified to suit you, will save you time and money during your travels.
To get you started, we have created a CHECKLIST which you can download, print or keep on your phone so as you have it to refer to.