On the road with your caravan? Caravan trips can be the ultimate family adventure, but it’s very important to make sure your vehicle is safe to drive and tow, your belongings are secured and you’ve packed everything you need to make your adventure comfortable! Use our pre-travel checklist below as a guideline:
Travel checklist for caravans and cars:
First of all: is your vehicle roadworthy? Make sure your services are up to date so you can rest assured that the vehicle has had a good service. If your vehicle has not been serviced recently, it is worth having it serviced before a big trip. The last thing you want is for your car to break down in the middle of nowhere!
2. Vehicle Tax
How much weight can your car tow? Make sure you know your tow limits and check if your vehicle can tow what you need. There are penalties in every state if you drag over the limit — not to mention it can be extremely dangerous.
The payload is partly occupied by the weight of the trailer hitch. All vehicles have a maximum tow ball mass, which limits how much weight can be applied directly to the tow ball. For some vehicles, this limit is on a sliding scale, meaning the more cargo you have in the towing vehicle, the less you can have on the ball.
Use tow ball scales to check the weight on your tow ball. You simply lower the caravan coupling onto the towbar scales.
Pro Tip: A general rule of thumb is to rest at least 10% of the total weight of your caravan or trailer on your car’s tow bar for safe handling.
Make sure to keep your tow weight below the limit, especially since you will likely be accumulating extra items, meaning more weight, as you travel.
Pro Tip: Weigh your caravan on a public weighbridge for the most accurate results.
It is important to get the correct tire pressure as properly inflated tires will give you the best safety and fuel economy for your towing vehicle. When towing, check the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. As a general rule, all tires (including your spare tire) should be inflated to approximately 15 kPa above normal tire pressure.
Then check the tires of the caravan/trailer. Consult the manual for the correct pressure or contact your local caravan repair center.
Depending on where you’re traveling to, you may need to adjust the pressure along the way. Buy an air compressor and/or a tire repair kit to keep your tires at the correct pressure.
5. Wheel bearings
Don’t forget to add this important step to your caravan checklist. Wheel bearings are something people don’t think about until it’s too late. To check the wheel bearings, jack up your caravan one at a time. Grab the outside of a tire and give it a wiggle at the top, bottom, and both sides. If you feel movement, it’s time to get the bearings checked, so book the caravan in for a service.
Do your brakes work smoothly? Do you have an electric brake controller? Hook up your caravan and run some highly controlled, low speed brake tests to make sure your caravan’s brakes are working properly. Trust us – you don’t want to drive down the highway at full throttle until you realize your brakes need tuning.
Be aware that braking may be slower when towing. But the right electric brake controller can help you stop safely.
By law any caravan towed in Australia above 750kg GTM must be fitted with brakes and if they weigh over 2,000kg these brakes must be electric. If you have an electric brake, you must have an electric brake controller.
Wherever you travel, it is essential that you have fully functioning lights on your tow vehicle and caravan. Check your brakes, turn signals, parking lights and high beams.
Do you have the right lighting for 4WD tracks, if that’s where you’re going? View the wide range of LED lamps from Bushranger 4×4 or Great Whites.
Then think of all the other lights too – check your awning, handle, doorway, cabinets, refrigerator, bathroom and more. Check EVERY light!
Pro Tip: Always carry spare bulbs, especially for brakes and turn signals.
8. Caravan/Trailer Coupling
Are the coupling and safety chains securely fastened? The coupling is the connection point between the caravan and the towing vehicle, so it is important that they are completely secure. If you need extra security, you can purchase a new clutch to suit your journey, such as an electric clutch, a heavy-duty clutch, or an extreme off-road clutch.
Pro Tip: If you have two safety chains fitted, make sure they intersect to prevent your drawbar from making contact with the road if your van is disconnected.
9. Chain Fixing Cuffs
Shackles are a backup link to the tow bar and connect your trailer’s safety chains to the tow vehicle. Therefore, just like the clutch, you need to be confident that your closures are reliable. If using D shackles, make sure they are strong enough to support the weight of the ball.
Pro Tip: Always buy highly-rated buoys.
Check your car battery. Are your headlights dimmed or are you having trouble starting the car? Maybe it’s time for a new battery. If you have your vehicle serviced, the mechanic will take care of it for you.
If you have a backup or camping battery, always fully charge it a few days before heading out to make sure it holds its charge
11. Secure your cargo
Make sure the load is evenly distributed in your caravan and limit the amount of load in the front box as much as possible. Make sure all cabinets and appliances are secured. Use special straps to secure heavier items such as jerry cans.
Pro tip: The more you store in the closets, the less you have to worry about things sliding around.
12. Drag mirrors
Don’t skimp on your tow mirrors – cheap tow mirrors just won’t last for long trips. Choose high-quality towbar mirrors from a reputable brand, such as Milenco, Camec or Dometic. Then take the time to properly secure your mirrors. Just follow the instructions on your chosen model.
13. Caravan windows and shutters
Before you set out, set up your awning and check it carefully. Do all straps and fittings work? Are there cracks or damage? Depending on the brand, you can purchase replacement parts from Caravan RV Camping or from your manufacturer. Alternatively, a brand new awning could be a good investment – just think about all the time you spend outside!
Pro tip: An anti-flap kit will help protect your awning from damage in high winds.
15. Electrical connection
Need an electric trailer jack? If you want a caravan jack to disconnect your caravan from your towing vehicle, then look into an electric jack. This means you don’t have to break a sweat pumping a jack to lift the van off the tow bar.
16. Nose Wheel
Don’t underestimate how much you will use your nose wheel. If you don’t have a quality jockey wheel, now is the time to get one. Check out the Trail A Mate Jockey Wheel and Jack Kit, which is designed for use with caravans and makes coupling and uncoupling easy.
Pro Tip: Don’t leave your nose wheel in your driveway! Store it in the designated storage area or, if it is on a pivoting support, lock it before driving.
17. Towbar for caravan weight distribution
A weight distribution hitch is a great way to ensure that the load is evenly distributed on all four wheels of the vehicle. Do you need one? It depends – a weight distribution hitch is recommended when the weight of your caravan or trailer exceeds 50% of the weight of your vehicle. If not, you should still consider buying a tow bar if your vehicle appears to be pointing upwards when the trailer is coupled.
Caravan RV Camping offers a huge range of weight distribution systems to suit different vehicles and budgets, so take the time to research the right one.
If you are concerned about your caravan wobbling in the wind or if you plan to camp on uneven terrain, stabilizers are the answer. The right stabilizers ensure that your caravan does not shift.
Pro tip: Before you go, lock your front and rear stabilizers in their travel position and store the winder in an easily accessible place.
Last but not least: always release your handbrake before traveling!
Are these all checked off? Now you are ready to enjoy your caravanning adventure safely and comfortably!