towing caravans

Submitted: Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 22:19
ThreadID: 57370 Views:3247 Replies:8 FollowUps:4
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In recent weeks I have read a couple of posts where members have stated one should always ensure that the tow vehicle weighs more than the van being towed, Why do you think this? What is your reasoning. The police; the licencing authorities; the van industry & the vehicle manufacturing industry all dont seem to think it an issue. Enlighten me .
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Reply By: Motherhen - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 22:24

Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 22:24
Hi jomah

The tug-o-war effect. If in a slide, the heavier object will win. In my case, it will be the tow vehicle, and the driver can exert some control over it.

Accidents do happen, and caravan roll overs are not uncommon.


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Reply By: Notso - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 22:40

Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 22:40
All the above, it is just a much better balance if the Tower is heavier the the towee??

having said that the toyota Landcruiser and the Nissan patrol are both rated to tow up to 3.5 tonnes and they only weigh around 2.5 or so.

The rules for towing in all states now say that if the manufacturer doesn't state the towing capacity then it is 1.5 times the unladen weight of the tow vehicle.
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Reply By: Willem - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 22:48

Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 22:48
At the start of our 5 years on the road the 27ft Viscount caravan weighed 4ton.

Towing with a Landcruiser made travelling hazardous at times and I eventually brought the weight down to 2.5ton discarding anything that was not necessary. This made the weights about even and I was much happier. When I came to the end of the wanderings I swore I would never tow a van again.....still, I now tow a

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Reply By: Member - Doug T (FNQ) - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 23:31

Wednesday, May 07, 2008 at 23:31
Have a read in this link, you will many answers to your queries

Compliance Plates and Trailer Weights

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Reply By: didiaust - Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 06:07

Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 06:07
This is a non technical woman response.

We tow our 16ft older van with a mazda table top. Most of the heavy items including the annex and poles go on the truck . We don't carry water in the tank and even the groceries go on the truck. The van has a few cooking pots , cups & plates & a few clothes. It's easy when you can put everything on the truck but I guess when you have a sedan or 4x4 you can't fit as much bulky stuff inside.
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Reply By: Ozboc - Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 06:57

Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 06:57
I used to work on Cranes - and as a result i would often tow around a cherry picker , as would the other guys i worked with. One of the guys had a tow vehicle that weighed less than the cherry picker.

One afternoon on the M4 freeway the tire on the cherry picker went down - he was traveling at 80 KMH (i believe him when he said he was - he used to drive like an old woman even without a load on) anyway - as a result the trailer 'BUM steered" him all over the m4 - ran him into the concrete barrier near a bridge - cherry picker over turned and was written off - the cherry picker was about 2 tonnes and he was in a triton ute which is about 1300 Kg ???

I had a Ford AU ute - and even then i would still feel this thing worm down the road especially down a hill. so do you need the tow vehicle to be heavier .... HELL YEH , if you value saftey then the answer is yes every time. As a poster above stated - it really is a tug of war situation

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Reply By: Redback - Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 07:44

Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 07:44
In 99% of caravan accidents it's the driver or poor setup of the combination that has contributed to the accident, not the weight of the van/trailer whatever.

Most tow capacities for cars/4x4s/trucks are far greater than the weight of the tow vehicle.

A prime excample is a semi, most prime movers are 1/4 the weight of the loaded trailer!!!!!

If you setup your car,4x4 trailer combination properly, then you won't have any problems, also learn how to tow properly.

There are heaps of things designed to help make towing a van/trailer easier and safer.

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Follow Up By: Member - Tessa (NSW) - Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 08:11

Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 08:11
I have to disagree with your use of a semi trailer as an example. The geometry of a semi is totally different to that of a car and caravan. Of course these figures can vary depending on the load distribution, but a semi has anything up to 50/60% of its load on the rear wheels of the prime mover. A properly set up van should only have a down weight of 10-15% on the tow ball of the towing vehicle. The forces involved in stopping and controlling a caravan are totally different. In addition to that Prime movers have a hugely superior power to weight ratio, and braking capacity, than the normal road vehicle towing a caravan.
That having been said, I agree with you to a point that proper setup of the caravan is vital. But I am still to be convinced that it can be totally safe to tow a van which greatly outweighs the towing vehicle - for the reasons stated by the members above.

FollowupID: 568717

Follow Up By: Member - Russnic [NZ] - Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 09:26

Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 09:26
Totally agree Tessa
The load on a semi is distributed over not only the rear axles but also a percentage is also on front axle. Car caravan set up the tow bar weight is behind the rear axle, not enough weight on the bar and the trailer will sway, to much weight and the front axle becomes light and could cause steering problems. Proper set up is essential .
While a Landcruiser unloaded might weigh say 2.5 tonne and is rated to tow 3.5 tonne I would consider it crazy to do that. Far safer to load the tow vehicle so it is heavier than the trailer. Always work on the worst case scenerio. having to brake suddenly down hill and you have more weight pushing than the vehicle you are driving.
Heart attack material
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Follow Up By: Redback - Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 10:28

Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 10:28
Exactly my point, if you setup your combination as well as or near enough to how a semi is in regards to weight distribution it will have much better road manners and be alot easier to manage.

The key is weight distribution, keeping as much weight as you can over the axles, also keeping the unsprung weight down but not too much, in regards to ball weight, keeping around 10% of the total weight of what your towing.

Loading the tow vehicle is good but unfortunately most overload their 4B, which only adds to the unstability of the combination by taking weight off the front axles, you have to remember passengers are part of that cargo.

The formular is the same, whether it be a semi or a car and trailer.

If you get the setup right and you do happen to have a puncture at speed, then you will be able to pull up safely without any dramas.

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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 12:12

Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 12:12
Redback, my point was not that the weight of the trailer could cause an accident, but in unforeseen circumstances (which may include driver error of judgment when reacting quickly to a circumstance) you have no control as the heavier object will take over. Meet a slippery patch suddenly, brake too quickly as a cow/camel/idiot driver or whatever comes out in front of you, swerve to avoid an unexpected object - all can in result in a loss of control which the driver could probably correct if not towing a heavy trailer. The tail wagging the dog.

We we once behind a large sedan (Fairlane or LTD) towing a boat on a 3 laned smooth flat highway near Rockingham WA. Traffic flow was steady at a moderate speed. The boat somehow got a bit of a wobble up, and that tail sure 'wagged the dog'. Very rapidly, the rather new looking boat was on it's side smashed, with the outfit a right angles to the traffic, blocking all three lanes.


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Reply By: jomah - Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 18:05

Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 18:05
Interesting replies from everyone and the consensus of them being as I expected. IAfter 18 months on the road however I would guestimate that at least half of the vans I pass on the highway are being towed by vehicles lighter then the vans themselves so we are all pretty careful and capable drivers or we are just damned lucky. My own van outweighs the tow vehicle by about 300g and has to date given me no scarey moments. I feel the braking systems on modern vans are a lot better than they were some years back; as are vehicle braking systems as well. Thanks for the response ; most enlightening & interesting.
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