Recently purchased your first caravan? At the outset, congratulations are in order. You’ve just stepped into a world of holidaying on your terms, and connecting with the open road and the bush in a way that you never have before. Before you take your caravan out for its very first spin, let’s quickly go through the essentials of preparing it for towing – basically, the essentials of hitching your caravan to your towing vehicle.
Meet your caravan’s hitching ensemble:
In order to understand how to hitch up your caravan, you would need to familiarise yourself with a few caravan components.
Coupling hitch – This is the main link between your caravan and your tow car. A receiver affixed to the caravan’s A-frame attaches itself to the tow ball affixed to the car.
Stabiliser hitch – This prevents your caravan from snaking while you tow it along meandering roads and sharp turns.
Caravan handbrake – This is lifted or lowered to lock your caravan in position or leave it free to move.
Jockey wheel – This device is wound up or down to lift or lower the coupling hitch to match the level of the tow ball.
Breakaway cable – This emergency appendage activates your caravan’s handbrake if for some reason the caravan unhitches from the tow car.
Electrical lead – This composite of wires and cables connects your caravan’s electrical wiring to your tow car, allowing the caravan’s brakes and lights to draw power from the engine.
Step-by-step guide to hitching up your caravan:
- Turn off all appliances (gas/electric) in your caravan. Cut off the gas supply from the cylinder as well.
- Disconnect the 240V power lead from the caravan.
- Raise your caravan’s corner steadies, and remove any chocks from under its tyres (unless you’re on uneven ground and the chocks are actually needed).
- Lift the caravan’s handbrake to activate it.
- Reverse the towing vehicle to get the tow ball as close to the coupling hitch as possible.
- Wind up the jockey wheel to raise the coupling to just above the tow ball’s height.
- Raise the stabiliser lever and the coupling latch.
- Lower the caravan handbrake to deactivate it.
- Grab the caravan’s front handles (get another person to help you) and pull it forward towards the tow ball, till the coupling hitch is directly above it.
- Activate the handbrake again to prevent the caravan from moving.
- Wind the jockey wheel down to lower the coupling hitch over the tow ball. Once this is done, lower the coupling latch until it clicks into place. Also push down the stabilizer lever to engage the stabilizer hitch.
- Now wind the jockey wheel back all the way up to ascertain that the coupling is secure.
- Unclip the breakaway cable, loop it around the tow ball and clip it back upon itself.
- Raise the jockey wheel and stow it in place with the help of the clamp.
- Plug the electrical lead into the socket on the towing vehicle (ensure that the lead matches the socket, or use an adaptor).
- Deactivate the caravan’s handbrake. Your caravan is now hitched to your towing vehicle.
But the hitching process isn’t quite complete yet…
Conduct the following checks before driving off:
- Test your caravan’s brake lights, side lights, indicators and reversing lights. Power them on one at a time, and get another person to stand behind the caravan to verify that they are functional.
- Check that your caravan’s doors and windows are safely shut and locked. Don’t forget to check the front locker as well.
- Check that the roof lights are off.
- Ensure that all corner steadies are up.
- Fix towing mirrors to your tow car and verify that you can see the entire length of your caravan in them.
That’s about it. Your caravan is now hitched up and ready for its first ride! To make sure that you’re ready as well, read up in detail about caravan safety considerations before commencing your road trip.