Caravan Clinic: Captiva towing problem ‘solved’

Words by Anton van Deventer

In the December issue of Caravan Clinic, Peter and Heather Field shared with us their problem of a Gypsy Romany swaying while being towed by a Chevrolet Captiva.

Since 1980, I have had many tow cars; these included sedans, double cabs and SUVs, including a mighty Ford Territory. My Chev Captiva 2.4 LT is the second-best tow car of these, beaten only by my KIA Sorrento 2.5 diesel.

The Captiva and the Romany is a match made in hell if left standard, but (fortunately) there is redemption if a few adjustments are made.

A fellow camper experienced the same problem with a Honda CRV and a Romany. It even managed to bend a Trapezium stabiliser through excessive sway.

At the core of the problem lies the design of the gooseneck tow bar fitted to the Captiva, and the very low tow-hitch height of the Romany. The standard height of the Captiva’s towball is approximately 440 mm, while the tow-hitch height of the Romany is approximately 400 mm. The result is a noseup caravan/tow car combination, which is half the problem. To worsen the situation, the Romany has an island bed in the nose, so that the positioning of the tent is often at the foot of the bed over the caravan axle, and the Captiva has a firm rear suspension with very little sag. This aggravates the excessive towball height.

The low nose weight, with the nose-up caravan, causes the combination to sway severely if a side wind or uneven road surface is experienced. I had the same problem with my Captiva and a Gypsey Regal. Luckily, the problem was solved with a few adjustments. Four years and a few thousand kilometres later, I still enjoy the combination. The Captiva’s gear ratios are perfect for towing, and it is very reasonable on fuel.

The changes were as follows

  • I replaced the standard goose neck with a Bosal tow bar and drop plate, which reduced the towball height from 450 mm to 400 mm.
  • I purchased an additional tent bag to split the tent into two bags of 17 kg each, and positioned these in the nose, on either side of the island bed.
  • I fitted a Tando stabiliser to the drop plate, which had been impossible with the gooseneck in place.
  • The pressure of the Captiva tires was changed to 3.0 bar in the rear, and 2.5 bar in the front. The tyre pressure of the caravan tires was 3.3 bar.
  • The maximum towing speed was 110 k/hr… I never use 6th gear.

These changes solved the swaying 100%. My son-in-law tows the same Gypsy Regal with an automatic Captiva 2.4LT, and finds the same excellent behaviour. The only difference is that he can use the cruise control more effectively owing to the automatic transmission.

It is interesting to note that the same problem was experienced with the first Toyota Fortuners, except that high-profile tires added to the problem. I am positive that the above changes will transform the Captiva into a very enjoyable tow car.


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