This year we’re running a towing tutorial series that deals with the fundamentals of towing, all in the name of safer and easier towing for everyone. So whether you’re an avid caravaner who tows regularly, a serious bush adventure type who’s never without their sturdy off-road trailer, someone who just tows a basic luggage trailer, or even a boating fanatic, we’re confident that our Towing Safely series will benefit you in some way. This month we address hitching up and reversing – something everyone who tows needs to do regularly, whether you like it or not. For the sake of simplicity, when we refer to the towable in question, we’ll simply call it a caravan. We trust that trailer and boat towers out there will understand.
As you’d expect, this has been a recurring discussion topic in this mag’s pages, so hunting through back issues will reveal a meal of advice titbits. But the basics never really change.
After your regular pre-trip caravan and towcar inspection, raise the caravan coupling to the required height using the jockey wheel winding handle. You’ll want to position the coupling head marginally higher than the height of your vehicle’s towball.
It’s always much easier to hitch up with another person’s directional guidance. That is, of course, unless your towcar is fitted with a reversing camera, like the new Nissan V9X Navara that we used for this exercise. A camera like this makes reversing your towcar and positioning the towball under the coupling a one-man task, provided you’re patient and take it slow, and the camera’s field of vision includes the top of the towball.
As with most towing tasks, doing it slowly should be your number one priority. An unhurried, gradual approach always means fewer damaged car or caravan components, or even injured people or animals.
Once the towball is directly under the coupling, having used your reversing camera or your assistant’s directions, pull up the car’s handbrake and turn off the engine.
Before you lower the coupling onto the ball, pull up the coupling’s handle. The older ones require you to hold the handle up as you lower the coupling onto the ball. Newer couplings stay in the ‘up’ position on their own.
It’s vital that a proper connection is formed between the coupling and ball. Usually you’ll hear a clear click as the coupling drops into position; it should fit snugly on the ball. A good way to check for a proper connection is to lift the coupling slightly using the jockey wheel once you’re hooked up; the rear of your towcar should also rise slightly, and the coupling should not come loose from the ball. Newer caravan couplings, like the ones we’ve seen on the Fendt caravan range, have a small green indicator button which tells you when you’re properly hitched up.
Be sure to attach the safety chain or cable, then release your caravan’s handbrake. Finally, insert the towing electrics plug into the vehicle’s socket. Climb back into your vehicle and do a lights check with your companion.
Reversing made simple
When it comes to reversing, the caravaning motto, again, should be, ‘Slower is always better.’ Rushing this task usually ends in tears, and more often than not they are yours…
To read the full article, order a copy of the March 2011 issue of Caravan & Outdoor Life.