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Towing a caravan or camper

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Caravanning is a great way to see Queensland. However, towing a caravan or camper trailer requires extra concentration and skill.

You’ll need to know the legal and safety requirements for driving with caravans in Queensland. If you’re travelling outside Queensland, check the relevant laws of that state or territory.

In all states, if you are towing a caravan, you must make sure that:

  • your car is suitable to tow the caravan type and size
  • the load being carried is evenly distributed and restrained.

Check your vehicle’s towing capacity in your owner’s manual.

The safe towing guide (PDF, 254KB) provides more information about legal and safety requirements for vehicles, caravans and other trailers.

Legal requirements

  • The vehicle and caravan must be roadworthy and registered.
  • The caravan must have a rear number plate and a registration label fixed to the left side or rear of the body.
  • Towbars and couplings must not cover the towing vehicle’s number plate or rear lights when the trailer is not connected.
  • You may tow only 1 trailer (caravan, box or boat) at a time.
  • People must not ride in caravans.

How towing affects your vehicle

If you’re towing a caravan, the added weight will make your car:

  • slower to accelerate and brake
  • less manoeuvrable—particularly in an emergency
  • use more fuel.

Maintain your car and caravan

Regular maintenance of your vehicle and caravan is important for safe towing. Here are some safety checks you should do before and during your trip.

Before your trip

  • Ensure the coupling socket and ball is the matching size. If the coupling is not a ball type, check that all parts fit and work properly.
  • Check the coupling is securely fastened and latched or screwed down when the caravan is connected to the towing vehicle.
  • Check safety chains are properly connected with attachments that can withstand the specific breaking load of each chain. Do not use padlocks. If 2 chains are fitted, cross them under the drawbar before they are attached to the towing vehicle. This gives you better directional control of the caravan and helps stop the front of the drawbar hitting the road if the coupling disconnects.
  • Check that the trailer brake and light connections are secure and all lights work.
  • Check that the electric or vacuum-operated brake controls have been fitted and adjusted to meet the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Unfasten any reversing catch fitted to the caravan coupling (as used with over-run brakes).
  • Ensure all doors, hatches, covers and any load or equipment are correctly secured.
  • Limit the weight of the load carried in the boot or luggage space of your car.
  • Make 1 or 2 test stops from low speed to make sure the caravan brakes work properly.

During your trip

Every 2 to 3 hours you’re on the road you should stop and:

  • inspect your tyres carefully. When towing caravans, you should increase your car’s tyre pressure to the level recommended in the owner’s handbook or on the tyre placard (usually about 15kPa—or 2psi—above normal). If you’re not sure of the correct pressure, ask your local tyre dealer.
  • check your oil, water, brake fluid, and battery. Remember that towing places extra strain on your vehicle.

While driving

When towing a caravan, remember to:

  • allow for the extra length and width of the caravan when entering traffic
  • allow for its tendency to ‘cut in’ on corners and curves
  • accelerate, brake and steer smoothly and gently to avoid swaying
  • allow for the effects of cross-winds, passing traffic and uneven road surfaces
  • avoid braking if the caravan begins to sway or snake. If the caravan is fitted with brakes that can be used on their own, apply them gently. Otherwise, continue at a steady speed or accelerate slightly until the swaying stops
  • leave a longer stopping distance between you and the vehicle ahead; increase the gap for longer, heavier trailers and allow even more distance in poor driving conditions
  • use a lower gear in both manual and automatic vehicles when travelling downhill to make your car easier to control and reduce the strain on your brakes
  • allow more time and distance to overtake and avoid ‘cutting off’ the vehicle you are overtaking when returning to the left lane
  • get someone to watch the rear of the caravan when you reverse—reversing is difficult and takes practice
  • not hold up traffic—pull off the road where suitable, to avoid a build-up of traffic unable to overtake
  • be aware that your vehicle and caravan will have a tendency to sway when a heavy vehicle overtakes you.

Insurance

Compulsory third party (CTP) insurance for caravans in Queensland is provided by the towing vehicle’s insurance cover. If the car you will be using to tow the caravan is registered in another state, contact your insurer to get additional cover.

A caravan may not be covered by comprehensive insurance if:

  • it does not meet Queensland registration and vehicle standard laws
  • its on road weight is more than the vehicle’s towing capacity
  • it is not roadworthy or safe
  • it is overloaded.
Last updated
6 December 2012
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