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Caravan safety

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With cooler weather threatening, the exodus of caravaners to warmer climes up the coast has started.

It generates more than the usual amount of caravan traffic to destinations further north.

Caravans have made a big comeback as a means for people, many of them retirees, to do "the big trip" or to escape the winter chill.

Towing a caravan has a number of advantages including being able to unhitch the tow vehicle for transport when you arrive at your destination.

And modern 'vans are like a five-star hotel room on wheels.

But towing a 'van demands a different mindset and a different driving technique compared to simply driving a car and there is also more to take care of in maintenance terms.

"Patience" is arguably the key word when you are talking about towing a 'van.

But before you hit the road and leave all us plebs to freeze, the 'van, in particular the tyres, need a thorough inspection.

Chances are the 'van has been sitting around unused for six or more months and the tyres could have developed a flat spot or the rubber perished.

If that's the case, the tyre could fail out in some remote location, just where you don't need the grief.

Caravan tyres have thicker plies than passenger car tyres and are more susceptible to flat spotting if left in the one place for a long time.

There are different tyres for different 'van applications, too, so if you haven't been all that fastidious and didn't put the van on blocks with the wheels and tyres protected, take the wheels off and have the tyres professionally inspected. While they are off, it's a good time to regrease and retension the wheel bearings and also ensure the brakes work including the parking brake.

It is essential to use the right type of tyres for your 'van specifically, its weight and size. Weight is definitely the biggest issue for motorists who own caravans.

A caravan manufacturer will supply the tare weight of the caravan, but with extras like the gas bottle, topped up water tanks, the bike and everything else packed aboard, it may add another 500kg. Obviously the tyres need to be able to handle this weight.

Depending on the size of the caravan, tyres might have to carry loads of between 1000 and 3000kg.

The easiest way to check the weight of a fully laden caravan is on a weighbridge.

When the weight is determined, a certificate is issued which should be taken to your tyre centre to ensure the tyres fitted are able to carry the load and if not they can recommend an alternative.

It is also highly advisable to carry a spare for the caravan so ensure it is fully inflated and in good condition.

Tyre pressures can impact on the handling of the vehicle and caravan. Most tyre problems on caravans and trailers are the result of overloading, or not increasing tyre pressure to compensate for the load.

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