Before you hit the road on the trip of a lifetime in your new SUV towing your new caravan it's best to bone up on how to safely load your caravan so your dream drive doesn't end up a nightmare from hell.
Start by finding out what your car will safely tow. All carmakers publish the maximum towing load their cars will haul down the highway.
Remember, that load is the total load, not just the weight of the caravan or trailer. You also have to factor in everything you plan to load into the caravan or trailer, which can easily put you over the maximum towing load if you're not careful.
You also have to be careful not to exceed the maximum towball weight. That's the weight bearing down on the towball, and it's generally about 10 percent of the total weight of the caravan or trailer when loaded.
Too much weight on the towball puts too much weight on the rear wheels and not enough on the front, which can effect the steering, braking and road holding and make the car and caravan hard to control.
It pays to check the ball weight for your car as it does vary from car to car. You'll find it in your owner's manual. Australian caravans are generally designed to have a towball weight of between eight and 15 per cent of the caravan's weight. Modern caravans have the ball weight stamped on the trailer plate that is fitted to each unit.
Loading the caravan can affect the ball weight. Place heavy items over the axle and not at the extremes of the caravan or trailer.
It's a good idea to load your caravan and trailer a week or two before to leave on your trip, so you know all is well when you do hit the road. Set the vehicle and caravan up the way you plan to have it on your trip and head to the nearest weighbridge where you will be able to weigh the caravan and also check the towball weight by measuring the load on the jockey wheel.