Anyone with a camper trailer, RV or caravan has come across the unexpected. It’s the perfect dirt road that’s completely turned into a muddy track overnight. The wrong turn on the way to the campground and now you’re on an uneven and rock-strewn path in the middle of nowhere. It’s that larger-than-you-imagined hill that’s got you worried about having to do the impossible and back your trailer down. Or maybe you’re planning to take your caravan off-roading and need some advice. Just take a deep breath and follow these tips.
Towing off the beaten path
Getting off the smooth, reliable asphalt and off road is challenging enough as it is. Add in towing a trailer or caravan and it’s just that much more difficult! You’ll absolutely be using the same 4X4 driving techniques as when you aren’t hauling anything behind, but the addition of a trailer means you have double the vehicle and more wheels to factor in.
Preparation is key
If you plan on taking your caravan off-road or through less-than-ideal conditions, you’ll need to make sure your tow vehicle and trailer is ready for it. Your tyres should definitely be all-terrain or mud tyres, so they can handle off-roading. Hopefully, you’ve invested in a tow hitch that’s able to give you an extended range of motion. That’s essential. You should also take a look under your caravan and tow vehicle. Are the exhausts and underbelly protected? What is your clearance underneath? It’s good to be aware of these things. And if you plan on being somewhere where the cellphone range is spotty, consider taking a satellite phone so you can call for help if you do find yourself bogged down.
Take a look around
Before you go charging in and attempt to tow your caravan through more challenging conditions, make sure to first assess your way forward. Get out of your vehicle and take a look at your surroundings. What hazards are there? Is there enough clearance (sides, bottom)? Are there any big potholes to watch out for? Rocks? If you’re travelling with someone else, it’s always a good idea to have a spotter outside the vehicle checking your blind spots.
Towing a caravan through dirt & sand
Headed to the beach with the caravan? Sweet! You should remember to lower your tyre pressure beforehand, so you lengthen their footprint and reduce their chance of digging in and getting you stuck. But for towing through that soft sand and shifting dirt – momentum is your mantra! That doesn’t mean putting the pedal to the metal. Slow and steady wins this waterfront race. Just maintain a steady speed and try to line up your caravan in the same wheel tracks as your towing vehicle. Try not to corner sharply or at too high a speed, either, or you risk your tyres digging in or – even worse – your caravan could roll over.
Towing a caravan through mud
As with driving through sand, a lower tyre pressure does help in mud, thanks to that larger contact area. Again, make sure to check the track forward before proceeding. That shallow-looking muddy road may be a lot deeper than you think. Check those ruts to make sure you’ve got clearance or you’re going to be scraping the bottom of your precious caravan. Now, drive slow and smooth, trying to keep in the centre of the road. You don’t want to slip off the track. Maintain that momentum and don’t gun the engine or you risk spinning your wheels. If the muddy section is a descent, first gear is the way to go – unless you can avoid that section altogether.
Don’t panic if you get stuck
Everyone gets stuck. It’s inevitable. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t worry. And stop accelerating! That’s just going to make it worse. Hopefully you have packed a bit of a recovery kit that includes a high-lift jack, a shovel and some tow straps. You could try deflating your tyres a bit more. That could help with additional traction. Use gravel or soil to fill the pothole or muddy section you’re in. If that doesn’t help, try to get the tow vehicle out, and then use a tow rope to pull the caravan out (or a winch if your vehicle has one). And sometimes, for the sake of minimising damage and headaches, it’s best to just call a tow truck.
Want more info and helpful guides about towing your caravan? Visit rvsafe.com.