Starting on a long journey with a vehicle trailer or caravan attached to your car requires thorough preparation. Regardless of the length of your trip, ensuring your vehicle and its attachment are in optimal condition is key to a safe and enjoyable journey. This article details the crucial checks to make before embarking on a trip with your vehicle trailer or caravan.
1. Tyre Check
Begin your inspection with the tyres of both your towing vehicle and the trailer or caravan. Check for any visible signs of wear, such as cuts or bulges, and make sure there are no foreign objects lodged in the tyres. Confirm that the tread depth is above the legal minimum (typically 1.6mm in most countries). Also, verify the tyre pressure is within the recommended range. Remember, under-inflated tyres may overheat, and over-inflated tyres can lead to poor vehicle handling.
2. Lights and Electrical Connections
All lights, including indicators, brake lights, and tail lights, should function correctly on both the vehicle and the trailer or caravan. Ensure your electrical connections are clean, free from rust or corrosion, and firmly attached. Don’t forget to check the operation of internal lights in the caravan as well.
If your trailer or caravan has its own braking system, it’s crucial to ensure these are functioning properly. The brake fluid should be within the recommended levels and the brake linings should be in good condition. Remember to check the handbrake operation too.
4. Gas and Electrical Systems
For caravans, it’s crucial to check the gas system for any leaks. Make sure all gas appliances work correctly and safely. The same applies to the electrical system, including the battery, wiring, sockets, and appliances. Remember to also inspect the condition of your fire extinguisher and smoke alarm.
5. Hitch and Safety Chains
Check the hitch thoroughly. It should be free of rust and damage. The hitching mechanism should operate smoothly and lock securely in place. The safety chains should be robust, securely connected, and devoid of rust or damage.
6. Load and Weight Distribution
Ensure your load is balanced and doesn’t exceed the trailer or caravan’s maximum allowable weight. Incorrect loading can lead to issues with the handling and stability of the trailer or caravan. Don’t forget to secure loose items to prevent them from moving around during the journey.
7. Body and Chassis
Inspect the bodywork and chassis for signs of damage, corrosion, or wear. Windows and doors should open and close properly, and seals should be in good condition to prevent water ingress.
8. Water and Waste Systems
For caravans, make sure your fresh water system is working and clean. Check the waste system for leaks or blockages, and ensure the toilet functions properly.
9. Spare Tyre and Emergency Equipment
Always carry a spare tyre that’s in good condition for both your vehicle and trailer or caravan, along with the necessary tools to change a tyre. Other emergency equipment, such as a first aid kit, warning triangles, and high visibility jackets, should be readily available.
The importance of these pre-trip checks cannot be overstated. By thoroughly inspecting your vehicle trailer or caravan before setting off, you can greatly reduce the risk of roadside problems and ensure a safe, comfortable journey.