Current Articles

TAIL UP OR TAIL DOWN – HOW SHOULD YOU TOW YOUR VAN?

TAIL UP OR TAIL DOWN – HOW SHOULD YOU TOW YOUR VAN?

. .up to Tony has asked if I would advise Truck Friendly caravan road safety program followers of the correct way to tow your caravan. He mentioned that he (and others) has seen many caravans being towed with the A frame and tow hitch raised in the air and others that...

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WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION HITCHES – FACTS AND FICTION.

WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION HITCHES – FACTS AND FICTION.

sameeKen Wilson from Truck Friendly caravan road safety program looks at the misinformation and facts on these towing aids.   “I support the correct use of any safety towing aid as an extra safety measure, when needed. However: - I recommend that drivers FIX THE...

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BUYING AN NEW TOW VEHICLE – A BEGINNERS GUIDE.

BUYING AN NEW TOW VEHICLE – A BEGINNERS GUIDE.

At Truck Friendly we are often asked, “What is the best tow vehicle for a caravan”? HOW TO FIND THE BEST TOW VEHICLE.? The answer is that there is no one vehicle that suits all circumstances and all caravans. However, we have put together the main things to consider...

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GVM and GCM VEHICLE UPGRADES – THE FACTS as at 01.03.2021

GVM and GCM VEHICLE UPGRADES – THE FACTS as at 01.03.2021

There has been much conflicting information on social media as to whether GVM and GCM vehicle suspension upgrades are legal / illegal in different states, and this causes much confusion. Uneducated and ill-informed comments do little to bring a clear understanding on...

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WARNING :-  WILL A GVM UPGRADE REDUCE YOUR TOWING CAPACITY?

WARNING :- WILL A GVM UPGRADE REDUCE YOUR TOWING CAPACITY?

WARNING: - WILL A GVM VEHICLE UPGRADE REDUCE YOUR TOWING CAPACITY.......? Many caravanners have considered, or have had, a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) upgrade to their tow vehicles to increase load carrying capacity. Is a GVM upgrade the answer? YES, in many cases, it...

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NEED A PLACE TO PULL OVER, TO LET FASTER TRAFFIC PAST?

NEED A PLACE TO PULL OVER, TO LET FASTER TRAFFIC PAST?

These green reflectors will help you find a safe place. Often, we have trucks or other vehicles behind us as we tow our van and want them to overtake but there is no safe place for them to do so. You may have noticed some green reflectors on guide posts beside the...

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WHAT CAN YOU LEGALLY TOW WITH A CAR LICENCE?

WHAT CAN YOU LEGALLY TOW WITH A CAR LICENCE?

Truck Friendly posed this question to Queensland Transport and Main Roads Dept. Below (in part) is the reply from Andrew Mahon - General manager Land Transport Safety and Regulation. "The Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) notes that towing any type of...

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THE DUAL CAB UTE MARKETING HYPE

THE DUAL CAB UTE MARKETING HYPE

Many caravanners have purchased a dual cab ute to tow a caravan - me included. While brands and models vary, most are similar in load and towing capacity. The introduction of the American utes has however, opened up the field slightly in recent years but are not...

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DOWNHILL WITH CARAVAN BRAKE BURNOUT

DOWNHILL WITH CARAVAN BRAKE BURNOUT

An ex-truck driver friend recently recounted a story of a recent caravan trip where another caravanner and he were going down a very steep and long decline. ‘TRUCKS USE LOW GEAR’ type decline. My friend from his trucking experience, chose 1st gear and used a...

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TOW BALLS – THAT THING THAT THE CARAVAN ATTACHES TO.

FACTS NOT SOCIAL MEDIA FICTION.

Towing with a Truck – you need to read this especially.

The vast majority of caravan rigs on our roads are connected to the tow vehicle via a 50mm round tow ball and coupling.

How much do you really know about this vital but often disregarded piece of equipment?

I contacted several relevant state authorities to get the facts.

THE 50MM TOW BALL. 

50 mm tow balls are only rated to 3,500 kgs. Larger 70mm balls or other hitch types are required above this weight. All hitch types are rated so ensure you have the right one for your towing job.

Transport for NSW advise that 50mm ball couplings must comply to ADR 62 and Australian Standard AS4177. A coupling complying with this standard must be permanently marked accordingly:

  • the manufacturer’s name or trademark;
  • the mark ‘50’;
  • the maximum rating for the coupling body in one of the following, as applicable,
  • 750 kg; or
  • 2000 kg; or
  • 3500 kg;
  • a code to indicate the serial number, batch, production date, or similar;
  • the words ‘DO NOT WELD’ if the coupling body is manufactured from nonweldable materials;
  • the words ‘WELD ONLY’ if the coupling body is specifically designed to be attached by welding only

This is quite a comprehensive list and similar in all states, and we have all seen many tow balls from overseas that do not comply with this standard. Does yours?

Note the different rating, are you using the correct rating and not just the one used to tow a box trailer that was on the vehicle.

The 50mm tow ball must also be fitted at a height of between 350 and 460mm of the ground to be compliant. This height limit is NOT noted relevant to other types of hitches. i.e., DO35, Hitch-Ezy etc.

This height limit will make safe coupling with many off road caravans and lifted tow vehicles difficult to comply with, but it is still the law and should be complied with.

Although they are by far the most used hitch, I am not a big fan of their use.

Yes, they are common and on most hire company trailers and useful for borrowing trailers. I have one on a special hitch for when I borrow my son-in-law’s box trailer.

The 50 mm coupling will have limited roll and once the limit is reached the caravan can in fact assist rolling over a tow vehicle in a caravan rollover situation. The cup rolls and pushes the stem to help tip the tow vehicle.

They are therefore not suited to, nor popular with serious off road towing.

Wear on the 50 mm ball can reduce its size and therefore, if not regularly checked and adjusted the coupling can become loose and jump off in some situations.

To grease or not to grease is a very contentious issue and open to debate. I grease mine as I believe all metal-to-metal friction areas should be lubricated to reduce wear.

I cover the greased tow ball with a cap when not in use to reduce dust etc. and mostly remove the hitch completely.

Many believe that greasing the ball attracts dust increasing wear. A fair point, however, this can be combatted by covering and regular maintenance practices, but it is personal choice.

Many 50 mm balls have not been changed, serviced nor coupling adjusted for many years and one wonders as to the reliability and size of the now worn ball and coupling.

Be very careful of fitting, or still having fitted an old imperial size ball. They are slightly different to the 50mm ball in sizing which may cause the coupling to jump off.

Adjust the ball regularly and it may also need adjusting when changing trailers and trailer couplings as size adjustments will vary.

CAN YOU REPLACE THE TOW HITCH WITHOUT GETTING A NEW COMPLIANCE PLATE?

Transport and Main Roads Qld advise the following;-

“There is no legal requirement to have a trailer hitch on a light vehicle certified by a qualified person. The replacement hitch will need to comply with AS 4177.1, section 6 requirements to have the mandatory markings. The markings can be placed on a permanently attached identification plate or directly onto the towbar. Towbar manufacturers can refer to AS4177.1 for details.“ 

Transport for NSW advise:-

A like-for-like or replacement component does not need to be assessed. It is recommended that a tradesperson with the appropriate qualification carries out the repair.

If the coupling is being replaced in order to achieve a higher ATM certification from the manufacturer or a recognised vehicle certifier would be required to re-rate the vehicles capacity. More information on light vehicle modifications can be found in the following link.

VSI No.6 Light vehicle modifications Rev 3 November 2013 (nsw.gov.au)

TOWING WITH A TRUCK FITTED WITH A 50MM BALL.

If your tow vehicle has a GVM of 5,000 kg or above, a derating factor applies to the 50mm tow ball.

Even though the ball may be originally rated at 3,500 kgs, when you attach it to a vehicle with a GVM of above 5,000kgs you will not be able to tow a 3,500 kg van with this set up.

A notice may also need to be fitted to the tow vehicle stating the maximum trailer weight that can be towed with the 50mm ball.

For example, a tow vehicle with a GVM of 6,000kgs can only tow a trailer / caravan to a max of 3,089 kgs when using a 50mm tow ball. The trailer weight reduces dramatically the heavier the tow vehicle GVM gets. (7,500 GVM tow vehicle – 2,801 kg van etc.)

A full explanation, calculations and chart is available from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

Vehicle Standards Guide VSG16 – 50mm Ball Couplings (nhvr.gov.au)

KEN’S TIPS

Personally, I have a 200 series Landcruiser with GVM, GCM Lovells upgrade and increased towing capacity to 4t. I don’t usually tow that heavy as my van is only 3,300 ATM but it leaves me a safety margin.

I use a 5-tonne rated Hitch Ezy tow hitch which has automatic double locking. It is the best and easiest to fit that I have found. It is a very solid post with articulated coupling for off road and rollover. There are 3,500 kg rated ones available. They are also not as common, so they are harder to steal but fully lockable.

Hitch-Ezy | Tow Couplings | Caravan 4WD Towing

I get no commission unfortunately.

I trust that this has helped explain some of the complexities and laws around the simple 50 mm to ball.

Stay safe, and please check out our web site for more articles and information on safe caravanning.

Cheers

Ken Wilson

#truckfriendly

www.truckfriendly.com.au

 

 

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