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 were very low creating a V with the A frame and tow hitch.
So, should the A frame and hitch be higher or lower than level?
If the tow hitch is higher than the level position the caravan will tend to lift the rear of the tow vehicle off the ground under heavy breaking. This will have the effect of transferring weight from the rear onto the front axle of the tow vehicle, therefore reducing braking efficiency with reduced braking on the rear axle and heavy load on the front suspension reducing suspension travel.
The caravan will also raise at the front and drop at the rear making uneven suspension load and braking, on any dual axle caravan. The act of towing with the rear of the caravan too low will also upset the center of gravity of the caravan and make it more prone to dangerous caravan sway.
A caravan that is towed with the tow hitch set below level will have the opposite effect and the caravan will tend to try and go under the rear of the tow vehicle under heavy breaking. This will tend to push down on the tow vehicles rear suspension and raise the front suspension, again reducing effective braking and steering.
It is recommended that the caravan be towed as level as practical or hitch at approx. 50mm below level to help maintain a relatively level caravan and tow vehicle under heavy braking. This will also help maintain maximum suspension travel on both the caravan and tow vehicles.
HOW DO WE GET THE RIG LEVEL?
We have established that the rig should be level when towing but we still see many drivers using a standard factory tow hitch.
While you may be lucky to have a factory tow hitch that sits at exactly the right height for your new caravan, it can be rare.
All caravans are at different heights and have different suspension heights. The hitches are also mounted at different heights with some mounted at the bottom or on the top of the A frame.
The answer is to use an adjustable tow hitch that allows the tow head and ball to be raised and lowered to sit level with the caravan’s hitch when it is riding level also.
Many tow vehicles, and especially those with a suspension lift will have trouble getting the height exactly right without an adjustable hitch.
In my case, the Toyota Landcruiser 200 series in noted for having a high hitch receiver from factory. The Truck Friendly cruiser has an approximately 70 mm lift on our 200 series due to a 3,800 GVM, 7,800 GCM and 4T BTC, Lovells upgrade prior to initial registration.
To get the caravan to tow level we have had to use a 380mm drop hitch from the tow receiver on the Cruiser, and add a 70mm steel block under the caravan tow hitch so that it all rides level. This was also compliance plated to ensure all was legal.
Many caravanners will buy an adjustable tow hitch without understanding, nor checking the capacity of that new tow hitch to carry / tow the weight of the caravan and/or any subsequent replacement caravans over time.
Always check the capacity of your tow bar and tow hitch to carry the tow ball down-load and towing weight of your caravan before venturing out on the roads.
Please look at the 3 x tow hitches in the photos above and see if you can identify which is 2,000kg rated and which are 2,500 and 3,500kg rated just by looking at them.
Always check the plated specifications on your tow hitch.
Cheers
Ken Wilson

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