A big day for Cath and I today, our first experience with towing – and manoeuvering (read reversing) – a caravan. Cath has never towed anything before. I have never towed a caravan and it has been many years since I towed a (small) boat or a box trailer.
So we were keen on a caravan towing course before taking delivery of our new van, and today we took it. This is the outfit we used – https://www.towingcaravans.com.au/
. We found the instructor – Tony – by searching in Google for a towing course near us in SE Qld. I had never met Tony before. I have no commercial interest in his business. These are just my impressions of the course and the day.
The first good thing about this course is that it is strictly one on one, you are the only one being taught so nothing is second hand and you have your instructor beside you in the passenger seat throughout. We used Tony’s vehicle (100 series turbo diesel LC) and caravan (20 foot Lotus offroad – heavier than ours will be). The course was a solid 5.5 hours (and could have been longer if deemed necessary) and at least four of those hours were behind the wheel.
Here’s how the course went:
1. Orientation of tow hitch, WDH, brake controller with demonstration of how various settings affect the van/tug combination.
2. 40-50 km of highway driving – including driving right through a quite large town – Gympie – in reasonably heavy traffic.
3. 10-20 km of quite narrow country road driving – including some stretches of “hang one wheel in the dirt with oncoming traffic” roads. Cath did this bit.
4. Instruction on reversing in a straight line on suburban roads near the instructor’s property.
5. Lunch – yummy – thanks Helke.
6. A good look through the caravan with Helke (Tony’s wife) with suggestions for packing for proper weight distribution and lots of tips for what to take and how and where to stow it.
7. Practice reversing into simulated (with bollards) CP spaces requiring 90 degree turns
8. Driving back to where we left our vehicle – on back roads, town roads and freeway. This trip had lots of intersections, traffic lights and even a couple of roundabouts thrown in.
9. A pat on the head for us both and a “you’re pretty good” to me (Cath doesn’t need her ego stroked
10. A standing invitation to return with our own vehicle and van for any further practice we think we need – especially reversing – free of charge.
I know that there are a lot of people like us out there who have ordered or who are looking to buy a caravan with zero or minimal experience of towing one. I cannot emphasise enough that you need to experience it under the guidance of somebody who really knows what they are doing before you set out on a long, or even a short, trip. We are facing the prospect of towing our van back from the Evernew factory in Melbourne to SE Qld. with a LOT more confidence than we were this time yesterday. The REALLY big thing Tony strove to get across is that it isn’t as hard as you might anticipate it being.
I was very impressed with Tony. So was Cath. He is an EXCELLENT instructor. Helke is too. She talked about what to look for in campsites and what to avoid in both campsites and CPs. She also showed BOTH of us how to guide the driver into a CP bay with minimal hassles and no four letter words. The van/tug was set up really well. The towing was easy. There was no reaction or sway at all to big semis coming the other way – at speed. All of this is very reassuring but only if it is experienced. We did nothing to disgrace ourselves and both “got” the reversing after a couple of goes. We are both now confident we can tow with safety and improve our skills with practice. The main thing is that we have both had a go.
Needless to say, I haven’t tried any other towing courses but I reckon you’d be hard pressed to beat this one.
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