Here is a handy 15 point check list that you should carry out every time you look to take your caravan out on the open road. These checks really don’t take much time at all to carry out but could save you a lot of heartache! Before long all of the below checks will become second nature, but it might be worth your while printing this list off should you ever have a temporary bout of memory loss!
Please note: This list in no particular order and is by no means a complete list.
Pre-flight check 1:
Ensure your caravan is correctly hitched up to your car. Most hitches have some sort of indicator to let you know when the hitch has been secured. If you have an AL-KO stabiliser remember to look for the green indicator on the hitch head and also to completely lower the locking handle.
If you don’t have a stabiliser you can check if you are correctly hitched up by simply winding down the jockey wheel, if you are correctly hitched it should raise the car slightly. DO NOT ATTEMPT if you have a stabiliser fitted, doing so could seriously damage your stabilising pads.
Pre-flight check 2:
A breakaway cable is a legal requirement whilst towing. Check that your cable is correctly secured around your tow ball, it is also recommended to check the condition of your breakaway cable regularly as a faulty one could prove extremely costly. AL-KO have a short video demonstrating the correct breakaway cable procedures. Find the video here.
Pre-flight check 3:
Check that the gaiter on your damper (the corrugated rubber around the section between your a-frame and hitch head) is not split. Any splits in the gaiter could allow grit and debris to get into the mechanism and prevent it from operating correctly. Without your damper in action an emergency stop can be very dangerous.
Pre-flight check 4:
Ensure that your jockey wheel is in the correct upright position and that is is aligned with the groves in the stem to stop the wheel spinning around whilst you’re travelling.
Pre-flight check 5:
Towing electrics – There a few small checks you should follow to ensure your towing cables are in tip-top condition.
- Is the rubber insulation damaged exposing any wires?
- Is the socket damaged in any way or missing pins?
- Ensure the socket is not full of water or corroded as this may cause a bad connection
- Are they connected to the car correctly – pushed all the way in?
Pre-flight check 6:
Following on from check number 5, step number 6 is to check your road lights. It’s always best to have someone assist you with this step if possible.
- Main lights
- Brake light
- Left indication
- Right indication
- Check for any broken lenses/lights.
Pre-flight check 7:
Tyre pressures should be checked before every journey. Pressure gauges are very cheap so all caravanners should be in possession of one, there really is no excuse. Contact your manufacturer for the correct tyre pressures for your outfit.
Pre-flight check 8:
Wheel nuts are quite often overlooked when it comes to pre flight checks, and is arguably one of the most important things to check (They literally keep your wheels on your caravan!). Torque wrenches are relatively cheap and are well worth having in your arsenal. Correct torque settings can be found in your handbook, or by contacting your supplying manufacturer.
Pre-flight check 9:
Blow outs are extremely frightening, and are the cause for most accidents involving caravans on the roads today. The unfortunate thing is that most blow outs could be prevented by ensuring all of your tyres are in a good condition. When inspecting your tyres you’re looking for any abnormalities including cracks or chunks missing. If you are ever in doubt be sure to have an expert take a look for you.
Pre-flight check 10 (twin axles only):
If you own a twin axle caravan it is wise to check for any bricks, wood or debris that may lodge itself between the two wheels when you set off. Many caravan owners use bricks or blocks of wood to further secure their caravan in position in storage. A brick between the wheels on the road would be catastrophic.
Pre-flight check 11:
Ensure your corner steadies are raised as far as they can go, DO NOT attempted to travel with your legs in the half way position, driving over a pot hole with a corner steady half way down could rip the floor off your caravan!
Pre-flight check 12:
Ensure any aerials are in the down position and are correctly secured.
Pre-flight check 13:
Load your caravan correctly, ensuring all items are placed in the correct lockers/drawers and aren’t going to bounce around whilst you’re towing. Remember, it’s always better to carry than pull, so put as much gear in the car as possible.
Pre-flight check 14:
Check to ensure that all of the following are secure and will not come lose while travelling to help prevent damage, injury and danger to other road users:
- Entrance door
- Internal partition doors
- Roof lights
- External locker doors
- Internal locker doors
- Oven and sink covers
Pre-flight check 15:
Finally, ensure your handbrake is off. It seems like such an obvious step but you wouldn’t believe how much serious damage is caused to caravans each year by people towing with their handbrakes on. You risk writing both your car and caravan off!