Towing is not all that complicated if you follow a few basic rules - but make it safer by doing research before you buy your van.

Ensure the caravan you purchase is totally compliant with the vehicle's towing specifications or vice versa if you are buying a new tow-vehicle for your existing van. Masses and ratings must be compatible.

Then when you take to the road on your first trip, remember you will be sharing it with many others, especially if you are heading north where you find plenty of big road trains.

Some important points to remember when you do hit the road:

·Never overtake a slower vehicle when going downhill.

·If a truck, bus or road train intends to pass make sure this can be achieved quickly and safely. Move as far to the left as possible and never take your foot off the accelerator or brake when another vehicle is passing.

·When going downhill, always slow down and engage a lower gear before actually reaching the downhill section of the road. This is most important if it is a steep decline. By doing this the need for heavy braking will be reduced.

·When overtaking other vehicles, particularly road trains, other caravans and trucks, the acceleration of your tow vehicle is considerably reduced from normal because of your additional load. The extra length also requires that a greater distance must be covered before moving back into the left lane.

·Never drive too close behind other vehicles. Leave at least a 60m space unless overtaking.

·If approaching a hill, increase your speed slightly provided it is safe to do so. Use a lower gear early if the speed drops off. Once engine speed is lost it can be difficult to regain.

But observing these basic rules is only one side of the coin.

If you are a Grey Nomad with little towing experience I would highly recommend that you take a course before setting off on a long trip.

Half-day sessions are available and make good sense and there are thoughts that towing courses could soon become compulsory in some States.

Over the years, hundreds of Grey Nomads have undertaken training sessions with Global Gypsies' senior instructor Jeremy Perks, one of Perth's most experienced tutors.

His half-day courses cover such topics as packing, hitching and unhitching, driving on highways, passing trucks, arriving and departing from caravan parks, using various accessories and reversing - one of the skills that troubles many newcomers.

The courses combine theory and hands-on practical training.

"It's extremely important for novice caravanners to take a training course before setting off on their adventures," Mr Perks said.

"There's a lot to learn about towing safely, correctly and responsibly. Our hands-on course gives you knowledge, confidence and new-found skills. After completing the training session you will be able to relax and really enjoy your caravanning holiday."

Peter Poat

Make towing safer by following basic rules and doing research before you buy your van.

The course costs $385 per van/vehicle. See globalgypsies.com.au or phone 9341 6727.

The West Australian

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