When loading your caravan there are many things to bear in mind, but one of the most important is the static vertical load, or noseweight, that your caravan is applying to the hitch.
The limits on noseweights are published by most caravan manufacturers (if in doubt, you should not exceed 7% of the caravan's loaded weight). Your car's tow bar will also have a maximum load weight and on suitable towcars this will range from 60kg to 150kg.
Exceeding these limits can have adverse effects on your towcar such as;
Limited performance/efficiency of the car
Reduced life span of rear tyres
Reduced grip from the front tyres (important in 4x4s and front wheel drive cars where traction comes from the front of the car)
How to measure your caravan's noseweight?
Thankfully there is a handy gadget, called a noseweight gauge, which can easily establish whether or not you are exceeding the limits. Noseweight gauges cost between £12 and £40, and they are very simple to use
- Slot the narrow end into the hitch-head
- Gently wind in the jockey wheel so that all of the caravan's noseweight is being borne by the gauge
- Take the reading and checking it against the published figures in your caravan's handbook
Some gauges will come with a digital read out, while other, more old-fashioned gauges will look similar to a Newton-meter.
If your noseweight is too high, then there are a few things you can do to remedy this, such as removing heavy items, packing them in the car boot, or simply moving them closer to the caravan's axle.
Some caravans will have a naturally heavy noseweight, due to the layout and the positioning of the fitted equipment, so this is something to bear in mind when buying a new tourer.
If the noseweight is not listed, then ask your dealer to measure it while it is empty, as this will give you a good indication of whether or not it will be suitable for your car to tow.
The key things to remember are that the noseweight of your fully loaded caravan should not exceed the maximum limit as stated by the caravan manufacturer, and that weight should in turn be no higher than the maximum limit on your car's tow bar.
Once all these checks are done satisfactorily, then you can attach your tow bar to the hitch and tow your caravan away, safe in the knowledge that it will handle just like it's meant to.