Caravan/Tow Vehicle Behaviour & Suspension

Warning for Potential Caravan Buyers – how to buy a caravan

Potential buyers of caravans need to be extremely careful to ensure that their proposed caravan is, in fact, fully compliant with Australia’s vehicle safety regulations, as stated in the national Australian Design Rules. The Federal government’s Vehicle Safety Standards branch has recognised the problems in the caravan industry. It is introducing a new Road Vehicle Standards Act in July 2021. This Act replaces the Motor Vehicle Standards Act, which has been in force since 1989.

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Caravan Length and Stability

For decades both travel trailer owners and vendors have emphasised the need for a laden tow vehicle to at least weigh as much as the laden travel trailer. Length and travel trailer stability, and where weight is distributed over that length, is now being seen as more significant.

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Making travel trailers more stable – here’s how and why to do it

Making travel trailers more stable is readily possible by design, loading, and tow vehicle use and choice. This article by Collyn Rivers explains how. It also provides practical guidelines for buying a travel trailer and tow vehicle, their loading and on-road usage. For a full technical explanation of why rigs can be unstable please see my Travel Trailer and Tow Vehicle Dynamics/. See also Why Caravans Roll Over/

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Wheels falling off trailers – and how to stop it happening

Wheels falling off trailers, wheel studs breaking and wheel nuts loosening still happens. Here is why it happens, and how to prevent it. Wrecked wheel bearings and fractured stub axles are also common. That fastenings such as wheel nuts may be caused, not just permitted, to loosen is rarely covered in engineering training. The causes and prevention are however well known. This referenced article by Collyn Rivers explains how and why in rigour and detail.

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Should I grease my tow ball?

Should I grease my tow ball is asked by travel trailer owners worldwide. A recent poll in Australia’s Caravanners Forum.com showed that slightly over half do so, but primarily to reduce wear. That seemingly overlooked by almost all respondents is that tow ball friction plays a vital role in reducing travel trailer sway. Those who grease them unwittingly prejudice safety for the possible need to renew the towball every ten or so years. 

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How caravan and tow vehicles interact

In the early 1900s, trailers with central axles, towed by trucks with overhung hitches, were unstable. This escalated as towing speeds increased. Fruehauf (USA) realised hitch overhang imposed lateral forces on tow vehicles. As trailers yawed clockwise, that overhang caused tow vehicles to yaw anti-clockwise. And vice versa. The longer that hitch overhangs, the greater the effect.

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Overweight RVs – a police point of view

This article is a précis of my discussion with Sergeant Graeme Shenton (Orbost Police Station) about two years ago. Sergeant Shenton is a caravanner and is taking a leading role (via ongoing road side checks etc) in establishing accurate data on the extent of overladen RVs on Australian roads. Most rigs checked are travel trailers – as there are about six times more of those than campervans and motor homes.

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Caravan design need for change

Australia has two main and seemingly interdependent travel trailer industries. One makes travel trailers of varying stability. The other makes devices (of varying effectiveness) intended to increase that stability. Both are curious. Not all makers appear to understand the more basic laws of physics involved. Or perhaps assume immunity from them. So presumably do owners of ultra-long travel trailers. With a few rare exceptions, there is a travel trailer design need for change. And for travel trailer owners to realise a travel trailer’s inherent stability issues.

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Motorhome and trailer tyres

Travel Trailer and motor home tyres take a far greater beating than those in general use – an industry report noted that such tyres are subject to major abuse greater than any other form of use. In particular, stated the report, travel trailer and motor home tyres are often grossly under-inflated and overloaded.

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Weight Distributing Hitch limits cornering

Tow ball weight pushes down the rear of the tow vehicle – thereby increasing the weight on its rear tyres. A WDH, in effect, is a semi-flexible springy beam that levers back up the rear of the tow vehicle and levers down its front. In doing so, however, it reduces the imposed load on the tow vehicles rear tyres and partially restored it on its front tyres. Reducing the load on the tow vehicle’s rear tyres reduces their ‘cornering ability’. This is why a weight distributing hitch limits cornering.

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Trailer Dynamics Simply Explained

That travel trailers roll-over yet most vehicles don’t show trailer dynamics is not understood or is ignored. Trailer dynamics simply explained tells why. The main cause is that hitch extending from the tow vehicle’s rear. It not only allows but causes both tow vehicle and travel trailer to sway (yaw). Worse – if one yaw’s clockwise it causes the other to sway anti-clockwise. The further the tow ball behind the tow vehicle’s rear axle, the greater that effect.

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Caravan wheel placement

A conventional travel trailer must always be a compromise. This is because it is towed via hitch at some distance behind the tow vehicle’s rear wheels. If that vehicle sways clockwise, that hitch overhang causes (not just permits) the travel trailer to sway anti-clockwise. If the travel trailer sways clockwise, it causes the tow vehicle to sway anticlockwise.  is essentially an unstable concept but safe within limits.

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How to Choose and Buy an RV

How to Choose and Buy an RV is the ultimate guide for those times when you want to, well, choose and buy an RV.

eBook versions

Paperback version

Prices for the paperback version including delivery can vary dramatically.  RVBooks recommends you shop around.  We've included a number of reputable booksellers you may wish to consider. Any bookshop, whether online or bricks and mortar, can order copies of How to Choose and Buy an RV. Just ask.
ISBN: 978-0-6487945-5-4.

The Caravan & Motorhome Book

The Caravan & Motorhome Book covers every conceivable aspect of campervan and motorhome usage. If you own a camper van or motor home, you'll want this book.

eBook versions

Paperback version

The book retailers set their own prices which can vary substantially. We'll aim to keep a selection of the better prices above.

Any bookshop, whether online or bricks and mortar, can order copies of The Caravan & Motorhome Book. Just ask.
ISBN: 978-0-6483190-5-4.

Solar That Really Works!

Solar that Really Works! covers the design, installation and use of solar in cabins, camper trailers, travel trailers, fifth wheelers, campervans and motor homes.

eBook versions

Paperback version

The book retailers set their own prices which can vary substantially. We'll aim to keep a selection of the better prices above.

Any bookshop, whether online or bricks and mortar, can order copies of Solar That Really Works!  Just ask.
ISBN: 978-0-6483190-3-0

How to Choose and Buy an RV

How to Choose and Buy an RV is the ultimate guide for those times when you want to, well, choose and buy an RV.

eBook versions

Paperback version

Prices for the paperback version including delivery can vary dramatically.  RVBooks recommends you shop around.  We've included a number of reputable booksellers you may wish to consider. Any bookshop, whether online or bricks and mortar, can order copies of How to Choose and Buy an RV. Just ask.
ISBN: 978-0-6487945-5-4.