Safe caravanning

If you plan on towing a caravan, there are some important safety rules and tips you need to know.

Your caravan must be registered before it can be towed on the road.

Move an unregistered caravan

To move an unregistered caravan get an Unregistered vehicle permit

Register your caravan

To find out how to register your caravan visit Register a trailer or caravan

Pre-trip caravan checklist

Before embarking on a trip, it is important to ensure that the caravan and the tow vehicle are safe for use. 

To assist you with the preparation for the trip, VicRoads has compiled a pre-trip caravan checklist containing the most common safety checks to be performed before you leave.

Access the pre-trip caravan checklist

Your caravan must be roadworthy

To be towed on the road, caravans must be roadworthy.

You should regularly check your caravan to make sure the:

  • coupling and safety chains are in good condition
  • brakes and external lights are working
  • wheels, bearings, tyres and suspension are in good condition, especially if you haven't used the caravan for a while
  • tyres are of the same construction on all wheels and have a tread depth of 1.6mm or more.

If you are unsure how to do this, a mechanic can help you. It is also a good idea to have a mechanic regularly service your caravan.

For more information, please consult the pre-trip caravan checklist above.

Make sure your car is ready for towing

Not all cars can tow a caravan.

Check that your car:

  • has enough power to tow your caravan
  • is regularly serviced and is in good mechanical condition
  • has good rear vision when the caravan is attached, you may need to fit extension mirrors to your car (extension mirrors must be removed when not towing)
  • has the correct towbar for the type and weight of your caravan (the tow bar tongue should be removed when not towing if it protrudes from the vehicle or obscures the number plate) 
  • if you are unsure whether you have the correct towbar, vehicle manufacturers and towbar retailers can help you.

Some car manufacturers can sell you 'load distributing hitches', which can improve the safety of towing your caravan.

For more information, please consult the pre-trip caravan checklist above.

Caravan rules & regulations

There are rules and regulations which apply when towing a caravan.

  • The caravan must be roadworthy.
  • The caravan must be registered.
  • Nothing can be towed behind the caravan.
  • No one can travel inside the caravan.
  • The towbar must not hide the car's number plate once the caravan has been disconnected.
  • The caravan cannot be towed by a learner or P1 probationary driver, except under particular conditions.
  • The caravan cannot exceed weight limits.

Once you have loaded your caravan, its weight should not exceed:

  • the maximum weight recommended by the caravan manufacturer
  • the towing limits recommended by the car's manufacturer, or
  • the weight rating of the towbar.

When drivers pass a bicycle rider, they must leave a space of at least 1 metre between your vehicle and the rider on roads with speed limits up to 60km/h. If drivers are travelling on roads with speed limits over 60km/h, they must leave a bigger space of at least 1.5 metres between your vehicle and the bicycle rider. 

  • The minimum passing distance is measured from the widest part of the combination of vehicle and trailer being towed (including towing mirrors).
  • If drivers cannot pass the bicycle rider safely, they need to slow down and wait until the next safe opportunity to do so.  
  • For large vehicles such as when towing boats, horse floats, caravans and ‘tradie’ trailers, as well as heavy vehicles, such as trucks and buses, a safe distance may be more than the 1m or 1.5m minimum. Therefore, drivers may need to slow down, sit behind and wait for a safe place to pass.

Be patient and keep your distance from people who ride bicycles.

See the Drivers and sharing the road page and the Bike riders and sharing the road page for further information on this rule.

Some laws can be different from State to State. If you are travelling interstate with your caravan, check individual State or Territory regulations before you leave.

Tips for towing a caravan

Towing a caravan can change your car's performance.

Here are some caravan towing tips.

  • Before going on a long trip, practise towing on shorter trips.
  • Towing decreases acceleration and braking ability. Be aware of this especially when approaching corners.
  • Leave more space than usual between you and the vehicle in front, and allow extra time and space if you are turning into traffic.
  • Reversing with a caravan is difficult, so practise reversing in a safe environment with someone to guide you. Where possible drive forward out from a parking spot.
  • Make sure load distributing hitches are set up properly and the caravan is loaded correctly. This will reduce the chance of the caravan swaying.
  • Be careful driving in poor conditions or in high winds. There is more chance of swaying in high winds or when passing larger vehicles.
  • Keep left to give overtaking vehicles room to pass and where possible, pull over to allow vehicles following to overtake.
  • When you are overtaking, allow more time and distance and make sure you are well past the vehicle before moving back into the lane.
  • Plan plenty of rest stops to avoid the onset of tiredness.

Light Trailer Safety Chain Shackles

If you’re towing a trailer, you’re required to have a safety connection device on your car in addition to your normal tow coupling. This safety connection device acts as a backup if your tow coupling breaks or detaches from your vehicle.   

Your safety connection device can be anything that connects your trailer with your towing vehicle including chains, cables, shackles, or any combination of these. The final point between the safety chain/cable and the towing vehicle is usually a D shackle.

Do I need a load-rated shackle to connect my safety chain/cable?

Whilst using a load-rated shackle isn’t mandatory, it’s a good idea to choose a shackle to suit your trailer and towing vehicle.

Suitable shackles include:

  • shackles supplied as original equipment by the original vehicle manufacturer (e.g. Ford, Holden, Toyota etc.)
  • shackles supplied by an original equipment tow bar manufacturer
  • shackles that are rated and compliant with Australian Standard AS 2741 “Shackles” or other equivalent recognised standards AND the break load limit of the shackle is rated at least 1.5 times greater than the Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) of the trailer (see below for example).

Recommended shackle/trailer ratios

Trailer ATM
Shackle Rating (break load limit at least 1.5 times ATM)
750 Kg 1125 Kg
1000 Kg 1500 Kg

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