What happens if you tow a caravan that is too heavy for your vehicle?

Posted In: Suspension

When you’re towing a caravan the combined weight of your vehicle and caravan can be deadly.  On the roads and highways around Australia this year it’s been caravan carnage. Large vans that are too unstable on the road either because they are too heavy, or the weight inside them has not been distributed evenly.

What is the common cause of caravan crashes?

Uneven weight distribution is a major reason why there are so many caravan crashes.

Whether that is a weight issue in relation to:

  • the tow vehicle – tail heavy, front light
  • the caravan itself – the caravan could be well over its legal weight limit.

What is the best way to load my caravan?

There is a right and wrong way to load your caravan:

  • Keep heavy items down low, over the axles preferably.
  • Don’t put too much weight behind or in front of the axles.


How to distribute weight in your vehicle and van when towing

What do you mean by “overloading” your vehicle or caravan?

A car and caravan hurdling down the road can be 5-tonne plus. Next time you see a large caravan and 4×4 barrelling down the highway, take a second to observe.

  • What accessories does the car have? Bull bar? Roof racks? Bikes?
  • What accessories does the caravan have? Awnings? Solar panels?
  • How many people are inside the vehicle? What ages?
  • Can you see extra luggage in the vehicle?

Why does it matter how much luggage they are carrying on their holiday? Well every kg in the tow vehicle adds to the overall payload.

For example, take a standard Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series:

  • GVM = 3350kgs – 2740kg kerb weight – 350kg of towball download limit = 260kg of payload for people, luggage and accessories. That’s not a lot of weight allowance left when you have at least 2 adults in the car.

Should I consider a suspension upgrade when towing a caravan?

Yes. You should at least have your vehicle suspension checked by an expert before setting out on your first trip. They will be able to provide advice on whether lifting your suspension system and upgrading its components will provide a better and safer driving experience.

You may also want to consider a GVM or gross vehicle mass upgrade, which can provide improvements in your vehicle’s load-carrying capacity, the ride and handling of the vehicle, as well as better towing stability. If you have done the calculations, and realise that you are overloading your vehicle, then a GVM upgrade will allow you to bring the vehicle back into legal requirements.

GVM upgrades are independently engineered and tested suspension solutions that allows a legal increase in the payload of vehicles to exceed the limitations specified by the manufacturer.

To find out more about GVM upgrades go here.

 Watch The Projects segment on Caravan Carnage below: