The Dark Art of Reverse Parking a Caravan - How to Reverse a Caravan in Tow

Posted by Emprise Marketing on

How to reverse a caravan in tow

We've yet to meet anyone that loves reversing a caravan into a tight spot. In fact, the vast majority of travellers see it as no more than a necessary evil. 

Put simply, reversing a hitched-load is tricky, delicate and often-times frustrating. Nevertheless, it can be overwhelmingly satisfying to nail the perfect park when reversing a caravan into an idyllic spot. And it's encouraging to remember that reversing vans is statistically one of the safest elements of towing. 

Take it slowly when entering a caravan park and don;t rush to position your van into your allocated spot (Opal Inn Caravan Park)(Image: Take it slowly when entering a caravan park and don't rush to position your van into your allocated spot- Opal Inn Caravan Park.)

The best approach is to remain calm and go slow. Memorise the basics and with a bit of practice, you'll be in there smooth as silk. Here's how it goes:

  1. Line the van up van so that it's pointing in the direction you want it to go – or at least as close as you can, depending on the space you're working with. If you need to reverse at an angle, you'll get better visibility by backing the van to the right so that the driver's side is on the inside of the curve. 
  2. If you have a passenger, get them to jump out and act as your spotter. Have them stand back and within view of the side mirrors. Roll the windows down so you can communicate easily, you may need to clarify some hand signals before you start. Your mirrors should be adjusted so that if the vehicle and van are lined up straight you can see both back corners of the van. 
  3. Now for the fun part; slowly back it up to push the van back into place. The trick is that the effect of your steering wheel is reversed. To combat the confusion, hold your hands at the bottom of the steering wheel, not the top. This way, steering with your right hand will move the caravan to the right, and the left hand turns the van to the left (this makes more sense when you're doing it).  
  4. First, turn the wheel so that the tow vehicle pushes the van to the desired angle, then ease up the angle of steering so that the tow vehicle follows the line of the van in a smooth arc. 
  5. The key to smooth reversing is to take it slowly and avoid big, sudden movements. Things can get out of control quickly, relax and take a break if things get tricky. At any point you can pull forward to correct the angle, this can help to reduce the curve to a gentler angle. And never be ashamed to pull forward, straighten up and start again.

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14 comments

  • I have found this to be the simplest easyist to understand advice on how to steer when reversing a caravan:
    Face forward
    Look in side mirrors
    If too much caravan in Right mirror – turn steering wheel to the Right
    If too much caravan in Left mirror – turn steering wheel to the Left.

    Glen Willson on
  • Its the age old story. Been driving for 8 hours. Both tired. You arrive at wine o’clock and proceed to entertain all the other van owners comfortably sitting around eating cheese and drinking wine. Then the spotter at the back starts giving hand signals. Nothing is going right for the driver. In the end he gets out in desperation and yells to the spotter whilst waving his arm around. "What the….. does this mean? We have all been there. Its not fun. Just try to stay calm. And maybe practice down some quiet back street with a few maneuvers. Practice, Practice Practice and you will improve.

    Paul Martin on
  • Too many first-time owners, reversing a caravan is one of the trickiest and most intimidating maneuvers to perform. Thanks for sharing!
    https://www.creditone.com.au/leisure/caravan-and-camper-finance

    Caravan Finance Australia on
  • No one can get it right every time. I agree with Mark in earlier post, there should be a special licence or category for towing anything bigger than a box trailer. Too many people are buying vans and hitting the road with no experience. Lets get them trained first, maybe the dealers can get involved, no sale without passing a practical test after basic training.

    Brian Hunt on
  • Hello Hema and Bec,

    I would like to make a comment on reversing your caravan with the help of a spotter. I have been towing trailers and caravans of all shape and sizes along with driving heavy haulage. The first thing a driver should do is visually check out where they want the van etc and have a good impression how they are going to execute the operation. Having a spotter is an excellent idea, but they should also understand how the driver is wanting to execute the operation. ideally, the spotter should be at the front of the vehicle and should only need to point to the direction that back of thevan etc should be heading. In tight situations, yes, there may be some need to communicate, but generally it can normally be achieved by surveying the situation and having the spotter just pointing from the front.
    The big issue I see with backing of vehicles and trailers etc, is that there are alot of drivers who hook up for the first time and have little or NO experience backing with a trailer etc .
    I look forward to your continued publications.

    Chris Lilol on

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