CARAVANING TIPS: Clayton's explains some major reasons which contribute to incidents.
CARAVANING TIPS: Clayton's explains some major reasons which contribute to incidents. Clayton's Towing

Caravan crashes: Clayton's towing has their say on why

CLAYTON"S Towing have been asked countless times why they seem to attend so many caravan crashes and each time what caused them.

They stress this is their opinion and they are not engineers, but they have spent 45 years on the roads in Queensland picking up the pieces from caravan crashes. 

"This opinion is by a group of us who, outside of work, all travel with large vans and have also attended hundreds of caravan crashes at work," the Clayton's team said.

After each crash the company looks at what they think caused it and often talk to the drivers about their experiences, what they did, look how they set their van up, how different vans are manufactured.

"Often we see and hear similar problems. We never wanted to express our opinion online of what we thought caused individual accidents, as in some cases manufacturer and aftermarket suppliers may be inclined to sue us for those opinions. Basically this is not about one particular caravan crash, it is an overview."

Vehicle size and capacity

  • A a decent-size vehicle loaded correctly is safer than a vehicle that has a bit of paper saying it can.
  • A large four-wheel-drive wagon is a fair lump of a car but a lot of these lighter utes out there have a higher towing capacity. Just because it says on paper it can tow 3.5 tonnes it doesn't mean you're going to be all good to tow even a 2.5 tonne van.
  • Of course large four-wheel-drives crash, but we generally see them with larger vans behind.


  • You need to aim to have around 200 to 250 kgs weight on your tow ball with bigger vans.
  • Ten per cent of the caravan weight is a good rule of thumb for whatever size van you tow.
  • You need to have the rear of your tow vehicle set up for this load, and ensure it is legal.
  • If you have no or limited downwards weight from the van going onto the tow hitch of your tow vehicle you're really asking for trouble.
  • Some vans are manufactured with nearly no tow ball weight - some are really scary - so do your homework before you make your investment.

Electric brake controllers

  • When you're on the highway turn them up high to provide solid braking to the trailer; if you need to emergency stop you want the trailer to be pulling up faster.
  • If you go through town and turn them down due to brakes locking up at the lights, don't forget to turn them up or they won't be there when needed.
  • The older-style controllers had a large solid lever so you could grab the slide button to lock the trailer brakes on.

Anti-sway bars and weight distribution hitches

  • First off, they are two totally different things but people appear to get them mixed up. Sway bars are designed to help with swaying, weight distribution hitches take weight off the tow ball, and level your vehicle.
  • Most caravan crashes we attend we see weight-distribution hitches fitted. With a heavily loaded tow ball they can help.
  • If you have low tow ball weight, we personally consider weight distribution hitches make things worse.
  • With their tension they really could provide the opposite result and have a dangerous lifting effect on the rear of your vehicle.


  • A big factor is when there are sections of highway that are downhill, with slight bends, 110 kmh zones, with some cross winds involved.
  • As it is downhill people's speeds unknowingly come up in these sections a bit higher than they normally travel.
  • The extra speed, downhill, winds, plus one or more of the above things discussed can lead to disaster.

To read the detailed Clayton's Towing post, use this link.

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