Caravan and trailer owners are being warned to ensure their vehicles are roadworthy as safety spot checks are stepped up this bank holiday.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is increasing its enforcement activity as it revealed that one in six caravans checked by its inspectors had a serious safety problem.
Checks on small trailers, such as those used for trailer tents, also found that nearly four in 10 had a similar safety issue.
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The most common problems were associated with the lights, tyres, breakaway cables and brakes, all of which could pose dangerous for the driver and other road users.
With many people expected to take advantage of the longer break to head into the great outdoors and the prospect of more people holdaying in the UK this summer, the agency is urging anyone thinking of using a trailer or caravan to carry out some simple checks first, especially if the trailer has been laid up over winter and during lockdown.
DVSA’s chief driving examiner, Mark Winn commented: “DVSA’s priority is to help you keep your caravan or trailer safe to use on Britain’s roads.
“It’s great to see caravans and trailers returning to the road but drivers who tow have a special responsibility.
“Many caravans and trailers have been parked up over winter, so we’re urging drivers who are new to towing or haven’t towed for a while to carry out some simple checks.”
To help motorists ensure their caravan or trailer is in suitable condition, the DVSA has created a list of “SAFE” checks to be carried out before setting off.
You should have your caravan or trailer professional serviced regularly as a professional can check things you can’t see such as brake condition. For added reassurance you can get your trailer checked for free by a specialist at National Trailer and Towing Association sites or have it looked at by one of more than 500 workshops associated with the Approved Workshop Scheme.
Air in tyres - check pressure, depth and condition
Tyre pressure can drop if a vehicle is used infrequently so check all the tyres on the trailer or caravan and on the towing vehicle. Most vehicles require different tyre pressures when towing so ensure yours are set to the correct pressure.
When checking the pressure also examine the tyres’ tread depth - the legal minimum is 1.6mm - and look for any signs of damage such as cracks, splits or bulges.
Fit the breakaway cable and check electrical connections
The breakaway cable is there to activate the trailer or caravan’s brakes should it become unhitched so you must check that the breakaway cable is correctly attached to the towbar or a secure part of the car and that the cable is not damaged and isn’t too tight or loose. If the trailer does not have brakes, it needs to have a secondary coupling – normally a chain or thick cable that will keep the trailer attached to the towing vehicle if the main coupling fails.
Check the electrical socket and electrical cable connecting the towing vehicle and trailer are in good condition, make sure the plug is fitted securely and make sure the cap and spring mechanism is not damaged. If your lights are not working, check the pins in the socket and in the plug because these can corrode if unused for a long period - the wires can also corrode causing problems
Examine – lights, weight limit and mirrors
Check all caravan or trailer sidelights, indicator and brake lights are working and clean - remember to check the reflectors, too. If your caravan/trailer is wider than the towing vehicle, extended mirrors must be used to give an adequate view to both sides.
Read up on your towing vehicle’s maximum train weight - the most it can tow - and check the maximum nose weight (how heavy the front of the trailer is). Once you’re sure the car and caravan/trailer are compatible, check the load is evenly distributed and secured safely.
Check your towbar to ensure it is properly fitted and in good condition and check the towball for wear and tear - sometimes there are wear indicators on the towing hitch.
if you are using a detachable towbar, check it is secured properly and that any warning marker indicates the towbar is correctly locked.
Check you are correctly hitched with the jockey wheel test - try to lift the hitch off the tow ball using the jockey wheel