Sometimes when I see our guests arrive at Horton Common I can see that reversing their caravan onto the pitch is not something they enjoy. Many of our guests actually unhitch and use their motormover. However, I often encourage our guests if they are not comfortable or experienced reversing their caravan to give it a go. And that’s not just for caravan beginners. Being comfortable reversing a caravan either in a straight line or around a corner is an important skill to have. For instance, you never know, while on public roads your caravan sat nav may take you down a narrow road where you may be forced to reverse your caravan. Therefore, I encourage our guests to practice their reversing skills while on site. With this post, I wanted to collect and reference the best tips, videos and diagrams currently available on how to reverse a caravan.
I’ve previously written quite a comprehensive post on how to tow a caravan. While that post does briefly touch on the topic of reversing a caravan as its the trickiest skill to learn it does deserve its own post. Something I do want to quickly reference is to make sure your towing mirrors are properly positioned. This will make the whole reversing process much simpler and safer. If you looking to get the best current tips and advice as quickly as possible the Camping a Caravanning Club has an updated video:
Your Starting Position Before Reversing is Very Important
Something which I don’t think much of the advice out there on reversing a caravan onto a pitch, including the video above, emphasises enough is your starting position. For instance, our guests have to reverse their caravan to the left onto their pitch. As the video states, you want to tow the caravan with the axle just past the pitch and stop before reversing. However, your distance past the pitch is not the only important factor, your position is very important. What do I mean by ‘position’? Well I mean is your caravan on the left side of the road or the right side of the road?
If you watch the video above you will notice as the tow car starts to reverse the caravan onto the pitch its front wheels go off the road and onto the grass. Well, at certain times of the year if there has been lots of rain your front wheels may drop into the soft muddy ground. If your tow car is a 4×4 you should probably be fine. However, if your car is front-wheel drive only, then you may get into trouble and get stuck.
How to Keep Your Cars Wheels on the Road When Reversing the Caravan
How do you avoid your front wheels coming off the road while reversing? Well, its all to do with your starting position. If you are reversing back to the left onto the pitch you want the car and caravan to start as far over to the left-hand side of the road as possible. If you are reversing to the right you want to start with the car and caravan as far over to the right-hand side of the road as possible. Now, depending on the width of the road in front of the pitch your cars front wheels may still come off the road and on to the grass. However, its likely to only be one of the wheels. Hence, even if you have a front-wheel-drive car you will at least have one driving wheel still on a hard surface.
How to Turn the Steering Wheel When Reversing a Caravan
Now that I’ve covered the best starting position for the car and caravan when reversing onto a pitch, lets now discuss how to steer when reversing. To try and keep this information as easy to pick a possible I’ve stated it as bullet points below instead of within paragraphs of text.
- When reversing a caravan you need to steer in the opposite direction when compared to how you would reverse the car on its own.
- To make the caravan turn to the left while reversing, rotate your steering wheel to the right (right hand down).
- To make the caravan turn to the right while reversing, rotate your steering wheel to the left (left hand down).
- Apply full steering lock initially and gradually counter the steering direction to create a gradual reversing turn.
- Remember to reverse the caravan slowly to correct oversteer.
Reversing a Caravan in a Straight Line
If you wish to reverse your caravan back in a straight line the process is slightly different. As you travel backwards if you see the caravan taking up more space in one wing mirror than the other steer towards that mirror. Therefore, if the caravan is getting larger in the left-hand mirror turn the steering wheel to the left, and vice versa. As the caravan gets smaller in the applicable mirror correct your steering back to the centre to continue reversing straight back.
How to Avoid Jackknifing While Reversing the Caravan
As described above to initialise the manoeuvre to reverse a caravan around a bend you have to apply full steering lock in the opposite direction to which you want the caravan to turn. However, shortly after starting to reverse you have the reverse your steering direction or you will jackknife the caravan. In other words, the caravan hitch will come into contact with the side of rear bumper of your tow car.
The way to avoid a reversing jackknife such as this to take your time and correct any steering issues as quickly as possible. As you start to create the turn while reversing the caravan by steering in the opposite direction it will appear to turn slowly at first. However, after that initial counter steering if you do not start to rotate the steering wheel in the opposite direction it will result in the jackknifed situation above. The initial counter steer while reversing the caravan has to be taken with great care and patience.
Car reversing cameras where you can see the hitch can play some benefit to spot the jackknife before contact. However, constantly checking your side mirror to gauge the degree of the turn is the most important factor. Obviously having a second person available is also very valuable. As they can accurately describe how close the rear side of the car and front side of the caravan are to touching each other.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Forward to Correct the Reversing Turn
Now, you may want to achieve the whole reversing process in one nice sweeping reversing manoeuvre. However, don’t be afraid if things look like their not going well to drive forward to straighten up the caravan. Sometimes, due to how tight the turn is even the most experienced caravanners need to approach the complete manoeuvre in several steps. Though, obviously remember as noted previously you want to try and keep on the road. If your cars driving wheels leave the hard firm surface you may get stuck.
Can you Reverse a Caravan on Your Own?
I do have some guests whole arrive on-site and reverse their caravan onto the pitch on their own. However, they are generally very experienced caravanners. Some are also active and retired lorry drivers, so reversing a caravan is child’s play to them. For your beginner or average caravanner trying to reverse a caravan onto a pitch on your own is going to be a significant challenge. You will probably be stopping and starting frequently so you don’t reverse into the service post or jackknife the caravan.
Reversing cameras fitted to the car and caravan can make a big difference. If you do think you will have to reverse on to a pitch frequently getting a reversing camera installed is worth considering. However, if you do have someone with you that can shout back information on how the reversing is going that’s better any camera. At the end of the day, you only have one set of eyes to look in your mirrors and a screen. With two people watching what’s going on while reversing the caravan its just a lot safer.
How To Reverse a Caravan – Detailed Video
While the video at the start of this post from the Caravan and Camping Club is well worth a watch on how to reverse a caravan, I would also encourage you to watch the video below. Produced by the insurance company Caravan Guard its a more detailed and in-depth video giving some additional hints and tips:
Conclusion on How to Reverse a Caravan onto a Pitch
Now, though the above is the correct theory on how to reverse a caravan, in practice it still takes a bit of getting used to. Its just one of those things you have to try and fail at a couple of times to really appreciate how it works and how to do it correctly. I cannot emphasise enough though to take your time. If you try and rush the reversing manoeuvre its likely you’re not going to complete the task any more quickly as you will have stop, go forward and try again. If you are on a site such as ours with a hard standing road and pitches even if you have a motormover its a good opportunity to practice your reversing skills.
Anyway, thanks for reading this post and I hope you feel more confident about your caravan reversing manoeuvres in the future. I also hope you consider coming to pay us a visit here at Horton Common in the near future to experience our fully serviced pitches. 🙂