What is a 'safe' outfit?

Mar 14, 2005
9,788
686
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
At Parksy's suggestion and in order not to hi-jack Ty's thread in the 'Tow cars' section any further I thought I'd raise a new topic where one can delve into the above subject a bit more deeply.
Personally, I think it is well nigh impossible to define a 'safe' outfit covering all eventualities. In the end its safety depends solely on the driver who is in control. It's a bit like a firearm.
As 'otherclive' hinted in his last response to the other thread, it is possible to obtain a concession to tow at 100km/h in Germany subject to fulfilment of certain technical criteria, only one of those being weight ratio, and even then there are provisions for allowing a weight ratio of up to 100% for a caravan, not 85%. On the other hand, for example, without shock absorbers fitted, the weight ratio limit is only 30%. It just goes to show how differentiated the issue is, making it so very difficult to offer any blanket recommendations.
 
Oct 22, 2016
21
3
4,515
Visit site
Perhaps, it would be helpful, if some correspondents gave us their opinion as to why caravan are lost every year, due to overturning?
Does anyone think they have been saved by ATC and or tyre pressure warnings?
 
Mar 13, 2007
1,750
0
0
Visit site
Perry525 said:
Perhaps, it would be helpful, if some correspondents gave us their opinion as to why caravan are lost every year, due to overturning?
Does anyone think they have been saved by ATC and or tyre pressure warnings?

as the supermarket advert says "every little helps". what makes a unstable tow exactly the opposite of what make a sable one. take your pick there are no no's and must do's. I think the main issue is the driver. most, even experienced towers will never have had a bad snake. then if one happens panic sets in and make things worse to the point it goes over. now why it started to snake in the first place is basically conjecture.
 
Jul 18, 2017
367
34
10,685
Visit site
Good question,caravan weighing less than towing vehicle,loaded well(most of stuff on floor near axle) driven in a safe manner.Job done.
 
Nov 11, 2009
20,630
6,388
50,935
Visit site
The list could be endless and be purely subjective as I doubt any replies would have the benefit of a proper investigation of the cause. When a caravan overturns most of the evidence relating to load position will be scattered over the motorway and unless the cars diagnostics can be interrogated as some can, speed and steering inputs won't be known, neither will adjacent vehicles unless dash cams or CCTV record the incident.
 
Jun 20, 2005
17,527
3,651
50,935
Visit site
Back to basics before ATC Al-ko hitches etc.
Correct loading of the caravan is life saving. If you don’t know , say so , and One of us will give you a steer..
Both the towing vehicle and caravan hav3 weight loading# cast in stone. If you don’t understand that please ask.
Weight ratios?? Mmmm
Weight is one thing but shape and weight is another.
The nose load is actually imo one the most important issues but mor3 often overlooked.
Me . I prefer a massive tug but I appreciate this is not for everyone.
Speed has been mentioned. Yes a very crucial factor too....Even 5 mph can make a big difference to the units behaviour.
 
Nov 16, 2015
10,663
2,978
40,935
Visit site
Yes towing my Coachman 560. Decided to pass an HGV at about 60 , ish, just about to go past the HGV an huge yaw three sways Scream from Mrs H then silence, caravan ATC, kicked in pulled us straight then down to about 50 mph. Checked the caravan when on site , badly loaded. But ATC saved us.
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,788
686
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
colin-yorkshire said:
as the supermarket advert says "every little helps". what makes a unstable tow exactly the opposite of what make a sable one. take your pick there are no no's and must do's. I think the main issue is the driver. most, even experienced towers will never have had a bad snake. then if one happens panic sets in and make things worse to the point it goes over. now why it started to snake in the first place is basically conjecture.

Good point. I think too few owners have any idea how to react if their outfit shows first signs of instability, let alone are they in a position to be able to recover from a real snake. Even the worst imaginable setup is manageable if you know how to handle it. It might be a bit tiring after a while if it's really bad, though.

It is quite possible for the driver to replicate the function of the ATC without having such a unit fitted. You've just got to know how.
 
Sep 29, 2016
1,805
214
19,935
Visit site
Lutz said:
Good point. I think too few owners have any idea how to react if their outfit shows first signs of instability, let alone are they in a position to be able to recover from a real snake. Even the worst imaginable setup is manageable if you know how to handle it. It might be a bit tiring after a while if it's really bad, though.

It is quite possible for the driver to replicate the function of the ATC without having such a unit fitted. You've just got to know how.

Care to give us some starter points Lutz, I am genuinely interested.

Having had a few snakes (one of them was rather dramatic) and been fortunate enough not to have a serious repercussion, I cannot honestly say that I had a prepared plan of action for any of the incidents.

New thread perhaps ?
 
Mar 13, 2007
1,750
0
0
Visit site
you can't explain it in any detail. it's instinctive. and comes with confidence. best I could say is not to panic. to use an analogy it's like driving on ice the car starts to move off line so on go the brakes as the brain farts. yet that is the worse thing you could do. round it goes like a spinning top.
when the thing you should do is leave the brake alone and steer into it. yeah fine in theory but doing it in practice is very hard.
when the trailer starts to snake it pushes the back of the car in the opposite direction this makes the drivers hands move in sync with the movement and makes the snake worse. due to the light power steering.
after that you either know what to do or you don't.
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,788
686
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
Anseo said:
Care to give us some starter points Lutz, I am genuinely interested.

Having had a few snakes (one of them was rather dramatic) and been fortunate enough not to have a serious repercussion, I cannot honestly say that I had a prepared plan of action for any of the incidents.

New thread perhaps ?

One thing that one should never ever do is to try to steer out of a snake. Theoretically it should be possible, but one would have to get the movements of the steering wheel absolutely in phase with the sway of the caravan and the chances of doing that for more than one or two cycles are so remote, even for an experienced driver, that such action should be well avoided. Hold the steering wheel tight in the straight ahead position is the only way.

Another course of action which will never work is to try to pull the outfit straight again by accelerating. The car would need the performance of a rocket to be able to do that. Besides, the increase in speed can make matters only worse. No way.

ATC works on the principle of applying the caravan's brakes, so that is the way to go even if the caravan hasn't got ATC fitted. Apply the brakes enough to actuate the overrun brake. This has one further advantage. There is a critical speed below which the outfit will recover from a snake of its own accord, without the need for the driver to take any intervening action. Depending on conditions this is usually between 50 and 60mph. Therefore, once the outfit has slowed down to below 50mph it is very likely that the driver can take a deep breath again.
I have experienced a snake where the caravan was taking up two whole lanes of motorway and yet the outfit recovered from the incident by doing what I have described.
 

Parksy

Moderator
Nov 12, 2009
11,904
2,399
40,935
Visit site
I sometimes wonder if a snake begins and gets worse because the driver can't recognise the earliest signs?
Modern electronic stability aids on cars may mask the early wobble that should indicate to the driver that passing the fast moving car transporter at 60 mph while going downhill in a crosswind wasn't such a great idea and it's time to slow down and wait for a better overtake opportunity.
I often see tourers traveling along motorways with a considerable amount of side to side movement and wonder why the driver can't feel it through the seat of their pants.
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,788
686
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
Parksy said:
I sometimes wonder if a snake begins and gets worse because the driver can't recognise the earliest signs?
Modern electronic stability aids on cars may mask the early wobble that should indicate to the driver that passing the fast moving car transporter at 60 mph while going downhill in a crosswind wasn't such a great idea and it's time to slow down and wait for a better overtake opportunity.
I often see tourers traveling along motorways with a considerable amount of side to side movement and wonder why the driver can't feel it through the seat of their pants.

Absolutely! A very valid point. I have made exactly the same observation.
 
Nov 11, 2009
20,630
6,388
50,935
Visit site
Lutz said:
Parksy said:
I sometimes wonder if a snake begins and gets worse because the driver can't recognise the earliest signs?
Modern electronic stability aids on cars may mask the early wobble that should indicate to the driver that passing the fast moving car transporter at 60 mph while going downhill in a crosswind wasn't such a great idea and it's time to slow down and wait for a better overtake opportunity.
I often see tourers traveling along motorways with a considerable amount of side to side movement and wonder why the driver can't feel it through the seat of their pants.

Absolutely! A very valid point. I have made exactly the same observation.

Near to us on M4 Jnct 18 is a well known black spot for caravan accidents as the M4 west goes down hill with the A46 traffic going also downhill. The embankments then open up into a clear zone where there prevailing winds can be gusty. Its one of the few spots in UK where there is a sign warning towing vehicles to beware of cross winds. In France many autoroutes have speed restrictions for caravans when going downhill. At speeds between 50-60mph I don't overtake going downhill irrespective of the size of the slower moving vehicle.

I've had times when a caravan has seemed "flighty" and "twitchy"under certain conditions so just eased off of the throttle.
 
Feb 23, 2018
889
66
10,935
Visit site
Lutz said:
it is possible to obtain a concession to tow at 100km/h in Germany subject to fulfilment of certain technical criteria, only one of those being weight ratio, and even then there are provisions for allowing a weight ratio of up to 100% for a caravan, not 85%. On the other hand, for example, without shock absorbers fitted, the weight ratio limit is only 30%. It just goes to show how differentiated the issue is, making it so very difficult to offer any blanket recommendations.

Hi Lutz,

For reference my outfit is a 76% match, no ATC, but have a Trailer Stability add-on to my car's electronic traction control.

Nothing prepared me for the first time I experienced the suction/vacuum created from overtaking/being overtaken by a HGV... Heart in mouth! It made me think would the experience be even worse with a heavier caravan behind my car? I'd never had this before with my super-lightweight caravan. However, keeping to an indicated 60mph on motorways I have had no issues [noseweight set to as high as my car will take and the caravan loaded with care] and the outfit feels stable and composed. But having seen practically every YouTube video of snaking caravans/trailers, I am always conscious of getting into an unrecoverable situation.

Those Videos seem to show, as Parksy notes, the snake starting and no action being taken by the driver, until the snake is terminal. An excess of speed often seems to be the deciding factor in these cases. It's hard to tell from these dashcam videos, being an external POV, but the snake appears to be begin quickly; with only 2-3 seconds to react perhaps the driver is unable to correct, or unwilling to believe it that is is happening.

Paul
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,788
686
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
Parksy said:
I sometimes wonder if a snake begins and gets worse because the driver can't recognise the earliest signs?
Modern electronic stability aids on cars may mask the early wobble that should indicate to the driver that passing the fast moving car transporter at 60 mph while going downhill in a crosswind wasn't such a great idea and it's time to slow down and wait for a better overtake opportunity.
I often see tourers traveling along motorways with a considerable amount of side to side movement and wonder why the driver can't feel it through the seat of their pants.

Unless one is totally insensitive one should feel deployment of the electronic stability aids that you refer to.
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,788
686
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
CustardAvenger said:
Hi Lutz,

For reference my outfit is a 76% match, no ATC, but have a Trailer Stability add-on to my car's electronic traction control.

Nothing prepared me for the first time I experienced the suction/vacuum created from overtaking/being overtaken by a HGV... Heart in mouth! It made me think would the experience be even worse with a heavier caravan behind my car? I'd never had this before with my super-lightweight caravan. However, keeping to an indicated 60mph on motorways I have had no issues [noseweight set to as high as my car will take and the caravan loaded with care] and the outfit feels stable and composed. But having seen practically every YouTube video of snaking caravans/trailers, I am always conscious of getting into an unrecoverable situation.

Those Videos seem to show, as Parksy notes, the snake starting and no action being taken by the driver, until the snake is terminal. An excess of speed often seems to be the deciding factor in these cases. It's hard to tell from these dashcam videos, being an external POV, but the snake appears to be begin quickly; with only 2-3 seconds to react perhaps the driver is unable to correct, or unwilling to believe it that is is happening.

Paul

I presume you mean ESP (Electronic Stability Programm) and not traction control because ETC is something completely different and doesn't affect stability in any way.

Ever since I experienced a serious snake I have made it my practice to overtake or be overtaken by heavy trucks on a trailing throttle, especially on downhill stretches. I've found that helps a lot.
 

Parksy

Moderator
Nov 12, 2009
11,904
2,399
40,935
Visit site
I have to confess that I'm not really experienced as far as stability aids are concerned, my caravan doesn't have ATC and my car (a 2009 Kia Sorento 2.5) has traction control and anti-lock brakes but no stability controls as far as I know.
Seat of the pants for me I'm afraid.
 
Feb 23, 2018
889
66
10,935
Visit site
Lutz said:
[I presume you mean ESP (Electronic Stability Programm) and not traction control because ETC is something completely different and doesn't affect stability in any way.

Ever since I experienced a serious snake I have made it my practice to overtake or be overtaken by heavy trucks on a trailing throttle, especially on downhill stretches. I've found that helps a lot.

That's the one! I could only think of the Volvo specific name for it - DTSC - which is what they call traction & stability control when I typed out the post.

An instance that come to mind was when an Artic passed me in road works - I had the cruise set to an indicated 50mph,the truck with it's calibrated speedometer overtook at 4-5mph faster. Had I been using the throttle, and been able to back off, would this have reduced the pull from the truck?
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,788
686
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
CustardAvenger said:
That's the one! I could only think of the Volvo specific name for it - DTSC - which is what they call traction & stability control when I typed out the post.

An instance that come to mind was when an Artic passed me in road works - I had the cruise set to an indicated 50mph,the truck with it's calibrated speedometer overtook at 4-5mph faster. Had I been using the throttle, and been able to back off, would this have reduced the pull from the truck?

That is my experience, yes. I back off the throttle while the truck is next to me and once it has passed I return to my normal cruising speed. Backing off the throttle also has another advantage in that it reduces the total time taken for exposure to the complete overtaking manoeuvre.

When overtaking myself I accelerate a bit more as I approach the truck, lift the foot off the accelerator while actually passing and then return to my normal throttle position afterwards. Of course, lifting the foot off the throttle mustn't reduce the speed so much that the overtaking manoeuvre is jeopardised. That's why there's a need to accelerate a bit beforehand.

I find that such practice is only necessary with certain trucks, car transporters being the worst as they create an awful lot of air turbulence.
 
Nov 11, 2009
20,630
6,388
50,935
Visit site
Lutz said:
CustardAvenger said:
That's the one! I could only think of the Volvo specific name for it - DTSC - which is what they call traction & stability control when I typed out the post.

An instance that come to mind was when an Artic passed me in road works - I had the cruise set to an indicated 50mph,the truck with it's calibrated speedometer overtook at 4-5mph faster. Had I been using the throttle, and been able to back off, would this have reduced the pull from the truck?

That is my experience, yes. I back off the throttle while the truck is next to me and once it has passed I return to my normal cruising speed. Backing off the throttle also has another advantage in that it reduces the total time taken for exposure to the complete overtaking manoeuvre.

I tend to do the same and move slightly further to the left in my lane too whenever a truck or coach wants to pass.
 
May 7, 2012
8,598
1,813
30,935
Visit site
To me a safe outfit is one that will be stable in all circumstances that you are reasonably likely to meet. The problem is that until you take a new outfit onto the road you cannot be sure of its suitability although provided you check all the necessary factors as far as possible then you should get very near.
What you need is a good tow car, a good weight ratio, correct loading and sensible driving. From dealing with accidents the weight ratio and driving style are probably the main points you need to get right although bad loading is something we usually cannot be sure off in accident investigations.
All vehicles have their limits, and provided you know and drive within these, then any vehicle should be safe. With a caravan though a badly matched outfit might have a very low safety threshold so common sense in selecting the outfit is vital..
 
Oct 22, 2016
21
3
4,515
Visit site
Every year the newspapers provide pictures of caravans that have turned over. Is it that after such an experience, they give up caravanning? Or is it, they do not use this forum?
 
Mar 14, 2005
17,801
3,195
50,935
Visit site
Perry525 said:
Every year the newspapers provide pictures of caravans that have turned over. Is it that after such an experience, they give up caravanning? Or is it, they do not use this forum?

Sadly bad news is good news as far as the papers are concerned, so they will report these spectacular and unfortunate incidents and give the impression that caravanners are a menace. It totally ignores the fact that many hundred of thousands of caravan trips go by with no major upsets.

Much of the advice on this forum is good, but not every caravanner reads it, Some read but choose to ignore it and some read and try it. You can do all you can to keep an outfit in as tow-able condition as possible, but you cant always control what going on outside the car such as road conditions including pot holes, cambers, wind rain and other drivers, so I'd suggest the major factors that's affect safety is the driver, and especially the speed they try to drive at. after all stationary outfits don't suffer instability!
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,788
686
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
Fact is that caravanning accidents are often spectacular because they tend to fall apart like matchwood, littering the whole road with debris,but fortunately generally without much injury to the persons involved. As a result, they can cause major traffic hold-ups until the rubbish has been cleared off the road. This has given the caravan fraternity a bad name, but really accidents involving caravans are probably no more frequent than among other road users and their drivers are no worse, in proportion, than others.
 

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts