How to Load a Caravan Safely

The above shows the effective mass of locating a 20 kg item at various distances from the axle/s of a caravan.

Locating mass correctly along the length of a caravan is vital. That applies both to its design and owner loading. 

As with a playground see-saw, two children of the same mass sitting at equal distances from the central pivot balance each other. Likewise an adult sitting near the middle on the one side can balance the far less mass of a child at its far end.

A centre-axled caravan behaves like this too. In effect it's a see-saw on wheels. Where you locate stuff along its length has exactly the same effect - that its distance from the axle/s increases that stuff's 'effective weight'.

 A single axle caravan (or one with twin axles) behaves like the see-saw's ends. They can pitch up and down and yaw (sway) sideways under tow. 

As with that vertical movement, a tool box weighing 20 kg directly above a 6 metre long caravan/s axle) tool box will not cause that caravan to sway. But if that tool box is half-way toward the back of the caravan (and that caravan then sways) that tool box has an effective mass of 40 kg - because it is further away from the axle/s.  

The further from the axle/s the more detrimental the effect. If that tool box is on a 10 kg external rack at the rear of the caravan trailer, it acts as if weighed around 80 kg and the rack an effective 40 kg.

That tool box and rack in effect acts as if were four times heavier at the back of a 7 metre caravan than in the middle. It not only exerts additional force when the trailer pitches and yaws (sways): it induces that pitching and swaying.

The effect is similar at the front. The force exerted attempts to cause the tow vehicle to pitch - and yaw sideways. It literally attempts to steer the tow vehicle via its rear tyres.

Never have heavy items, particularly tool boxes, spare wheels and full jerry cans, at the very front or rear of a trailer.

Always have the tow vehicle loaded to its maximum legally permitted weight. Keep the caravan's loading as light as possible - and as close to the caravan's axle/s as possible. 

The caravan needs to be about 10% nose heavy, but that is best done by moving heavy stuff just ahead of the axles - not like a weight lifters barbell (that has all virtually all of the weight at the ends).

This is also why RV Book's articles and publications so strongly condemn locating heavy spare wheels etc at the extreme rear of long caravans.

For a truly thorough plain English explanation of all this (and how to assess the stability of your own caravan) see our book 'Why Caravans Roll Over - and how to prevent it'.

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