When it comes 4WD towing capacity, there’s a lot you need to consider before you take your caravan off road. While it may be tempting to hitch your caravan up to your vehicle and head off straight away, knowing how much you can carry first is crucial for optimum off road towing. So before you make a dash, first take a moment to look at your the suitability of your 4WD-caravan combination.
Why do I need to check 4WD towing capacity?
You want to ensure your 4WD is strong, reliable and up for the job of heavy towing, especially if you’re going to be off road for awhile. If you don’t, the consequences of having the wrong 4WD towing capacity can be great and far reaching.
Road safety officers are always on the lookout for mismatched vehicle-caravan combinations, and they will come down hard if you have the wrong tow set-up. If they find your caravan is too wide, long or heavy for your tow vehicle, you may face a hefty fine and have to leave your caravan by the roadside – and even before you’ve been off road!
The other, and more serious potential, is breaking down in a remote area due to your vehicle struggling with heavy towing. While you may have packed extra food and water for an emergency situation like this, this is a scenario you want to avoid as best you can. That’s why it’s equally important you make 100% sure you have your 4WD towing capacity sorted before you hit the road.
But isn’t every 4WD built for off road towing?
While 4WD’s are renowned for their off road driving capabilities, you need to check that the model you’re driving is built for caravan towing and can handle the weight of your caravan.
Have a look in your 4WD owner’s manual to see that it:
- has been built for 4WD towing
- has a strong frame that is sturdy and solid
- weighs at least 30% the weight of your caravan, fully-laden
- has a strong tow ball that weighs at least 10% the weight of your caravan, fully-laden
- has heavy duty wheels, for optimum grip and traction off-road
- offers good fuel efficiency for off road towing
- has automatic transmission (for really heavy towing).
For caravans over 3000kg, aside from a few select SUVs, you may also require a special license to tow it. However, keep in mind, while you want a strong and sturdy set up, you also want to stay as light and nimble as possible for better off road handling.
Also check your caravan
As well as looking at your 4WD, you want to make sure that your caravan is also set up for off road conditions. If your caravan’s too heavy, some of the ways it will impact your trip, include:
- it doesn’t tow smoothly or easily on unsealed roads
- you feel the full impact going over bumps and divots
- it doesn’t take hills, corners or braking as easily
- there’s more potential of getting bogged in mud and sand
- there’s less clearance when you cross waterways
- it burns up more fuel than usual.
Make sure it's built for off road conditions
To ensure your caravan doesn’t let you down, check it has been built with Australian off road conditions in mind and includes the following key features:
- raised frame to navigate ruts, bumps, depressions
- strong steel chassis, treated with duragel to prevent rust and corrosion
- heavy-duty bumper bars that extend underneath
- heavy-duty tyres with the right off road grip
- independent tandem suspension
- off road electric braking system
- electronic stability control
- off road ball hitch set-up
- checker plate to protect the bottom of your caravan
- rear stone guard to deflect rocks
- full dust proofing to protect the interior from dust.
- mud flaps fitted.
If you can tick all these boxes, then you're one step closer to being ready for your off road caravan adventure.
Now enjoy the journey!
Not only is it important to have the right 4WD towing capacity so you can legally tow on the road, but also so you can enjoy a smooth drive with minimal impact from the rough tracks and trails you’ll travel.
If you find that your vehicle isn’t suited for off-road towing, and you want to upgrade, think carefully about the value of this purchase. If it’s going to be your primary vehicle, in particular, you want to make sure that it’s also practical and convenient for your everyday life, from driving around your neighbourhood to parking and storage.
If you can still see that having a 4WD will be perfect for your lifestyle, also consider talking to your caravan dealer for advice on popular vehicles for off road caravanning. Once you have all this information and have found your perfect 4WD and carvavan combination, then you can disappear off the beaten track with full peace of mind.
Want to learn how to tow your caravan with confidence? Download our free ebook 10 steps to becoming a carvaan towing pro