Reversing Your Van

Reversing a caravan is a matter of a lot of practice, technique, and teamwork.

  • When reversing, consider which way you want the rear of the caravan to go. Place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the back of the van to swing left then move your hand left. If you want the rear of the van to move to the right then move your hand right. This is an easy way to re establish the correct wheel direction if you get a bit flustered.
  • Continue reversing slowly, slowly when the van is on line. Inevitably it “drifts” so make corrections in accordance with above.
  • If you need a significant correction, drive forward one car length to straighten up. It is easier than making a big recovery because there is a tendency to over-correct and end up in a big mess.
  • Make sure you have effective towing mirrors that allow you to see right down the side of the caravan. Without these you are hampered before you start.
  • Work on the teamwork with your partner. Agree on the process and the language (*!/*?&@!#!) no, I didn’t mean that language. I want consistent and meaningful words, which are unambiguous. Try “left hand down” or “to me” or “away from me” rather than the classic “other way” which is absolutely useless unless you are a mind reader.
  • Make your partner sign a document, which decrees that they will never go out of your sight when they are guiding you. If you can’t see them STOP!
  • The driver and the observer should swap roles occasionally to allow an understanding of each other’s predicament.
  • If you are taking home your new purchase, arrange for someone to be there to do it for the first time.
  • Practice only for short periods and have one advisor only. Don’t bring the grand kids to watch!
  • Local parks or empty supermarket carparks are good spots to use.
  • Above all don’t hesitate to confidently ask the park proprietor to put your van onto the site for you. That is their job.

Once you arrive, observe the following:

  • Inspect the intended location on foot. Look out for overhead obstacles, culverts, obstructions etc.
  • Visualise exactly where you want the caravan wheels. If it is a sloping site have your level wedge(s) in place.
  • Drive past the site with it on your right hand side. This is essential, even if it means doing a lap of the park to correctly align yourself, because it will allow you to watch the van as you reverse in.
  • Stop with the driver’s side caravan wheel a metre or two past the left hand side of your site.
  • Wind down the front windows of your car to allow effective communication with your observer.
  • Your observer is useful in one of two places. On the driver’s side towards the rear of the van watching how far you can push into the site or on the passenger side of the car, about level with the driver to watch the door-side back corner of the van as it swings onto the site. I would expect the observer to move from one position to another a couple of times during the process.
  • Pull the steering wheel hard left hand down and begin reversing slowly.
  • The observer must remain in visual contact with the driver. If the driver loses sight of the observer they should stop moving the rig until that contact is restored.
  • When the caravan line is close to being achieved retract 50% of the steering wheel movement (now right hand down) to keep the van parallel to the site. Refer to the reversing techniques above to fine tune your position.
  • Apply your teamwork approach, do everything slowly and calmly and be the envy of your neighbours.