Nosey Lesson

Kalych replied on 01/10/2019 07:06

Posted on 01/10/2019 07:06

We have been caravan club members for 15 years during which time we have owned 2 Baileys, 1 Compass, 2 Elddis and now our first Swift (Conqueror 580). Over the years we have towed with Vauxhall Vectra v6, Shogun, Landcruiser and Volvo XC70. I have always made sure I had a tow car with plenty of BHP, Torque and kerb weight, also very careful with loading the caravan before going on the road (tyres, wheel nut torque, lights, etc). I considered myself a caravaner who understood the risks to ourselves and other road users associated with towing and planned accordingly, with no problems encountered until our recent change of both caravan and car.


We changed our caravan to the 2016 Swift 580 and at the same time changed our tow car to a 2016 Audi A6 Avant 3.0 Quattro with a dealer fitted new tow bar thinking it would tow the Swift with consummate ease, given the cars towing capacity is 2100kgs. We loaded the caravan, did usual checks and headed south from Aberdeen to Carlisle. On the way we had 3 occasions where the caravan swayed much more than normal as I passed an HGV and on one occasion had both my wife and I concerned. I pulled over and checked everything in case the loading inside had shifted but all was ok. We continued our journey south reducing road speed which stopped any further sway.


Once at our destination I started checking further and even called the Caravan & Motorhome Club technical support team where I was advised there should be no problem with the match however two factors (outside of loading) which may cause the sway are tyre pressure and nose weight. This caused me to check tow bar weights and found after contacting Audi it was only 75kgs for that car. Needless to say I purchased a calibrated nose weight gauge and discovered the Swift was around 85kgs with only a lightweight gas bottle in the front locker.

We are now about to change our tow car having had it only 4 months and the big lesson I learned was to know the maximum load the tow car can take on the tow ball, something I’ve never thought about in 15 years towing.


Interestingly, I called the Swift Group to ask the ex-works nose weight of an empty 2016 Conqueror 580 and was advised they are not obliged to provide the public with that information. Come on Swift Group, surely to comply with design specifications you have a nose weight threshold your completed ‘ex-works’ empty caravans must adhere to?

AnotherDavid replied on 03/10/2019 08:30

Posted on 03/10/2019 08:30

I think the most telling point in the OP was "reduced speed and and it stopped any further sway"  

I think we can all drive ourselves mad worrying about nose weights etc and the answer is generally in speed. I tow about 5000 miles each year and whilst doing my best to load sensibly and carry heavy items in the car I haven't actually weighed the nose weight in years. Even two bikes on the rear of the van made no difference on a 3k trip this year  towing at the usual continental limit of 50mph

EmilysDad replied on 03/10/2019 08:31

Posted on 03/10/2019 08:16 by Whittakerr

Sorry if i missed something ET but your post quoted MM not me.

Posted on 03/10/2019 08:31

 If only we had a forum like others where you're able to edit a previous post we were quoting from, after an 'upgrade' we ended up with all or nothing.

Kalych replied on 03/10/2019 08:51

Posted on 01/10/2019 12:49 by lornalou1

So 15 years towing and every caravan/car combo you had could have been overloaded on the hitch as you never checked any of them. Makes you think how many older caravanners are still doing the same, just hitch up and go. surprisedsurprised I don't mean age I mean 20/30 years of towing.

Posted on 03/10/2019 08:51

Indeed luck has played a big part over the years and it’s not a strategy I’m proud of nor would I condone. I used to only look at towing capacity of the vehicle and caravan MTPLM with no problems at all. I also wonder like Lornalou1 how many other seasoned caravaners there are out there not knowing they are exceeding car manufacturers design criteria?

EasyT replied on 03/10/2019 09:08

Posted on 03/10/2019 08:51 by Kalych

Indeed luck has played a big part over the years and it’s not a strategy I’m proud of nor would I condone. I used to only look at towing capacity of the vehicle and caravan MTPLM with no problems at all. I also wonder like Lornalou1 how many other seasoned caravaners there are out there not knowing they are exceeding car manufacturers design criteria?

Posted on 03/10/2019 09:08

When I started towing nearly 40 years ago it was, for me, a question of running tyres at setting for full passenger load, hefting the caravan weight at the hitch to check it felt OK and looking at suspension travel. I used to have one other check which was to wiggle the steering wheel before leaving estate roads, to cause the caravan to sway slightly and check that it came straight back in line. I only started checking actual noseweights - rather than by feel - around 15 years ago with heavier caravans and weaker back

compass362 replied on 03/10/2019 10:44

Posted on 03/10/2019 10:44

Personally I wouldn't have thought a 10 kilo difference would have made such a dramatic handling issue.

We all load our caravans pretty much the same every trip , so that in itself is a good thing I check the nose weight occasionally but seeing how the caravan is loaded similarly every trip it shouldn't vary a deal.

Changes in the contents of the front locker will effect nose weight & stability yes  , but my main concern is the correct tyre pressure on both car & loaded caravan.

The recommended caravan tyre pressures are a must & should be adhered too , but having a change in car tyre types in my opinion needs the rear car pressures adjusting for best stability & ride comfort.

The tow car tyre pressures are vitally important , especially the rear.

Rufs replied on 03/10/2019 12:04

Posted on 03/10/2019 12:04

The recommended caravan tyre pressures are a must & should be adhered too , but having a change in car tyre types in my opinion needs the rear car pressures adjusting for best stability & ride comfort.

probably agree, however, a mobile svc mechanic i used many years ago always said to reduce caravan tyre pressures by 10 psi from handbook spec, said this would reduce vibration/bounce.

My Sorento says 33 psi whatever the conditions and that is what i use.

As i have said before, not technical, but i always thought the max nose weight of the caravan was that specified by for e.g. the Alko chasis specification?, i appreciate you can lower or raise this by how you load the caravan. Always used reasonably big tow cars and on the Coachmans they always came with ATC fitted as standard, so never had much problem with the "tail wagging the dog"

Kalych replied on 03/10/2019 13:45

Posted on 03/10/2019 10:44 by compass362

Personally I wouldn't have thought a 10 kilo difference would have made such a dramatic handling issue.

We all load our caravans pretty much the same every trip , so that in itself is a good thing I check the nose weight occasionally but seeing how the caravan is loaded similarly every trip it shouldn't vary a deal.

Changes in the contents of the front locker will effect nose weight & stability yes  , but my main concern is the correct tyre pressure on both car & loaded caravan.

The recommended caravan tyre pressures are a must & should be adhered too , but having a change in car tyre types in my opinion needs the rear car pressures adjusting for best stability & ride comfort.

The tow car tyre pressures are vitally important , especially the rear.

Posted on 03/10/2019 13:45

I would think 10kgs over the car manufacturers design criteria would absolutely have an impact on stability otherwise why have engineering, design and safety specifications? 

I am extremely careful with tyre pressures, tread depth and types of tyres on both towing vehicle and caravan. 

The primary lesson from this which I simply wanted to share with others was my lack of awareness of the maximum load permitted on the tow ball and assumption that a 3.0L, 4WD would be more than capable given its towing capacity.....never too old to learn I guess.

flatcoat replied on 03/10/2019 19:08

Posted on 03/10/2019 19:08

Nose weight limits have absolutely nothing to do with engine size and drive train - it has everything to do with the structural integrity of the cars platform, or chassis to most people. If 10kg weight difference over the rear of a car had such an impact on the handling then how do you load up the boot? Do you weigh your rear seat passengers before every journey? Some car and caravan combos just do not work, others do. Maybe you are unlucky but my guess is the problem lies somewhere other than the low nose weight.

lornalou1 replied on 03/10/2019 20:40

Posted on 03/10/2019 20:40

You always use the lowest weight limit of your car/van combo. My Jeep has a max tow ball weight of 147kg but the van has a 100kg limit so the 100 is what I have to use, if the van had a 200kg limit I would have to stick to the 147 limit of the jeep. It's not rocket science is it.

EasyT replied on 04/10/2019 07:42

Posted on 03/10/2019 10:44 by compass362

Personally I wouldn't have thought a 10 kilo difference would have made such a dramatic handling issue.

We all load our caravans pretty much the same every trip , so that in itself is a good thing I check the nose weight occasionally but seeing how the caravan is loaded similarly every trip it shouldn't vary a deal.

Changes in the contents of the front locker will effect nose weight & stability yes  , but my main concern is the correct tyre pressure on both car & loaded caravan.

The recommended caravan tyre pressures are a must & should be adhered too , but having a change in car tyre types in my opinion needs the rear car pressures adjusting for best stability & ride comfort.

The tow car tyre pressures are vitally important , especially the rear.

Posted on 04/10/2019 07:42

Personally I wouldn't have thought a 10 kilo difference would have made such a dramatic handling issue.

I suppose that depends on the starting point. Previous caravan when unloaded was just under 65kg on the nose. It felt a little skittish when towed like that and before towing 'empty' to Alde - a 3 hour drive I added weight to the front to take it to 80kg. It might well have been 'OK' at 75kg? Definitely better at 80kg than at 65kg though,