The Caravan and Camping world has exploded like never before in Australia, and there are hundreds and hundreds of people picking up new camper trailers, caravans and hybrid campers every single month.
This is amazing, but its important that some basics get covered before you head away! Things like towing mirrors, weight capacities and distribution, skills for reversing and towing safely and plenty more are not negotiable skills and knowledge. Not sure where to start? Check this out; Caravans and Camper Trailers.
If you don’t have the skills and gear, you will put yourself and others on the road in danger, and that can end very, very badly.
Towing Mirrors in particular are a big gripe for many on the road, and not having them when you should is dangerous, illegal and frustrating to many others on the road.
Next time you see a 4WD advert where its towing something, see if its got towing mirrors; they never do, and it sets a bad example to everyone.
Why do you need towing mirrors?
Part of being a safe and responsible road user means that you can see what’s going on behind you, which is why all vehicles come with mirrors that allow the driver to do exactly this.
However, when you tow something that is wider than your tow vehicle (like a Caravan!), the ability to see back behind the car is either obstructed, or removed almost entirely.
Some time ago we got stuck behind a caravan heading up to Cape Leveque when I realised that his caravan door step was hanging down, and it was getting dangerously close to the undulations of the road where roadworks were being done.
Not wanting the poor bloke to damage his van, or for it to get ripped off and go through someone’s windscreen I made an attempt to contact him on the radio, to no avail. I then tried to flash him with our light bar, only to realise that I couldn’t actually see his mirrors, because he only had the normal vehicle ones which were not nearly wide enough.
Even moving a good couple of metres out of my lane I wasn’t able to signal his attention, and I ended up getting the roadworkers on the radio who overtook me, chased him down and made him stop.
You need to be able to see what’s going on behind you, or its unsafe. If you are a caravan owner and want to sit well under the speed limit this is even more important, as you’ll end up with a huge line of traffic behind you that would love to pass, if only you knew they were there!
What are towing mirrors?
Towing mirrors are literally mirrors that allow you to see around what you are towing. You can get complete replacements which are installed in place of your factory mirrors, or you can get attachments that clip and tie onto the existing mirrors.
When do you need towing mirrors?
This is made far more complicated than it should be. Stick a tape measure through the two front windows of your vehicle, and measure the maximum width between the two mirrors, from the outer edge to outer edge. Then, take that measurement to your van, and measure the maximum width (including anything that sticks out off the edge).
If the trailer is wider than your mirrors, you need towing mirrors. Real simple. There’s no minimum measurements, or maximum measurements, just whether your mirrors are wider than what you are towing, and this gives you good vision behind your trailer which is a requirement by law.
Who makes towing mirrors?
MSA, Clearview and Ocam
These 3 brands are by far and away the most common. They are all replacement mirrors, in that you physically remove your OEM mirror and install these as direct replacements. They either pull out, or twist around, and do a good job long term (and you pay for it).
You can actually purchase seconds from a couple of these brands, and save a fortune by doing so.
If you are chasing the best towing mirrors, these are it.
Another common towing mirror is made by Milenco, and these attach to your existing mirrors. These are fine if you don’t plan on doing any off road work, and are hugely popular, along with a number of other brands that are similar.
You can get a huge number of towing mirrors on eBay, and many of which are virtually direct copies of some of the bigger brands. I know some people have had no issues with them, but do your research and make sure you know people who’ve used the set you are looking at before you buy them!
Extendable towing mirrors
Some of the above brands are extendable, in that you retract them when not towing, and when you are towing you either pull them out, or twist them around. This allows you to maintain a reasonable width when not towing, and put them to use when needed.
Get yourself some towing mirrors if needed
If you are driving around without towing mirrors, and you need them by law, you should get a set urgently.
In the grand scheme of things they are not expensive, but they are imperative, and asides from the frustrations you will cause on the road from others not being able to communicate well with you, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a fine that costs more than a set of towing mirrors!
Do you have towing mirrors? Which ones do you run, and are you happy with them?