Caravan basics: The tow bar hitch
A caravan's tow hitch is what attaches the tow ball of your car to the caravan, creating a secure, articulated connection for safe towing.
But there's more to the front end of a caravan exterior than just an A-frame and connection.
Technology helps to prevent a caravan snaking from side to side while on the road, clever bits of kit put the brakes on automatically as and when needed, and electrical accessories keep everything going on the road for your own and other road users' safety (and to keep the milk chilly in the fridge, of course).
Take a look below for an introduction to all things caravan hitch-related...
The drawbar compresses and extends when braking or accelerating. To ensure that the caravan’s brakes are not turned on when pitching (to prevent them seizing), it’s always advised to pull forward and extend the drawbar before unhitching your caravan and applying the handbrake.
Most caravans these days (apart from some lightweights, where they’re not needed) come with hitch-head stabilisers. These reduce the likelihood of instability while towing and are made by AL-KO (or by Winterhoff on chassis made by BPW.
Often, the stabiliser includes stability control systems that also activate caravan brakes alternately, to reduce snaking should it occur. These are known as ATC (active trailer control) for AL-KO and BPW’s iDC (intelligent drive control).
Applies the car handbrake equivalent for when you’ve pitched your caravan.
This is possibly the most important bit of your tourer when it comes to safety. Should your hitch become, well, unhitched, the breakaway cable is the last bit of equipment to stop your caravan rolling away. Brilliantly, should the breakaway cable be pulled, it’ll apply the brakes on your caravan.
The third (on single-axles) or fifth (on twin-axles) wheel on a caravan, this allows you to raise or lower the hitch head for levelling and hitching up.
Jockey wheel clamp
This prevents the jockey wheel from dragging along the road while towing.
The caravan’s road lights (and more) when towing – brakes, indicators, reversing, etc – are connected to your car via a 13-pin plug that fits into a socket next to the towbar. Older tourers have a seven-pin system. Click here for our caravan towing electrics guide.