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Home » Expert Advice » Wheel Clamps, Hitchlocks and Towing

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Wheel Clamps, Hitchlocks and Towing

 

What laws exist for towing trailers?

All luggage trailers must be fitted with a trailer board. This must include the following:

2 x Red rear lights
2 x Red triangular reflectors (if trailer is wider than 3 feet)
2 x Amber indicator/hazard lights
2 x White side-lights
1 x Number plate and illumination lamp
1 x Red brake light
Reverse light and fog lamp are optional extras.


Towing Electrics

Where does the power come from?


It is wired from the twin electric N and S sockets, which should be fitted with any towbar. The cable required is 7-core, and carries its electricity from the vehicle battery.
The black is for towing and the grey is for the internal electrics.

How do I charge a leisure battery from my car battery?

By using a Split Charge Relay. This is inexpensive but must be professionally fitted. It runs from the alternator, and delivers the charge to the leisure battery until it detects the vehicle battery is fully charged. 
It can only deliver 1 amp, so functions as a maintenance charge only, and will not re-charge a battery from flat.
Useful accessories

What laws exist for driving abroad?

A warning triangle and fire extinguisher are essential. The fire extinguishers are single-use, and with dry-powder filling, for use with liquid, electrical, textile and chemical fires.
Also a high-visibility vest

Suspension Assistors

What do suspension assistors do?
When a vehicle’s suspension is too springy, it can be damaged by towing a heavy load. Assistors are flexible stress-dampening tubes that fit between the suspension coils to prevent them from over-compressing.
Which model do I need with which car?
Consult the manual. If the vehicle is not listed, the instructions on the packaging allow you to determine which is required by measuring the coil length.

Water

How do I pipe running water into a caravan?


To power a single tap, a submersible pump must be inserted into a water butt or Aquaroll, to deliver at least 8 ltrs/min
To power a mixer tap or shower, 11ltrs/min is required.
How can I increase the flow?
Powerful showers and taps may require more – the flow can be boosted with an in-line pump.
Super pumps are much bigger, and very expensive, but are capable of much higher pressures, and are more reliable.
How do I operate them?
Apply 12v to the wires, and the pump will begin. 
The more expensive the pump, the higher the pressure. Higher pressures are needed to lift water vertically – pumps operating at around 8ltrs/min will only lift water about 1m high.


What happens when a pump breaks down?

Pumps can easily be damaged by being turned on when not immersed (‘running dry’)
If damaged, spare parts are not available. They must be replaced in full.
If the pump fits into a flush-fitting socket in the caravan, the pump, socket and plug are all available separately. 
How can I filter water abroad?
There are two types of water filter, both using carbon and polyester to filter out bacteria and sediment: in-line and screw-in (based solely on the shape of the cartridge)
It is not feasible to replace just the carbon when the cartridge expires – spare carbon bags are available, but grossly unreliable and prone to splitting.

What is a hitch?

The part of the caravan that attaches to the car’s tow ball allowing it to be transported.

Hitchlocks

What do hitchlocks do?

They make it harder to steal a caravan by covering the hitch, so they cannot be fitted to another vehicle.
What types of hitchlock are there?
Box-shaped is the most common. They cover Alko and Albe hitches.
If a towball-stabiliser is fitted, only the appropriate hitchlock will fit it.

Hitchlocks

What features are available?

Look for the ‘Sold Secure’ logo – this is a British standard that means the lock has been independently tested by criminals in a controlled situation, and the lock has withstood attack for 5 minutes exactly. 
‘Sold Secure’ is not to be confused with ‘Insurance Approved’, which means nothing in terms of British standards.
Some locks obscure the hitch handle, but leave the hitch aperture open, meaning they can be used when the caravan is attached (e.g. at service stations). 
It is illegal to tow whilst a hitchlock is fitted.
Other locks obscure the aperture, but leave the handle open. These are the most secure.
A dummy ball fits into the hitch aperture when the lock obscures the handle. This prevents the hitch from being applied to another vehicle’s towball.

Hitchlocks

Barrel locks are stronger than padlocks.
Better steel quality makes the lock stronger – the more expensive the lock, the more times the steel is heat-treated, and the tougher it is to break open.
Are there cheaper alternatives?
Dummy Locks – block the hitch aperture to prevent it being applied to a tow-ball. Not nearly as effective as a full hitchlock. 

Are hitchlocks foolproof?


Hitchlocks should always be combined with wheel-clamps. Without a wheel-clamp, the caravan can easily be attached to another vehicle with a webbing strap to tow it away.
Cheaper barrel-locks can be drilled through to break them off.
Lower quality steel can be cracked open with an angle-grinder or blow-torch 

Wheel-clamps

What do wheel-clamps do?

They can be fitted to vehicles or caravans to hinder starting the vehicle from stationary.
They are dependant on wheel diameter and depth – be aware which models are compatible with which tyre dimensions.
What type of wheel clamps are there?
Chock-Clamps clamp between hub indentations. They are suitable for most wheel types. 
Arm-Locks bolt onto wheel nuts. They are often unsuitable for alloy wheels, as the nuts are rarely in a standard arrangement.
Disc-Clamps cover the wheel nuts with a circular steel plate and clamp around a section of the tyre.
Three-Point Clamps cover the whole hub with a thick triangle of steel, and clamp around the whole tyre. 

Be aware of how to fit each type securely – loose fitting clamps can often be effortlessly removed by a thief!
Look for the ‘Sold Secure’ logo again here.

How can a thief remove them?

Cheaper barrel-locks can be drilled through to break them off.
Lower quality steel can be cracked open with an angle-grinder or blow-torch.
Chock-Clamps – as the nuts are still accessible, the whole wheel can be changed.
Arm-Locks – if attached to a caravan, the vehicle can be quickly accelerated to tear the arm off. This will damage the arches, which the criminal can then repair later. If attached to a vehicle, this type of acceleration is more difficult unless the car has a very large engine.
Disc-clamps – deflate the tyre and remove by hand.
Three-point clamps – deflate the tyre and remove by hand.
Which is best?
Wheel-clamps should always be combined with hitchlocks, as preventing the criminal from re-attaching the caravan will make it much more of a challenge to steal.
Clamps covering the wheel nuts are more difficult to remove.


Why use a stabiliser?


When towing, cross-winds or uneven roads can cause the caravan to ‘snake’ from side to side.
This can escalate to a dangerous frequency, which may make the vehicle jack-knife or flip.
This may be solved by accelerating quickly, but this may entail breaking the law
Stabilisers prevent snaking by friction

Will this prevent turning corners?

No. F = µR – the friction force is proportional to the coefficient of restitution. This just means that the friction used to prevent snaking is only effective at high speeds, so slow turning will not be hindered.

What types are available?

Bar-Stabilisers use replaceable friction disks to prevent movement left and right. Be familiar with the fittings available, depending upon towball shape.

Towball-Stabilisers use rounded clamps to attach to the towball. These prevent movement in any direction (including up and down).
Both must be professionally fitted.

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