Doing a “lap of Australia” is more than ever on the bucket list of retirees and younger travellers alike, but overlooking the need for proper preparation is dangerous. 4X4 driving and training consultant STEVE CASSANO outlines the top five biggest traps to avoid. 1 Choosing the wrong 4x4 It’s easy to fall in love with a beautiful new caravan at a show. The next thing you know you’ve bought it – without putting too much thought into whether you have the right tow vehicle. It’s vital to know your caravan’s total weight (GVM), which includes everything you add to it. Know your towing capacity and make sure you allow for a buffer when packing. If your tow vehicle’s rear end sags by more than 50mm when hitched to your van and both vehicles are not sitting horizontal, this can dangerously impact your steering, braking and stability. 2 Not having the right driving skills You might have been driving safely for 30 years and taking your caravan out regularly on weekends, but that doesn’t mean you’re equipped for the challenges you’ll face as you head off on a longer journey. Doing an accredited towing course to gain the confidence needed. 3 Not reading the instructions Most of us hate reading the user manuals and some of them are thicker than bibles, but it’s really worth the time to go over them. 4 Not understanding the brakes It’s easy with modern 4x4s just to set and forget, hook up the van without giving the braking system a second thought, but they will save you in an emergency. Become familiar with your braking system and set it up correctly. No matter how new your tow vehicle is, most brakes need to be manually adjusted for the type of caravan you’re towing. 5 Not securing the load Travelling long distances and especially going on to gravel roads or off road, you need to make sure everything that moves is secured. Balance your load, with heavier items placed over the axles where possible to improve the centre of gravity. Best of all, try to keep total weight to a minimum, which leads to better handling, safety and economy. The time you invest before you travel will be returned many times over as you relax at happy hour with complete peace of mind knowing you’ve reached your destination safely. Steve Cassano is an accredited 4X4 instructor and touring consultant For the full story including more handy hints, see Issue 20 of ROAM.