As anyone who has experienced it will know, snaking can be a terrifying, and potentially very dangerous, occurrence. If you’re not already familiar with the term, snaking is the commonly-used term for when the caravan becomes destabilised and moves around the hitch, swaying from side to side (similar to the movement of a snake).
Snaking is most commonly caused by incidents such as sudden swerving, travelling at high speeds, being overtaken by larger vehicles and strong crosswinds, as well as blown-out tyres and overloading the nose of the caravan. As you can see, most of these causes can be prevented with careful loading and driving although, of course, accidents to happen to even the most vigilant driver.
While a relatively small proportion of caravan accidents are attributed to snaking, it does tend to lead to rather astronomical insurance claims. The average cost of a snaking-related claim is approximately £80,000, a figure that we’re sure you’d rather avoid having on your insurance records, not to mention the damage and inconvenience caused by the event itself. The extremely high cost comes from the recovery of the caravan and car, the replacement of the caravan, repairs to the tow car, and the clean up of the carriageway after the incident.
By following the tips outlined in this article, you should be able to minimise your risk of snaking and, therefore, a related accident.
How to avoid caravan snaking
- Fitting a safety device to your caravan can go a long way towards avoiding a snaking incident. Electronic stabilisers, which have been developed with snaking prevention in mind, are definitely worth investing in. AL-KO and Bulldog both produce reliable stabilisers. Whichever stabiliser you choose to fit, bear in mind that no device will compensate for poor driving, sloppy towing or incorrect loading of the caravan. If you have a newer caravan, chances are it will have been fitted with an AL-KO Anti-Snake Trailer Control system, aka ATC as standard.
- Tyron bands are a great way to avoid snaking in the event of a tyre blow-out. These bands are fitted to the wheel of your car or caravan and lock into place should a puncture or blow-out occur. This allows the tyre to run flat, and the driver to retain control. More information about Tyron bands can be found in our previous article Punctures: A Driver’s Nightmare Made Safer.
- A third contributing factor of snaking is large vehicles, such as lorries and coaches, approaching at speed from behind. The force of the passing vehicle can cause your rig to pitch and start to sway. Fitting caravan extension towing mirrors will enable you to see these large vehicles coming and prepare for the incoming crosswinds.
AL-KO have produced this video which explains more about the effects of snaking and how a stabiliser works -
Aside from fitting extras to your caravan, a lot of the risk of snaking can be removed simply by loading and towing your outfit responsibly.
- When loading your caravan, remember to put heavier items on the floor and only very light items in the storage units. We’ve recently published an article detailing how to load a caravan correctly.
- Make particularly certain that the nose of the caravan is not overloaded.
- Always follow the 85% rule – that is, the weight of your caravan should not exceed 85% of the maximum towing capacity of your tow car. Remember this is a guideline, not an official rule, but it is worth following for safety’s sake.
- Always observe speed limits
- Double check the following points before setting off
- Your caravan should be correctly loaded with all items secured properly
- Make sure tyre pressures are correct for both caravan and towing vehicle
- Check tyres on both vehicles for signs of wear and tear. Replace immediately if necessary
- Ensure that the caravan and tow car are coupled correctly and securely
- Is the caravan and car combination level?
If you do encounter a problem while towing your caravan, here’s what to do.
- Do what you can to position your outfit so that other road users cannot overtake. This creates a “safe zone” around you, and minimises the risk of collateral damage should snaking occur. Obviously this is going to be extremely difficult on motorways.
- Slow down as much as possible so that the caravan can fall back into place behind your towing vehicle. Remember that accelerating whilst snaking will only make the situation worse.
- Once you have the caravan more under control, and it is safe to do so, pull over and use your hazard lights to alert other road users to your issue. This is when you need to check your rig over and find out what caused the snaking.
- Contact your breakdown provider if you require further assistance. If you can rectify the issue yourself, make sure to do so as quickly as possible, as it is not safe to remain on the hard shoulder for any longer than is absolutely necessary.
Make sure that you are fully covered with quality caravan insurance from us. We have a number of caravan policies that have been designed to meet the different needs of our customers. Call the caravan team on 01480 402460 for more information or visit the caravan insurance webpage, where you can also get a quick quote and buy online.