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Take a weight off your mind for holiday travel; CARAVANNING: A guide explains how to get the best safety and performance from your van.

Byline: By David Whinyates

SHE sits there basking in the sunshine. She's an absolute beauty and you just know you want to take her out somewhere special.

And it's not just gorgeous looks, she's well stacked too.

We're talking about a caravan, of course' the very latest in caravans with every conceivable item of equipment designed to make your life on the road as comfortable as it would be in your own home.

The problem is that with all this kit, caravans are growing in both length and weight.

Caravanning may be cool - but you'll swiftly be overheating if you try to tow some of today's monsters with a car that's not up to the job.

Unless you're in the market for a new car and caravan, possibly the most important thing to consider if you are new, or even an old hand at caravanning, is the car/caravan weight ratio. You need to make sure that the caravan you have your eye on is compatible with the car you intend to tow with, or vice versa.

In order to achieve the optimum performance and safety levels, the lower this ratio is, the better the performance will be in terms of reasonable reserves of power for overtaking and hill climbing, as well as sufficient excess weight in the tow car for safer towing on fast motorway journeys. For the ideal towing balance, your caravan's maximum technically permissible laden mass (MTPLM) should equate to 85 per cent of your car's kerb weight. This ratio can be increased to a maximum 100 per cent for experienced towers, but must not exceed this and in some circumstances it may be illegal to do so.

The kerb weight of your car will be in its handbook but check the car manufacturer hasn't imposed a lower towing weight due to features of the vehicle construction and or engine limitations.

The 'weight' or mass of your caravan is quantified in two ways as follows:

Mass in running order (MIRO) - basically the ex-works weight of the 'van as delivered to the dealer and without any additional equipment or personal belongings. As well as the MIRO, caravan manufacturers will normally quote additional weight allowances for essential living equipments, personal effects and optional equipment which, together make up the total user pay-load.

Maximum technically permissible laden mass (MTPLM) - this is the heaviest total weight the caravan manufacturer will permit and it's the sum of the MIRO and the total user payload.

When buying your caravan from any reputable dealer, they should be able to give advice on outfit matching and provide a print out from Tow Safe, an industry-based computer system designed purely with this safe matching in mind.

Another important factor in outfit matching is the caravan noseweight and this is the weight or down force that the caravan is putting onto the rear of the towcar.

For optimum stability, this should be seven per cent of the actual weight of the caravan.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 9, 2006
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