Protecting your caravan from damage during high winds
Wowsers it’s been windy recently! We’ve received a record amount of caravan insurance claims for wind related damage over the last few weeks, with typical claims including skylights being ripped off, branches banging into caravans and even caravans tipping over. In many cases there’s little that could have been done to prevent such damage but we do have some tips to minimise the risk of accidents and damage when winds turn gale force.
We had a lot to write about so we’ve broken our advice down into three sections as follows (click to jump to the section you need):
Protecting your caravan during storage
If your caravan is in storage and high winds have been predicated then it’s sensible to, wherever possible, minimise the risk of it being damaged, either by being blown over or by objects near to it being blown in to the caravan.
Store in a sheltered location
If your caravan is stored at home on a driveway then, if possible, consider the direction of the wind and whether its current location provides any protection, particularly wind which is hitting the caravan side on. If the caravan looks likely to be hit by wind side on then you may want to consider moving it to a more sheltered location temporarily, or rotating the van so that wind is hitting it head on.
If your caravan is stored on a secure storage site away from home then it’s a good idea to speak to the site operator and find out if they are taking steps to minimise the risk. As well as this you may want to move your caravan in to a more sheltered location (asking permission first).
Whether storing your caravan at home or on a storage site one thing you can do is to weigh down the caravan to minimise the risk of it being blown over. This can be done most simply by placing heavy objects such as awnings or filled water carriers into the centre of the floor of the caravan. As an extreme measure you may also want to consider anchoring the caravan to the ground using strong straps (such as storm straps for awnings) and heavy duty screw-in ground pegs, though make sure the van is very well protected using foam and material to create a barrier between the strap and the bodywork of the van. Otherwise the friction caused during movement in high winds could cause serious damage.
Store away from potential hazards
As well as getting the caravan itself into a sheltered position when at home it’s important that any objects or structures which are susceptible to strong wind, such as wooden fencing, greenhouses, or garden furniture are either firmly secured or if appropriate moved to a less exposed location away from the caravan. When choosing your storage location, you may want to consider overhanging or nearby tree branches that could blow, swing into, or fall off onto your caravan, and then prune or cut back accordingly.
What to do if high winds strike while on a campsite
Caravan campsites tend to be in rural, countryside or seaside locations, which can often mean they are even more open to nature’s elements than more urban locations. If very high, or even gale force winds are forecast whilst you are on a campsite then it is extremely important that you take the necessary steps to protect firstly your own safety, and secondly your caravan.
If extreme weather conditions have been forecast then your first consideration should be whether it is safe to stay in the caravan or not. It may be wise to tow the caravan to a less exposed location (before the high winds hit) or to leave the caravan weighted down and secure, but spend the night in a hotel nearby.
If you do choose to stay on the campsite then if possible take some of the steps outlined previously such as positioning the caravan so that the front is facing on coming wind, placing heavy items on the floor of the caravan to weight it down, and considering using storm straps to pin the caravan and awning down (make sure to properly protect the bodywork from the straps rubbing).
Take your awning down as soon as possible
Awnings are even more susceptible to high winds than caravans due to their shape and light weight canvas construction. Even if medium strength winds are forecast it may be a good idea to take your awning down to avoid damage as an awning can cause massive amounts of damage to your caravan should it become loose, or even detach completely and hit other caravans, cars or structures. If winds are moderate you could consider an awning storm strap which hooks over the awning and is pegged in at either side to pin the awning down.
Towing a touring caravan in high winds
Touring caravans are relatively light, with high sides and a large surface area, in other words, they are hugely susceptible to the push of strong winds, particularly those which hit the caravan side on.
It’s for this reason that you should avoid towing your caravan in high winds unless absolutely necessary, and if you do have to tow that you take extra care along the way.
Drive slowly and stay in control
The speed at which you tow your caravan will obviously not affect the speed of a gust of wind which hits you directly side on, but if the wind is hitting your van at an angle then driving quickly will effectively increase the wind speed on your van.
Even more importantly, and no matter which direction the wind is blowing from, driving quickly will make it much more difficult to control wobbles from the ‘van should it be hit by a strong gust of wind.
A wobble that turns into a snake (where the caravan swerves from side to side behind the towing vehicle) is much more difficult to control at higher speeds and as such you should always drive as slowly as reasonably possible on the road you are travelling, even if it means pulling over every now and again to let other motorists past – an accident will slow everybody down much longer.
Having a quality stabiliser fitted will help, but an even more effective way of avoiding snaking is to have your caravan fitted with an electronic anti-snaking device such as the excellent AL-KO ATC (Automatic Trailer Control) or BPW iDC. Many new caravans have these fitted as standard and many older caravans can have such devices retrofitted. Don’t forget that by having an electronic anti snaking device fitted you will also qualify for a caravan insurance discount with Caravan Guard.
Avoid motorways and exposed roads
Motorways are best avoided in very windy conditions when towing your caravan for a number of reasons, not least because vehicles will be travelling much more quickly and it will be more difficult to drive slowly.
Also, because motorways are built to link large cities they tend to cut a straight line through open land or farmland, meaning they are much more exposed to high winds than more minor roads which will twist and turn to link smaller towns and villages. Motorways are also often built slightly raised to allow them to seamlessly pass over rivers, streams and bumps in the land, meaning they can be even more open to the elements than a normal ground level road.
The final reason that motorways are dangerous for caravanners when towing in gale force conditions is that the sudden change in wind speed, often caused by lorries or other large vehicles overtaking, can cause your caravan to wobble even more than a constant stream of strong wind would. It’s this buffeting of the wind which causes real problems.
Also avoid roads which you know to be very exposed, such as those near the coast or on high ground.
Only travel if absolutely necessary
It sounds obvious, but the best way to avoid your caravan tipping over when towing in high winds is to avoid driving in the first place. Putting aside the damage to your caravan and car in the event of an accident, the danger to you and your passengers’ safety is just not worth the risk. So unless you are travelling back home from a trip, and driving is your only option, it is a good idea to postpone towing until the high winds have died down.
Details correct at time of publication (15/01/2012) but may be subject to change.