There are lots of references online, and in manuals, either stating that a caravan is braked, or the caravan is unbraked.
Initially, it looks really confusing.
But don’t worry, we’ll explain everything you need to know right here.
So, are caravans braked or unbraked?
A caravan with it’s on in-built braking system is a braked caravan. A caravan that relies on the braking ability of something else, such as a car, is called an unbraked caravan. All self-drive caravans are braked caravans whereas smaller trailer and pod caravans are typically unbraked.
Whether your caravan is braked or unbraked makes a very big difference, particularly when it comes to towing.
What is a Braked Caravan
A braked caravan has its own internal braking system.
When being towed by a vehicle, such as a car, it means braking on the car activates the brakes on the caravan.
It helps share the braking and reduction in speed between both caravan and vehicle towing.
This is also helpful for reducing wear and tear on the towing vehicles brake discs and pads. If the vehicle towing the caravan is having to reduce the speed of the caravan as well as the vehicle itself, the brakes will simply wear out faster.
Now imagine the car you are driving, and the caravan being towed, both brake simultaneously.
Both car and caravan would slow together, and the car wouldn’t have to do all the work.
You’ll also notice your car, or vehicle, with have a towing range.
You’ll need a braked caravan to tow the heaviest end of the weight range but if your caravan is unbraked it will need to be at the lighter end of the weight range.
What is an Unbraked Caravan
An unbraked caravan has no internal braking system, and no way of stopping itself.
It relies on the brakes of the towing vehicle to slow it down.
Older caravans are typically unbraked, and new caravans, unless they are the small pod type, are likely to have a braking system built in.
It’s often considered that a braked caravan is safer than an unbraked caravan.
Under strict control and being towed by a vehicle more than capable of managing its weight, an unbraked caravan is safe on the road – but, of course, additional braking support can only come at an advantage.
Can I tow an unbraked caravan?
Yes, it is possible to tow an unbraked caravan. It is important to make sure your vehicle is capable of towing its weight. It is wrong to assume the maximum weight a vehicle can tow includes unbraked caravans. Often it does not. The lowest weight of the towing weight range should be used.
Although it is perfectly legal to tow an unbraked caravan, it is of course safer to tow a braked caravan.
Also, if you are used to towing braked caravans it would be wise to practice towing an unbraked caravan before a long road trip.
The towing experiences are much different.
Longer braking times are required, you’ll feel as if you are towing a heavier weight and extra care and caution are needed.
How do braked caravans work?
Connecting a car to a braked caravan will give you full control of the caravan’s brake system simply by using the vehicle’s brake.
The caravan will have been designed to detect when the vehicle has hit its brakes and will automatically apply its own brakes.
Once the brake is released in the vehicle, by taking your foot of the brake pedal, the brakes will release on the caravan.
It helps reduce any unnecessary pressure on the vehicle and helps bring both cars to a safe and steady stop.
How can I tell if my caravan is braked?
Here is a video helping explain the differences and how to tell if your caravan is braked:
In Conclusion – Braked and Unbraked Caravans
Really, the main difference between a braked and unbraked caravan is whether the caravan has its own braking system built in that can be controlled by the vehicle it is being towed by.
A braked caravan is much safer and will help increase the length of time your brake pads and discs last.
It’s so important to check the towing capability of your caravan, particularly if you are going to be towing an unbraked caravan.
It is dangerous to try and tow an unbraked caravan at the maximum weight your vehicle’s towing capabilities.
Your vehicle’s handbook will give you all the information you need about its towing ability.
If it doesn’t specifically mention limits for braked and unbraked, then use the lowest of the weight range if you are going to be towing an unbraked caravan.