Considering taking your caravan on an exciting weekend trip or long-term summer holiday in the UK?
If you want to avoid time-consuming and costly breakdowns, repairs, financial penalties, and part replacements from spoiling your travel plans, it pays to be prepared.
While most vehicle-owners know that motorbikes and cars require an annual MOT, ‘does a caravan need an MOT’ has become such a common question that we put together this helpful guide.
Below, we explain why MOT tests are necessary for some vehicles as well as the legal requirements, regulations, and exemptions for caravans on the road to help you clarify whether your caravan is legally allowed to hit the road.
What is an MOT Test for vehicles?
An MOT test is an annual, legally required test for UK vehicles (such as cars and motorcycles) that assesses the roadworthiness of the vehicle. It involves the inspection of certain important components of a vehicle like the windscreen, steering and suspension, and the exhaust emissions, but it doesn’t cover the condition of the engine, clutch, or gearbox.
It’s worth emphasising that an MOT is not the same as a service. While an MOT is a mandatory test to ensure the vehicle is safe enough to be driven on the road, a service is an inspection of the vehicle according to the specific manufacturer instructions and it isn’t a legal requirement.
A service attempts to keep the vehicle in peak condition, whereas the MOT simply ensures that it’s roadworthy. There are roughly 20 separate components that should be inspected during an MOT. You can either fail or pass an MOT, but will fail if any ‘dangerous’ or ‘major’ vehicle issues have been identified.
You can still pass an MOT if the vehicle receives ‘minor’ or ‘advisory’ problems, but must monitor or rectify these issues to prevent them from becoming more serious problems in the future. If your current MOT certificate is no longer valid and the MOT has flagged ‘dangerous’ issues, the vehicle shouldn’t be driven until these problems have been resolved.
Caravan MOT: Current regulations and exemptions
Wondering ‘do caravans need an MOT’? According to UK law, caravans do not need an MOT. However, they still need to be roadworthy, and the onus is on the owner to ensure the caravan is safe to be on the road.
While there’s no legal obligation to check that the gas, electrical and water systems are working properly, having these systems inspected can help to ensure that the caravan is safe to be taken on the road.
Why do caravans not need an MOT?
Caravans don’t need an MOT because they have significant differences to cars, motorbikes, and other vehicles that are legally required to undergo a regular MOT. It’s also worth noting that caravans require a list of additional service checks when compared to cars as they have their own set of servicing rules.
Legal requirements for caravans on the road
As caravans need to be roadworthy to be legally and safely towed, you may want to consider getting your caravan professionally serviced. While each service will naturally vary depending on the make and model of the caravan, there are some aspects (such as the brakes and the wheels) that should be inspected on every vehicle.
There are also a number of additional servicing checks that are bespoke to caravans and vehicles of a similar nature (like converted vans). This is because these vehicles tend to feature kitchen and bathroom appliances, meaning caravans typically require a variety of gas, water, and electrical inspections.
Other important checks for caravan servicing include inspecting the chassis and running, bodywork and trims, ventilation, heating system, fire alarm, and carbon monoxide detectors.
Ensuring caravan safety and roadworthiness
As there’s no legal obligation for you to service your caravan or take it for an MOT, you may decide to carry out the relevant safety checks yourself. To support you with this, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most important caravan checks you should conduct to help you determine whether your caravan is safe to take on the road.
Conduct caravan safety checks
As the responsibility for ensuring a caravan is roadworthy falls on the owner, it’s essential that you follow the UK government guidelines. As per this guidance, there are some aspects you should inspect every time you tow a caravan, while others should be checked as stipulated by the vehicle’s handbook.
Ensure a safe connection
Firstly, the caravan should be properly connected to the vehicle using either a towball or pin at the correct height. You should also ensure that the 7 or 13 core cable and plug is not damaged.
For added security, the caravan should be attached to the vehicle using a breakaway cable or secondary coupling. In the event of a coupling hitch failure and the separation of the caravan from the vehicle, this means either the brakes will be applied or the caravan will simply be stopped.
Alongside following the manufacturer’s advice to ensure it’s been properly connected, you should also check the cable for damage and wear and ensure there’s enough slack to prevent the brakes being accidently engaged.
Inspect the tyres
Ensuring that the tyres on the caravan are safe is another essential check you should complete before getting on the road. You should check that the tyres are free from cuts and bulges, and are also properly inflated as per the manufacturer’s specification and the load.
Each tyre should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm that should span across the central three-quarters of the tyre and the entire circumference. The wheel nuts and bolts should also be inspected to ensure they are tightened to the correct torque, while any mudguards should be well-secured.
Due to the additional weight, standard car tyres aren’t suitable for caravans. Instead, small van tyres are often ideal as they’re extra strong and can handle this more substantial amount of weight. Despite being extra strong, you should still carry out frequent tyres checks as caravans are typically used a lot over the space of a few days or a couple weeks.
Even if the tyres aren’t being used, they can still deteriorate over time, so it’s always worth checking the tyres and replacing them either as necessary or every five to seven years.
Check the lights
You should also check all the lights and indicators on the vehicle to ensure there’s no damage and they’re working correctly.
Assess the load and weight limit
Every vehicle will have a maximum weight limit. In this case, you should calculate the combined weight of the car and caravan in order to ensure it doesn’t exceed this limit. You can find your vehicle’s weight limit by checking the manufacturer’s plate or the handbook.
This will help to prevent the caravan from becoming overloaded, but you should also ensure that the load is both secure and distributed evenly.
Complete car safety checks
Every time before you drive while towing a caravan, you should check that the vehicle towing the caravan is roadworthy, too. To do this, you should ensure the windscreen is clean and all the windows and mirrors are clear. You should also check that the lights and the brakes are all operational, too.
For guidance regarding when to check the engine oil, water level (in either the radiator or expansion tank), brake fluid level, battery, window washer bottles, and tyres, you should refer to your vehicle’s handbook. This handbook will also explain the ideal service intervals for your specific vehicle.
You must also ensure that the tyres have the right tread depth and are free from significant damage and defects. The correct tread depth will vary depending on the type of vehicle, but the tread should be both across the middle three-quarters of the tyre as well as around the entire tyre.
What makes a caravan not roadworthy?
Anything that renders the caravan dangerous or even unsafe to be on the roads typically means the vehicle isn’t roadworthy. A tyre with a tread depth of less than 1.6mm, coupling cable damage, and faulty lights can all render a caravan unroadworthy.
What is the penalty for towing an unroadworthy caravan?
If you fail to carry out these safety checks or knowingly tow an unroadworthy caravan, then you could face a substantial fine of up to £2,500. You may even be banned from driving and could receive 3 penalty points if the vehicle has issues that render it dangerous to have it on the road.
Furthermore, according to The AA, most insurance companies won’t cover damage to your caravan following a collision. They may still provide insurance cover for your vehicle while it’s a towing a caravan, but the caravan itself will not be protected – especially if it’s been deemed unfit for UK roads.
Therefore, if you want to prevent significant financial loss in the event of a collision, you may want to consider purchasing additional caravan insurance.
Searching for caravan seals?
Eager to ensure your caravan is ready for your next holiday or travelling adventure? Don’t forget to inspect the caravan window seals!
Despite often being overlooked, these essential seals can be found in many different places around your caravan. They help to minimise drafts and water ingress which in turn prevents the vehicle from sustaining damage.
Here at Seals Direct, we have a wide range of caravan and motorhome seals including high-quality seals specially designed for caravan and motorhome windows, doors, sinks, battery boxes, lockers, hatches, awnings, and gutters.
If you’d like to find out more about our range of automotive seals and trims or have a technical query, please feel free to contact our friendly team today! You can either give us a call on 01425 617722 or send in your enquiry via email to email@example.com.
However you decide to get in touch, we look forward to hearing from you!