The first thing you’ll notice on cars that are towing (or regularly tow) a caravan is the big “dumbo ear” mirrors protruding out from both sides of the car.
Sure, they can look a bit excessive at first glance, but do you need towing mirrors for a caravan in Australia?
Yes, towing mirrors are a legal requirement when towing a caravan in Australia so that the driver has a clear, unobstructed view right down the length of the caravan, with the ability to see 20 metres beyond the back of it.
Here’s everything you need to know about the legalities and safety reasons behind having caravan towing mirrors.
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Are Towing Mirrors a Legal Requirement?
The ADR (Australian Design Rule) sets the legal requirements of what field of vision is necessary with a vehicle’s external mirrors, including towing mirrors.
Below is an extract from Australian Design Rule 14/02 – Rear Vision Mirrors:
The function of ADR 14/02 is to specify requirements for devices that provide indirect vision such as rear vision mirrors or cameras.
The field of vision shall be such that the driver can see at least a 4 m wide, flat, horizontal portion of the road, which is bounded by a plane parallel to the median longitudinal vertical plane and passing through the outermost point of the vehicle on the driver’s side of the vehicle and extends from 20 m behind the driver’s ocular points to the horizon (see Figure 6 – below).
In addition, the road shall be visible to the driver over a width of 1 m, which is bounded by a plane parallel to the median longitudinal vertical plane and passing through the outermost point of the vehicle starting from a point 4 m behind the vertical plane passing through the driver’s ocular points.
In other words…
Anyone towing a caravan needs to have a clear, unobstructed view right down the full length of your caravan, plus be able to see 20 metres beyond the back of it. This view must also span 4 metres out from both the rear left-hand and rear right-hand sides of the caravan.
The only way to have that kind of vision is with caravan towing mirrors as they are wider than the object that you’re towing.
“But, I’ve got a rear camera, do I still need towing mirrors for a caravan?”
This is a common question that people often ask when it comes to caravan towing mirrors.
Yes, even with a camera on the back of the caravan, you still need to have towing mirrors as well. In fact, the rear camera is merely an optional extra, but the towing mirrors are a legal requirement.
While rear cameras are great for seeing a portion of what’s behind the caravan and are particularly helpful when reversing, they are never a replacement for towing mirrors.
In addition, rear cameras don’t give you any vision down the side lengths of the van, nor are they helpful when it comes to merging, changing lanes or rounding corners.
Can You Leave Towing Mirrors On When You’re Not Towing?
There is another important rule, which is also set by the Australian Design Rules, called the “over-dimensional law.”
The ‘over-dimensional’ law:
The ADR specify that nothing is to extend 150mm beyond the side of your vehicle. If you’ve got a caravan on the back, then that 150mm applies from the side of your caravan (being the widest point).
This means that when you’ve got the caravan hitched up, your towing mirrors can protrude up to 150mm beyond the widest point on the caravan.
However, once you unhitch the caravan, the side mirrors now must not protrude beyond 150mm from the widest point on the vehicle.
Due to the ‘over-dimensional law,’ you must either remove your towing mirrors when you’re not towing, or use extendable mirrors that simply slide back in to the normal width of a vehicle side mirror.
Types of Towing Mirrors
There are three different types of caravan towing mirrors to choose from, so there should be a style to suit everyone’s needs.
Extendable Towing Mirrors
Extendable towing mirrors are the best option for those who will be towing regularly and don’t want the hassle of installing and removing towing mirrors often.
Extendable towing mirrors are a permanent fixture, making them extremely convenient.
The extendable towing mirror design means that you will completely replace your existing vehicle side mirrors with the extendable ones.
Installation is pretty easy and can be done yourself at home, just be sure to purchase the correct mirrors to suit your vehicle make and model. This will ensure that all electric functions on your old mirrors will continue to work once the extendable mirrors have been installed.
Where to Buy EXTENDABLE Towing Mirrors:
- Head over to eBay and type in “Extendable Towing Mirrors” + your vehicle make & model →
Clip-on Towing Mirrors
Clip-on towing mirrors are the best for people who don’t need their towing mirrors to be a permanent fixture.
Clip-on towing mirrors are easy to add on and remove as needed.
If you only need them occasionally and don’t want the hassle of big, bulky mirrors between trips, then opt for a clip-on style. They’re quick and easy to install right onto your existing side mirrors and can be adjusted from inside the car.
Always read the reviews before purchasing clip-on towing mirrors, as some are known to be less stable than the more permanent options.
Where to Buy CLIP-ON Towing Mirrors:
- Check out the multi-fit range of towing mirrors at Caravan RV Camping →
Door Mounted Towing Mirrors
If you’re after a temporary towing mirror, but don’t like the idea of a clip-on one flying off when a truck overtakes you, check out the door-mounted option.
Door mounted towing mirrors are more stable than the clip-on style, but still with the benefit of being removable.
Realistically, door mounted towing mirrors are more fiddly to attach and remove, especially the ratchet-style ones. However, door mounted mirrors are a much more stable option than the clip-on variety.
Where to Buy DOOR MOUNTED Towing Mirrors:
- Head over to eBay to browse Door Mount Towing Mirrors →