What Electrics do I Need to Tow a Van?

By February 26, 2020News

If you’ve only ever towed a box trailer, you might not realise that anything heavier than this requires you to have electric brakes. In fact, having an electric brake controller is among the most important aspects of towing a caravan.

National regulations were implemented in Australia in 1998 to limit the mass a vehicle can legally tow. Additionally, all trailers that weigh 750kg or over (gross trailer mass) must legally be fitted with brakes, and electric brakes are the most common type of brakes used.

Electrics Needed to Tow a Van

Electric brakes require a brake controller to be fitted to the tow vehicle. This, in turn, requires appropriate connections to the trailer or van. Exactly what you need will be noted in your vehicle’s manual, and you can also check the regulations with your relevant state body.

You also legally must have lights on the rear of your vehicle, and these will often be covered by your towing apparatus. As such, you need to have electrics installed to power a lightboard that is unobscured by anything from a trailer to a simple cycle carrier.

It can be confusing to select the right electrics for your towbar and to understand how to install your towbar wiring. There are different types of plug styles or pin styles available. Which type is right for you will depend upon what you are towing.

Towing Electrics – Plug Types

In Australia, there are three main types of trailer plugs available for caravan towing. Which pin connects which wiring will differ between types of plug.

Every manufacturer of caravans and trailers wires their plugs slightly differently; your manufacturer should provide a wiring diagram to facilitate this.

  • 7 Pin Trailer Plug – available in flat or round design, with round available in large or small. The large is suitable for heavy machinery and trucks. More power is fed through this plug, and the flat plug tends to be sturdier. The flat 7 Pin plug can be plugged into a flat 12 pin plug on your caravan or car.

The 7 pin plug is used to connect:

    1. Earth return/Ground
    2. Left-hand indicator
    3. Right-hand indicator
    4. Brake lights
    5. Taillights (plus sidelights and clearance lights)
    6. Reverse lights
    7. Electronic brake controller
  • 12 Pin Trailer Plug – this plug enables all connections for the 7 Pin, plus the ability to wire accessories.
    1. Left-hand indicator
    2. Right-hand indicator
    3. Earth return/Ground
    4. Brake lights
    5. Taillights (plus sidelights and clearance lights)
    6. Reverse lights
    7. Electronic brake controller
    8. Breakaway battery motor
    9. Electronic stability control
    10. Heavy Earth return
  • Anderson Plug – this plug is used to charge batteries within your caravan or trailer while you are driving. While the 12 Pin Plug can do this, it’s recommended that you use an Anderson plug, as the power fed to the plug for battery charging often exceeds the capability of the 12 pin plug. The result is a melted 12 pin plug, as it is not designed to hold a charge feed.

Anderson plugs are available in red, grey or blue, and only connect to like colours.

If you intend towing a camper or caravan, it’s strongly recommended that you install an Anderson plug, particularly to charge any battery or fridge while you travel.

Caravan World – Your Local Experts!

Here at Caravan World, we are your local southeast Queensland caravan expert. We offer a diverse range of vans and campers, and we have the experience and know-how to get you out on the road and enjoying life on the move.

Call us today on (07) 5445 2215