Extended towing mirrors are essential items in any caravanner’s kit. That’s because they are key to successful and safe towing, as well as being mandatory in all Australian states whenever the caravan is wider than the tow vehicle. The mirror must give you vision for the full length of the vehicle being towed behind your car.
Don’t skimp on this one. The simple truth is, you need to be able to see clearly down the side of the caravan and you will need towing mirrors when your existing mirrors can’t provide a clear view past the caravan.
The problem is, the variety of mirrors on the market makes choosing the right mirror a bit of a conundrum, given the price tag can vary from a handful of dollars to hundreds of dollars. The trick is finding a mirror that meets your needs and your budget.
CLIP-ON OR STRAP-ON MIRRORS
These are mirrors that either clip on or strap on to your existing mirror and may be further supported by suction cups to the tow vehicle’s external side mirrors. These mirrors can be adjusted as required from the tow vehicle cabin.
Typical of this group, the Ora towing mirror uses a clamp and a strap with which to attach to your existing mirror. The mirror head is dome jointed, so it can be swivelled in every direction. It can also be turned to ‘landscape’ or ‘portrait’ view, according to the driver’s preference. You can mount the clamp at the top or bottom of the existing car mirror. For extra stability, particularly on the drivers’ side, which can be more susceptible to wind rush from on-coming vehicles, there are suction support or magnetic support arm options available.
The ENZO magnetic mirror is another alternative that uses a strong magnetic pad to attach to the car door. It is easy to install and remove and fits almost all vehicles.
Also, on the list of brands to consider in this category are Dometic Milenco mirrors that clamp to your existing driving mirrors and do not require any tools to install them and the mirror head rotates up to 360°. Although this makes this mirror attachable to a wide range of tow vehicles, it could not be fitted to the Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series we used for this test. That’s because the clamp needs a suitable ledge or recess on to which it can be mounted. Nonetheless, it’s a good mirror for towing if you can fit it.
Bonnet-mounted towing mirrors use a crossbar from one side of the tow vehicle bonnet to the other side. A clip inserted on each side of the bonnet secures the crossbar and sometimes the entire mirror rig is supported by a bracing arm as well. The trouble with these mirrors is that they take time to set up and can’t be adjusted from the vehicle cabin.
These are, arguably, the cream of towing mirrors, as they tend to be more stable than other types of mirrors. On the downside, they cost more than the clip-on type.
Among the best of these door-mounted mirrors or replacement-mirrors are Clearview mirrors. Instead of attaching to your existing mirrors, these replace them. They are wide, usually with two mirrors in the frame – a flat mirror and a convex mirror. What’s more, you can extend them if needed.
WHICH TO CHOOSE
Towing guru Glen Jocumsen from RoadCraft tow education said, as far as the law is concerned, it doesn’t matter if you use a cheap mirror or a replacement mirror, as long as you can see down the entire length of your caravan.
“From my personal perspective,” he said, “I want to see as much of what’s going on around me as possible.”
For that reason, Kedron Caravans director Glen Gall recommends quality towing mirrors that allow the widest view so that you have the best understanding of what’s happening around your caravan while you’re on the road. His concern is that mirrors that are less secure than replacement mirrors are susceptible to being blown off by passing large trucks and other vehicles on the highway.
You can enhance your view of what’s around the van by using a rearview camera. Rearview cameras are affordable and help provide a view of the blind spot directly behind the caravan. The trouble is, cameras can make it difficult to judge distances and are definitely not a substitute for extended mirrors.
The full article appears in Caravan World #555 September 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!