Glossary Of Caravanning Terms

Here at Shield Total Insurance we often receive enquiries from caravan insurance customers new to caravanning, asking for clarity on caravan jargon or terminology they have encountered. Here’s an alphabetical list, with a brief defintion of the more common caravanning technical terms:


The frame at the front of a caravan, home to the jockey wheel, tow hitch, handbrake and breakaway cable.


Plastic used to make caravan panels; short for acrylonitrile butadiene-styrene.

Actual laden weight

The total weight of a caravan and its contents when towed. Must not exceed the MTPLM.


An anti-snaking control system for caravans that monitors lateral movement. If snaking is detected, it briefly applies the brakes to re-establish control.


Another anti-snaking system, compatible with the BPW chassis (as used by Elddis).

Breakaway cable

A thin steel cable linking the caravan hand brake to the tow car. In the event of the caravan becoming detached, this will operate the caravan hand brake, bringing it to a rapid halt.

Corner steady

The stabilising legs built into the corners of a caravan.

CRIS check

Like a car HPI check, Central Registration and Identification Scheme can tell if your potential purchase has had any problems such as theft, outstanding finance or caravan insurance issues.


The separation of the bonded layers of a sandwich construction panel. Check for this on the floors of used caravans, in particular.

Exterior locker

A plastic-lined storage area accessed from the outside of the caravan, ideal for dirty or muddy items.


Glass-reinforced plastic (or fibreglass) used in moulded form for some caravan fronts and rear panels and in sheet form in some caravans for flat areas such as caravan sides.

Gross train weight

Also known as ‘combined weight’. This is the total laden weight of the car AND caravan. Should not exceed the sum of the caravan’s MTPLM and towcar’s Gross Vehicle Weight.

Hitch lock

A security device preventing the caravan hitch being connected to (or removed from) a tow ball.


A facility on a pitch to connect a caravan to the electric supply.

Jockey wheel

Small wheel at the front of a caravan used to support the front while not hitched.


The empty weight of a car as stated by its manufacturer. Use this figure when working out which caravans your car can tow. Both major clubs recommend towing a caravan with a loaded weight (use MTPLM) that is no more than 85% of the car’s kerbweight (but see Max Tow Limit).

Maximum (braked) tow limit

The car manufacturer’s stated figure for the maximum caravan weight to be towed. Becomes important if this figure is lower than the kerbweight of the car.


Mass In Running Order – this is the unladen weight of the caravan before you load it with all your holiday equipment.


Maximum Technically Permissable Laden Mass – with all your equipment, food, clothes, etc loaded into the caravan, the maximum weight must not exceed this figure.


The National Caravan Council for manufacturers, suppliers and dealers. Responsible for certifying that new caravans comply with European and relevant standards.


The weight imposed on the car’s towball when your caravan is hitched. You can measure this with a noseweight gauge and adjust it a little by moving equipment for and aft in the van. The noseweight must not exceed the car’s towball weight limit.


A caravan and its towing vehicle considered as a unit.

Roof light / Heki

An opening roof window; Heki is the best known make.


It’s the bare metal fastening on the back of your car that directly connects to the caravan, allowing you to tow.

Towing Hitch

The ‘cup’ part of the caravan that sits on the car’s towball, connecting before towing. Also the point at which you measure the van’s noseweight.

User payload

This is basically the difference between the MTPLM and the MIRO figures. All your added holiday equipment must not exceed this weight.

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