When you are done with all the planning, have gathered all the equipment you need for your maiden RV trip, are about to hit the road, climb on to the driver’s seat, put your hand on the wheel and the keys in the ignition, you feel something moving down your spine! The excitement and anxiety hit you in unison! Then, once you are moving on the road you soon realize that driving an RV is way different from driving your car or even maybe a truck.
But this discovery shall in no way be pleasant. So if you intend to be in a better shape when you hit the road with your RV, a few RV driving tips are bound to aid you have a smooth trip! You will be well prepared for every situation – tight turns, bumpy terrain, bridges, gas stations or tiny parking lots. Here are 22 RV driving tips that are absolutely mandatory for every first-time RV driver!
Your turns will have to be wide and long as your RV is wide and long. The right turns are more so as here you will be up against the curb. Keep an eye on the rear-view mirrors so that you stay close to the center lane as far as possible. Don’t rush your turns. Go slow with them, take your time and don’t pay too much attention to the traffic following you. It is always advisable to do things rightly albeit a bit slower than ending up with lots of damage you will need to endure for some time.
2. Well-maintained Vehicle
A well-maintained RV or tow vehicle is the first step towards minimizing accidents. So, preventive maintenance of your vehicle is important. Also regular inspection of the RV systems is absolutely necessary or else accidents may happen while travelling. An inspection should be done following a pre-trip checklist before you take the wheel. The checklist –
- Headlights, tail lights and turn signal
- Tires – the ideal air pressure and enough tread depth
- Belts and hoses – check cracks
- Towing or hitch equipment
Tire blowouts may happen due to overloading, old or under inflated tires and is usually one of the leading causes of accidents.
3. Get to understand the Tail Swing
Learn what tail swing is before you start RV driving. Tail swing is described as “the distance that the body of the vehicle behind the pivot point moves in the other direction of the front when you turn.” If your RV is not a single piece then its longer part or the coach will not turn simultaneously as the front of the RV. You will have to plan and accommodate for this distance gap. The calculation of tail swing goes thus –
Take someone along with you and go to an empty parking lot or street. Then roll your RV up so that it is flush with the painted white line. When you have checked it is safe, use the white line as the reference point for turning. While you calculate the tail swing, the other person needs to watch. Average tail swings are somewhere between 18” and 30” but this can vary depending upon the size of the RV and how you turn – the tightness. Once you know your tail swing number, you will depend on it and practice will make you comfortable with both loose and tight turns.
Braking your car and your RV is not the same thing. It will take more time. While driving your RV, you will have to keep a greater distance from the vehicles in front of you. Also you should always keep a watch for signs of troubles in front of you so that you can react instantaneously. On downgrades, you will have to downshift and allow your engine do the maximum braking. With the increased engine resistance in a lower gear the vehicle will slow down and decrease the wear and tear of the brakes of the RV.
You should know when to apply the brakes. The RV is huge and heavy with its metal bulk. Along with that is the weight of the supplies the RV is carrying which just adds on. The vehicle with the supplies will weigh 7000 pounds approximately. There will be no sudden stops with the RV. So you have to be a keen, conscientious and alert driver at all times. Also you need to maintain a safe distance and that brings us to the next tip…
5. Keep Proper Distance
Do not get too close to other motorists. Tailgating is an absolute “No.” You are bound to make other motorists nervy with the huge body and mass of your RV. Your behavior is again important. You should stay at least 400 feet away from the closest vehicle, 500 feet would be better. This is the minimum distance needed for you to brake and not cause harm to others traveling on the road.
If your vision is not clear, stop immediately. Take the spotter’s help to direct you to the parking spot. There is no shame in it as most experienced RVers have done it at times. Take the help of the spotter, use your mirrors and go slow. It is always better to avoid tighter spots and rather move to an easier one, even if that takes more time. If you are towing, you are not to back up as the trailer is to move in the direction opposite to that of your steering wheel.
7. Keep Far Right
Stick to the right lane while driving unless you are driving outside the country. While driving an RV you might feel isolated in a lane of fast moving cars as your vehicle just lumbers on. Just move to the far-right lane. This way you can move out from the ways of other peoples. Also this lane gives you the best view from your driver’s side mirror. At exits coming up on the highway where you don’t want to get off, you have to move one lane over to allow all cars to pass through the exit ramp. Then again move back to the far-right lane and keep moving!
8. Lane Position
Understanding whether you are veering too far right or left in your lane is an initial difficulty. But till you get used to the width and lane position, it would be advisable to keep an eye on the mirrors and maintain a note as to how close the back tires of your RV are to the lane markers. But prefer moving in the right lane so that you can concentrate on the traffic close to your left while moving slowly.
9. Slow Going
Driving your motorhome is a leisure activity taken up for pleasure. So rash driving like other drivers is a total no-no. Experienced RVers advise travelling at a speed of 63 miles per hour and never to go over 65 MPH. Though this is not very fast, it is ideal. If you are on a high-speed highway where you are coming across restless drivers, you must maintain your composure and keep to a pace of 65 MPH. When a driver is trying to speed up, cut over a lane and then get in front of your vehicle, do not get impatient. Stick to the lessons learnt. Also, the prescribed speed will give you better gas mileage.
Negotiating bridges properly is of great significance. Most RVers forget to pay enough attention to this aspect. You should be aware of the height of your RV and know about the low bridges. You can plan your routes with the aid of an RV GPS device which will forecast the existence of low bridges and come up with alternate routes.
11. Courtesy on the Road
While RVing you will be sharing the major roads, turnpikes and highways with thousands of other drivers at the same time. So make courtesy your second habit. Your vehicle is more uncommon and bigger which might make the other motorists nervy. You should be courteous to make the others realize that you are not a threat. Flip on your left turn signal at least several hundred feet before you are going to turn left. Thus the nervous motorists will get enough time to make room for you thereby averting accidents.
It would also be advisable to know your route well ahead and to signal as early as possible. Remember that you are not in a car and you can’t simply signal at the nth hour and squeeze through. This has to be kept in mind so that you do not miss exits and crucial turns or become a threat for fellow drivers.
12. Mountains and High Grades
While moving through the mountains it is better to keep to low gears whether you go uphill or downhill. You should be driving in the right lane and stop worrying about the other vehicles that will pass you. While going downhill, be over cautious that your vehicle does not put on too much speed. The RV should be kept in low gear and just allow the engine to keep the speed of the RV down.
13. Know the Boundaries
Your road trip is going to move through all kinds of paths from tunnels to overpasses and more. But never stress regarding the toll road or the tunnel ahead. To know whether you fit in, it would be wise to have the measurements of your RV before you venture. The height and the width of the RV should be noted and jotted down. Most of the RVs have height between 11 to 13 feet and this has to be kept in mind while driving through overpasses and tunnels. If you come across an overpass or tunnel that has less clearance than your RV allows, just turn on your GPS and find an alternate route so that you do not get stuck.
14. Gas Stations
Avoid taking your RV to any old gas station. It would be better to use truck stops. Most gas stations are not built to put up with the width and height of your RV and you can spend lots of minutes just trying to move past these pumps getting totally frustrated. This way many RVers have damaged the fenders, roofs and sides of their vehicles just trying to pull up to the pump.
15. Avoid Driving when Tired
This is common sense. While RVing, your days mean moving from destination A to destination B and the distance between these two places is highly variable and can move to hundreds of miles or across several states. You usually move keeping an itinerary and schedule in your mind and would rush to reach your destination even when fatigued. This can prove to be too dangerous. You should be driving with fullest concentration as a single moment of lapse can lead to accident.
So it would be wise to not push through if you are feeling weary. Also avoid caffeine, too much soda, coffee or any supplement that can make you edgy than keep you awake. All these will make driving unsafe. If fatigue strikes, you can ask a fellow passenger to take over the wheels or pull over to a truck stop to catch a nap. But make sure your passenger knows how to drive an RV!
There are lots of excellent RV driver training resources and schools and we should take their advantages.
It is not necessary that the weather will be warm and sunny every time you venture out with your RV especially when you are moving across states. But, then again, maneuvering a car in troublesome weather is tough and it is definitely thousand times tougher with an RV. It would be wise to download a weather app and learn to use it. A slight drizzle or light flurry will not deter your trip. But if it is snowing or raining hard along with lightning and thunder or may be strong winds, it would be advisable to pull over at some place safely. Camp down for a while.
You should also avoid driving during ice, fog and hail. Just stop for a few moments. It will save you the cost of repair of your vehicle in the event of an accident.
18. Adjustment of the Mirrors
You should always have an eye to the rear of your RV while driving. And to serve the said purpose, take your seat and adjust each mirror. You should not be afraid to pull over to the roadside for readjusting the mirrors if required.
If you want to have total command over your RV and not feel unwieldy, clumsy and inexperienced, you need to practice learning to drive it till you become perfect. Locate an empty parking space and continue practicing. You have to concentrate on parallel parking, turns, perpendicular parking, K-turns and other such tricky driving tactics. Practice will make you perfect and an expert too. You need to dedicate a couple of hours each day to perfect your driving and before time you will become a most experienced RV driver!
Make sure every passenger is seated and have fastened their seatbelts before you start driving.
21. Fix up Everything
Just give a proper check to see that all things left loose on tables or countertops in your RV are put away properly before you start driving your vehicle. Also, check that all utilities are disconnected before you start moving.
22. Plan Your RV Trip to Lessen Your Stress
Make your reservations in advance. Popular RV parks especially the campgrounds get filled up quickly as these are usually located near major tourist spots. This will ease your stress leaving you in a better frame of mind when you hit the road.