Whether you have a motorhome or are towing a trailer, driving can be a daunting experience for new owners. Trust me, with a 44′ fifth-wheel, I know. However, with some practice and patience, you can be navigating parking spaces, gas stations and right turns like a pro in no time. Here are six tips to help you get started on your RV journey.
Don’t be surprised that driving a motorhome or towing a trailer affects route planning. For starters, you need to be clear on your vehicle’s height and weight. Plan your routes using an RV GPS device or Trucker Atlas, which can alert you to low bridges or other restrictions.
While looking at potential routes, consider maneuverability. Will your route take you through a busy city? Merging and yielding require patience. Driving with heavy traffic means you have to be aware of vehicles all around you, especially in blind spots.
Finally, even getting gas can be a little tricky. Be sure to choose a gas station that allows plenty of room for maneuvering around the pumps and parking areas.
Wide Turns Required
Speaking of maneuverability, you will need to take wide turns. This is particularly true of right turns because you’ll be up against the curb. A sharp turn could find your rear tires up on the curb or tracking over someone’s lawn.
You must also stay in your own lane to avoid a collision, so simply pull out farther into the intersection before starting the turn. Watch your rear-view mirrors, keep as close to the center lane as you can, and be aware of impatient drivers who may try to zip around you.
Take It Slow
When driving an RV or towing a camper, you should not feel a need for speed. Enjoy the journey. There are a few reasons for this. First, with that kind of weight behind you, braking will require a little more time. Speed increases that exponentially.
You’ll also need to maintain a greater distance from the vehicles in front of you, maintain awareness, and give yourself time to react. Slowing down will also help save the pain at the gas pump. Reducing your highway cruising speed from 75 mph to 55 mph can reduce fuel consumption as much as 20 percent.
Maintain Your Vehicle
A well maintained RV or tow vehicle, is a safe vehicle. Be sure to keep up with the preventive maintenance and conduct regular inspections of your RV systems, especially those things that can cause an accident while you are traveling. Make a pre-trip checklist, and do an inspection of these items every time you get behind the wheel:
- Belts and hoses (check for cracking)
- Headlights, turn signal, tail lights
- Hitch or towing equipment
- Tires for the correct air pressure and sufficient tread depth
Tire blowouts are one of the leading causes of RV accidents. They can be caused by overloading, under inflated or old tires. Double checking your tires, traveling the right speed, and ensuring they’re not overloaded will help you avoid blowouts.
Pay Attention to the Weather
Another common cause of RV accidents is driving in poor weather. Rain, fog, ice, and especially high winds make RV driving treacherous. Plan your trip to avoid bad weather, and always factor in extra time for delays in the event of unforeseen storms.
If you’re on the road and dangerous weather arises, pull over into a rest stop or at the next exit. Please note that in the event of high winds, there is simply no better option than to get off the road and wait it out. When you do get back on the road after a storm, keep an eye out for debris and downed power lines. Never drive through standing water. You have no idea how deep it may be.
Practice Makes Perfect
Take some time to practice turning with your RV before you head out on a road trip. Find a big empty parking lot or dirt field. Put out some cones and practice maneuvering and parking. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or sign up for a driving course. Spending some time getting to know your RV and your limitations will ensure you have a safe trip and make everything more fun.
Do you have any RV driving tips you think should be added here? Leave a comment below.