Going camping with an RV? Whether you buy or rent an RV, driving it can seem overwhelming, especially if you normally drive a small, 4-door car. So, let us take a trip back to your first driving lessons, and remember the first time you had your hands on the steering wheel, and start from there.
1. Make the Right Adjustments
The first and most basic instructions are the same with both cars and RVs: adjust for comfort and safety.
Mirrors: Check your side mirrors and learn how to use your rear camera, if your rig has one.
Seat: Adjust your seat so that you can clearly see in every direction necessary. Move forward, backward, and play with the tilt to avoid making a lot of adjustments while driving an unfamiliar vehicle.
2. Know Your Size
More than likely, every car you’ve driven before is standard size, meaning it fits below bridges and is allowed on every road. However, the height and weight of RV’s make it a little different. Height: General bridge height is 13 feet 6 inches. However, some states differ so check your driving route in advance to make sure your RV will fit. Width: Any motorhome wider than 8.5 feet requires an oversized load permit. Check with your salesperson before making your purchase or signing a rental agreement.
3. Learn how to Park
Practice, practice, practice. Parking an RV is very different from a truck or small vehicle. A few basic parking tips to keep in mind, include:
Rely on your mirrors: You can’t look over your shoulder or through the back window. Adjust and test them before heading out.
Always have clear vision of the spot you’re pulling into.
Avoid parking near other cars, if possible. However, practice tight parking in case you have no other option.
4. Prepare for Geography Differences
Simply going up or down a mountain requires more thought than you might expect. Driving a heavier load uphill can quickly and easily cause the engine to overheat if you’re not careful. Downhill descents are no different. Uphill: When climbing up a mountain, your RV needs to be operated within its power band. Your power band is where max horsepower is available to handle the extra uphill load. To stay within the power band, practice your downshifting beforehand. Downhill: The key here is to use your brakes as minimally as possible. If you’ve had little experience going downhill in an RV, play it safe by dropping into the lowest gear before you start your descent. After a few hills you’ll learn what gear works best for your rig. Just remember that you don’t want to burn out your brakes, so it’s better to be in the lowest gear, going very slow, than to rely on your brakes.
5. Don’t Forget the Details
Finally, remember that safely driving an RV is in the details. Remember these important safety measures: Keep a safe following distance: Your RV will take much longer to come to a full stop than a car. Test stopping time for your RV in a parking lot before going on a busy highway. Check tires before every trip: If you’re driving for multiple days in an RV, check your tires before every leg of the trip. As a very heavy vehicle, your safety relies on the tires being full. Gas tank: It’s so simple, but check which side your gas tank is on. Secure heavy objects: Keep weight distribution in mind, and secure any heavy objects so this distribution will not be thrown off around a sharp turn.
Driving an RV van can be very dangerous if you don’t have enough background and preparation on how to properly use it. You may be overwhelmed at first, but you will eventually get used to it. Have a map with you so you can master your route, practice safe driving and parking, and remember to keep always keep safe. Have an RV trip to remember!
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Image Source: Bruce Fingerhood