Driving tips
to stay safe and keep it fun!

Included here are a lot of the RV driving tips I have learned over the years from a combination of direct "experience" and the generous contribution of others. Some of them were even learned from simple observation and NOT the "experience" of doing something so dumb I learned the hard way not to ever do it again!

There is a lot going on when you are pushing 18 or 20,000 lbs of RV down the road. A sort of "Foundational" tip is to think way out in front of the rig to stay safe. Always remember, the best driving tip to get you out of trouble is to not get into it in the first place!

Another foundational driving trip is to Chill! you are supposed to be having a good time. Relax. The best driving tip anyone can offer is to relax, pay attention and enjoy the trip!

General Driving Tips #1 - #5

  • #1 - Stay Alert! Scan your mirrors, your gauges, and down the road every 10 seconds or so. Anticipate where you are going to be down the road in a few seconds. Think Ahead!
  • #2 - Keep your fuel level high. Fill up often. I seldom let it get below a 1/2 tank. My rig is also equipped with an auxiliary tank.You never really know when some little road is going to grab your curiosity and lead you way back into the hinterlands a long way from a filling station!Lets say you do go into the back country a ways and set a camp. After a week or so of wandering around the surrounding back roads you get back in your rig to head for town and OOPS! You don't have the fuel to get there! Kind of embarrassing!
  • #3 - Avoid backing up. If you think you can't see behind your Subaru very well wait until you are trying to back an 8' wide fifth wheel or motorhome into a campsite or out of a parking lot!As much as possible park in spots you can just pull on through to leave without having to back upAlways use a ground guide, outside of the vehicle, to guide you when you are backing. Set up some hand signals that make sense to you before hand. (avoid the arguments that happen when you haven't got the slightest idea what his/her flailing hands are trying to tell you!) On our travels we use little Cobra brand walkie talkies for good communication with the ground guide.Remember, if you are the ground guide and you cannot see the mirrors the driver cannot see you!
  • #4 - Place your steering hand on the bottom of the wheel when backing a trailer.Move your hand in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go. (example: move your hand to your right if you want the trailer to move to the right)
  • #5 - Try and lay out your route to avoid Right turns. An avoidance type driving tip. Sounds kind of silly doesn't it? But think about it. With a rig that has a wide turning radius it is so much easier to make a turn to the left then the right. Your need to swing wide on a left turn to keep from running over obstacles is not nearly as great as when you are turning right and need to avoid the curb, telephone poles, road signs and such!. Doing it this way is as easy as turning at the NEXT street and circling back around. Slightly farther but much easier!

Driving Tips #6 - #10

  • #6 - Stay aware of your RVs' height. Nothing more embarrassing than taking out all the lights under the canopy at some non-typical country gas station! Nope! Not me! Never done that!
  • #7 - Running off the shoulder of the pavement at speed. *DO NOT*Jerk the wheel to pull back onto the pavement. Doing so can throw the rig quickly out of control. Hold the wheel firmly. Keep the rig moving straight. If it is not much of a lip you can gradually move back up onto the pavement. If the break is pretty sharp, let the rig coast down to a safe speed and then gradually pull it back onto the pavement. Do not apply the brakes either. With one side on pavement and the other on dirt, the differance in traction can cause a loss of control if the brakes are applied. Just coast a little ways to reduce speed and regain your control.Like I said earlier the best driving tip is prevention. Slow down on narrow two lane or mountain roads so you can maintain the control to keep from slipping off onto the shoulder in the first place!
  • #8 - Use this driving tip to communicate with other drivers. Learn and use headlight signals on the road. When a vehicle passes you and has moved far enough in front to safely return to your lane, slowly blink your lights on and off to let the other driver know. To warn on coming drivers of a danger you have just passed, that they may be unaware of, blink you lights quickly, multiple times to alert them. They won't know what danger is approaching, but their increased alertness may save a lot of grief.
  • #9 - Yield anyway! You are out to enjoy life. So take this stress reduction driving tip! Take your time. If there seems to be a conflict over who has the right of way, what's the hurry? Let the other guy go ahead, even if maybe it is your right of way. Wave him on with a smile. What the heck, let him be in a hurry. Kick back, enjoy the trip and Yield anyway!
  • #10 - Check your spare! When was the last time your checked the air pressure in your spare tire? 45 miles up a dirt road is not the time to find out the ugly truth!

General Driving Tips #11 - #15

  • #11 - Give truckers a break when you can. We're out just having a good time. They're shoving a whole lot of weight down the road trying to earn a living. Nothing is more irritating for them than a "citizen" pulling back in front of them and slowing down, just as they have built up a little momentum to pull the next hill. If we think before we act we can avoid a whole lot of difficulty out there!
  • #12 - -Watch out for Wildlife! Driving tips to avoid unwanted hood ornaments. Scan off the sides of the road several seconds of travel down the road. Deer and other critters often seem to dart out of nowhere. The honest truth is we often get sort of mesmerized by the highway and our attention is reduced to a tunnel vision straight ahead.Keep your eyes moving and you will often see the animals in sufficient time to reduce speed or take other evasive action.Deer and other animals seem frozen by headlights. Often, alternating high and low beams will get them moving and off the road.If you can't stop in time and must pass the deer or other animals try to steer behind them. Even crossing the center line if necessary **but only if there is no oncoming traffic of course!** but don't focus on the animal in question to the exclusion of all else. Where there is one deer, there are usually others. So don't avoid one just to smack into another!Sometimes you do have to just stop and wait. Getting on the horn is unlikely to intimidate a Bull Buffalo. A few have been known to consider that honking Buick to be a challenge.........that can lead to an interesting vacation story! " How my radiator became an adornment on the horn of a Wyoming Buffalo".
  • #13 - Be considerate of other folks on the road. As with the truckers, a little consideration will make our travels a lot more pleasant for everyone. Stay in the right lane on 4-lane highways, unless passing. On the two lane roads, as most mountain roads are, pull over at every opportunity and let the traffic behind you pass. If your roadspeed drops significantly below the posted limit on a grade, put your flashers on and stay alert to the traffic stacking up behind you. Pull over and let them roll on when you get the chance. Wave them on with a smile and you can help change the negative image some inconsideratepeople have created.Not everyone on the road is sightseeing like us. Many are working locals trying to get to their jobs on time, or heading home after a long day serving us RVers at that attraction just up the road. Give 'em a break.
  • #14 - Merge correctly. When we are rolling down the on ramp onto a highway it is OUR responsibility to merge into the existing traffic without making them do anything. If we force them to use the brakes or the accelerator to avoid us, WE are the ones in the wrong.With a big rig it is more difficult then with a hot little sports car. We must, as much as possible gauge our speed to the traffic and blend in smoothly.Just the same, if you are the traffic already on the highway, give the poor bugger coming down the ramp a little space. Pull over into the left lane if possible and help another RVer down the road. We'll all get there in fine shape if we just give each other a little help here and there.
  • #15 - Heavy grades seem to be one of the big fears for a lot of RVers and RV Boondockers. They don't need to be. Just remember a few driving tips. Go down a grade off a mountain in the same gear you climbed the other side. Don't ride your brake.   Brake down below your "safe" speed/RPM with (5) second firm applications of the service brakes as required. (Know what your engine overspeed rpm is and stay below that.) Exceed it and you WILL destroy your engine. Allow the road speed to climb back to the "safe" speed and repeat until you get to the bottom of the grade. I literally count off in my head - one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand four one thousand five one thousand. - I strongly recommend the installation of an exhaust brake system. The radical improvement in downhill control is so fantastic you will never regret the expense

Driving Tips #16 - #20

  • #16 - Make frequent checks. When you stop for fuel or for some roadside attraction, get in the habit of walking around your rig making a quick check. Put your hand on the wheel hubs, scan your tires, look for anything out of place. Such habits can often find problems in the making before they become major "difficulties"
  • #17 - If you overheat on a grade do not pull over and shut the engine off. Do pull over as soon as you can, safely, but leave the engine running to keep the coolant circulating through the radiator. Keep your rpm up around 1600 or 1700rpm until the engine temperature drops to operating level. If it will not drop you will be forced to shut it down until it cools but it is better to keep it running if possible. If you do need to shut it down do not remove the radiator cap until the engine has had a good long while to cool off. Especially at altitude, you are risking serious burns if you open the radiator up on a hot engine.Once it has, open her up and add coolant (the most likely cause of the overheating in the first place).Many times you can avoid the problem by simply taking it a little easier climbing the grade in the first place. We tend to put a bit too much weight on our rigs and then push them too hard up the mountain. Watch your gauges. If the temp starts to climb, turn off the air-conditioner, open the windows, and back it off a little. You might just avoid a long day stuck on the side of a mountain somewhere!
  • #18 - Carry plenty of emergency road gear! This driving tip seems like a "no-brainer" but it sometimes gets lost in the rush to get to the backwoods. Reflectors, hydraulic jack, 4-way tire iron, fire extinguisher, extra coolant, jumper cables, tow strap, fuses, extra serpentine belt for the engine. etc. There are more little things than this but you get the idea. If you have enough spare/repair supplies you can turn a major hassle into a minor inconvenience.
  • #19 - Do not drive while impaired! Driving while impaired doesn't only mean under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Getting behind the wheel of a 20,000 lb. rig when you are in a really bad mood and mad at the world is pretty impaired in my book. Same thing when you are in the middle of an "animated" difference of opinion with that lovely creature you share your bed with! What the heck, stay in camp a while or even another day until your outlook improves, or you finally surrender!. Out there on the road, your driving requires your full attention.
  • #20 - Another seeming "no-brainer" driving tip. Practice with your rig before you head out. Many, many folks buy a large RV and learn to drive it on the job! I'm thinking that's a bad idea. With no experience with a large vehicle you can get into jackpots you did not anticipate. Driving a large RV is not difficult but it is differant! Learn what those differances are in advance! So you can travel safe!Practice parking and backing your rig in some empty parking lot before you leave on your long anticipated trip. A little bit of time getting the feel of it will pay dividends down the road.(a little "ego" driving tip: You also won't get embarrassed as you try to learn to back in to a spot with the whole world watching!)Also, while in that parking lot have your "navigator" move around the rig while you watch in the mirrors to learn where your "blind" spots are. If you can take a second vehicle or even a bicycle (mimics a motorcycle) so much the better. Learning where they (the blind spots) are will give you a headstart in avoiding unhappy problems they can cause out on the road.

Driving tips #21 - To be continued!

  • #21 - ABS Brakes! Remember the old days? Back when you were taught to pump the brakes to avoid going into a slide so you could maintain steering control? If you have ABS brakes on your rig, those days are gone. Check it out. Most of the newer higher grade rigs are being outfitted with them. If you pump ABS brakes you defeat the system and they won't work. And they are one of the new systems that do work! In the old days if you had the brakes mashed you had no steering control in a panic stop, so you had to "pump". With ABS brakes mash away! Don't take your foot off the brakes until you don't need to slow down or stop any longer! You will stop in the shortest space possible while maintaining steering control. Retrain yourself if necessary but remember, let the ABS brakes do the "pumping" and you do the steering, OK?
  • #22 - This driving tip really deserves to be higher up on the list. Weigh your rig! And if possible do it where they can weigh each wheel. They frequently set up scales to do just that at many RV Rallys. Avoiding overweight and badly balanced loads is advisable.
  • #23 - Rest your arms while you drive! On long pulls, one of the driving tips I have run across that really works is to periodically change the position of your hands on the wheel. Start with your hands at the 1 or 2 O'clock and 7 or 8 O'clock positions.After a while, before they really get tired, reverse to the 10 or 11 O'clock and 4 or 5 O'clock psoition. Try it. It really works!

I will add new RV driving tips and Mountain driving tips as and when I think of things or some of you refresh my memory. (Age can be a terrible thing!) In the meantime just remember these driving tips, stay alert, stay aware, take your time and keep the shiny side up!

Maybe the three most all encompassing (big words for an old cowboy huh?) RV driving trips. Obey these and most of the rest will take care of itself:

RV Driving tip A: Stay alert, stay aware

RV driving tip B: There is no hurry.

RV Driving tip C: Enjoy the trip.

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