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!
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!
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
- #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
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!
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
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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