8 RV Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life
Driving or towing an RV is an exciting experience, but it’s a totally different ballpark compared to driving a car. You’re dealing with a lot more weight and bulk, which will give you less control and precision on the road.
Many people have been driving RVs for years, so it’s almost like second nature to them. But we should never be too confident in ourselves, because accidents can happen to anyone. The RV driving tips below will help any driver stay safe, whether they’ve been driving for years or are just getting started with their first RV.
1. Don’t overload your RV
This first tip leads into a lot of the others, but it’s very important. Every RV is built to be able to carry a certain amount of weight. This measurement is known as the cargo carrying capacity (CCC). This usually includes all water, cargo, passengers, and anything else that is stored inside the RV.
RVs are naturally pretty heavy, with even the lightest ones weighing about 2,000 lbs. If your car isn’t built for heavy-duty towing, this weight can make it extremely difficult to build up speed, control your path, and stop. Even if your RV is drivable without a separate vehicle (like a Class A, B, or C motorhome), you still need to be mindful of the overall weight.
Heavy and overloaded vehicles put a lot of strain on the frame, axles, engine, and wheels. You’re much more likely to have a tire blowout or experience major vehicle malfunctions if you regularly push your RV beyond its CCC limits. You’ll be able to protect your RV and your tow vehicle if you stay under the recommended weight limit. In fact, giving yourself about 15% less weight than the maximum is ideal.
2. Take your time on turns
If you’re looking for RV driving tips, this is probably one of the most common ones you’ll hear. RVs add a ton of length to your usual vehicle and it’s easy for a routine turn to turn into a disaster if you’re not careful.
You’ll need to slow down a lot before you try to turn. Turning while driving too fast is a great way to tip yourself over. Make sure you give the people around you plenty of notice before you turn. Turn on your blinker about 1 minute ahead of time because your fellow drivers will need to know that you will be slowing down and possibly making a wide turn.
Give yourself plenty of time to make the turn because rushing across an intersection is one of the riskiest things you could do. You’ll also need to take the extra length into account and make a pretty wide turn.
3. Brake early
This is another essential pillar of RV driving tips. Because your RV adds so much weight to your usual rig, speeding up and slowing down will take much longer than you’re used to. You’ll need to plan out your actions ahead of time so you can slow down in time to avoid hitting someone.
If you’ve ever driven on icy roads, you’ll be somewhat prepared for this aspect of RV driving. In those road conditions, you need to take plenty of time to speed up and slow down. Rushing into things can be disastrous because you can’t just slam on the brakes and expect all of your momentum to stop instantly.
4. Be ready to use runaway ramps
This is directly related to the advice above. If you try to brake and find out that you can’t slow down or stop, you may need to look for the nearest runaway ramp. These are often placed on steep roads and are designed for the use of semi-trucks and RVs that have accelerated out of control.
If you find yourself losing control and see a runaway ramp, brace yourself and your passengers for impact. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Signal to surrounding traffic that you are not in control by using your horn and hazard lights.
Aim for the center of the ramp and keep the vehicle as straight as you can. Once you go far enough up to stop, cut your wheels to one side to prevent rolling, immediately put your vehicle in park, and engage the emergency brake. This experience might not be pleasant, but it could save your life.
5. Prepare for trailer sway
Trailer sway is a potentially deadly situation that every RV owner needs to know about. If a trailer is hit by side wind or caught in a nearby vehicle’s slipstream, it may begin to sway back and forth on the road.
Many drivers panic when they notice this and try to turn to minimize the swaying. If it continues and gets worse, the entire RV can end up flipping, which causes major damage to everyone and everything involved.
Trailer sway is a major culprit of many RV accidents, but there are ways to combat it. First of all, don’t try to turn, speed up, or hit the brakes. Any of these actions can make the situation worse. Instead, take your foot off of the gas and hold the wheel straight. This will enable you to gradually slow down until the swaying stops and you regain control of the situation. It is also well worth your money and safety to invest in a trailer sway bar.
6. Accept help with parking
This is one of those RV driving tips that may be overlooked, but it can still be very important. Parking an RV is no easy feat, and you’ll have to look out for tail swing. In many cases, your mirrors won’t give you a full view of the situation, so you could end up hitting something that was in your blind spot.
Getting help from an outside observer is very useful when you need to park. This could be a fellow passenger or even someone in the campground or street you’re on. Have them stand next to you while you slowly move forward and backward. Roll down your window so you can hear their instructions. With practice, parking will get easier, but it never hurts to have someone to help!
7. Stay at or under the speed limit
Following the speed limit will keep you safe from a variety of problems. It can be tempting to keep up with the flow of the cars around you who are probably going above the recommended speed limit. But when you’re driving with a large and bulky RV, you need to keep safety in mind. Speeding often leads to turning issues and trailer sway, so it’s safest to just follow the recommended speeds.
If you have a particularly large RV, you may even want to follow the semi-truck recommendations, which are usually about 10 miles under the regular limit. You should also stay in the right lane so faster vehicles can pass you without issue. It’s courteous and it’s easier for everyone.
8. Use an RV-safe GPS
Finally, make sure you use an RV-specific GPS like the RV LIFE App to ensure you have RV-safe directions wherever you travel. An RV GPS provides turn-by-turn directions based on your vehicle’s specifications, so you never have to worry about running into an overpass or going down a road that is too narrow and potentially unsafe. The RV LIFE App also makes it easy and convenient to find campgrounds and other points of interest along your route.
For all of your camping and trip planning needs, look no further than Campground Reviews and RV Trip Wizard. Campground Reviews is a trusted source of campground and RV park reviews offered by camping and RV enthusiasts just like you. With its accompanying RV LIFE App, RV Trip Wizard gets you to your camping destinations utilizing RV-friendly routes specific to your RV and travel preferences.
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