Driving an RV for the First Time

rvWhether you are driving a full-size RV or a pull along travel trailer, if you are vacationing in an RV for the first time, it is important to know how it drives. Driving a RV or motor home is more similar to driving a commercial semi-truck than driving a standard pickup truck. You should practice driving the RV before going on a trip to help you learn how to maneuver it. The following tips will help get you acquainted with what to expect when driving a RV.

Weight Distribution

The weight of an RV is significantly more than what you may be used to when driving a car or truck. You should learn how to control the weight of the RV before going on the road. It will handle differently and when you add the essentials you will need for your vacation, the added weight also changes how you control the vehicle. It is important to verify the weight limit of your RV, because if you are required to go through a checkpoint or weight station, the RV must pass the inspection. Fill water tanks at your destination or just before arriving and pack lightweight items, including clothing and blankets. Even choosing to use items such as paper plates instead of china will help to reduce the weight and make the RV easier to control.

Road Safety

One of the most difficult things for drivers new to taking an RV on the road is the width. The average highway lane is 12 feet in width and an average RV is 8 feet wide, so this only leaves you about 2 feet on each side. Practice driving your RV several times before attempting to drive on a busy highway so you will get comfortable with the tight space you has to maneuver in. You should also take into consideration construction areas and other tight driving zones. It is also helpful to call ahead to the campgrounds where you will be parking to make sure their sites are wide enough for the RV.

Backing Up in an RV

It is a challenge for many people to backup in a standard size vehicle, so when you first get behind the wheel of an RV it requires extra practice. You will need to learn how to back in by using the side mirrors, so you should take your RV to a parking lot or other area and practice backing up several times before attempting to back into a small space. It is also helpful to have someone guide you until you are comfortable enough to back in without assistance. It is important to keep in mind that when you are backing a camper trailer in, you will turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction.

Bridge Height

One of the quickest ways to ruin a vacation is by driving your RV under a bridge or overpass that wasn't high enough for the RV clearance. It is very important to know the height of your RV and pay close attention to the postings for the height of all overpasses you encounter while traveling. If your RV is 13 feet and 6 inches in height or lower, most states do not require you to have a permit for an oversize load, but if your RV is higher than this, you should check with each state you will be traveling through to verify if you need a permit or not.

Ascending and Descending Hill

During your traveling you may encounter steep inclines, especially if you are traveling in the mountains. Driving an RV in the mountains requires more attention than what you may be used to, so you should plan ahead to be sure your RV is capable of handling steep inclines. Your RV should be operated within a certain power band to safely climb a hill. The power band is a set of RPMs within the engine to allow you maximum horsepower and to have control of the RV while climbing a steep incline. If the RV falls below the RPM required for getting up the hill, you will lose the power needed to make it up the hill. You need to downshift to a lower gear to stay within the power band. Going down the hill requires learning how to downshift enough too slowly and safely get you down the hill. If you apply your brakes too much, they will get hot and may fail.

Traveling by RV is a great way to vacation, but it is important to be aware of your driving. Use caution on uneven roads and keep in mind that it typically takes as much as 5 minutes longer to brake and accelerate an RV, because of the excess weight. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and be courteous of other drivers. Always check the width, height and turn space to make sure your RV will comfortably fit.

Written by Cody Loughlin. Cody is the Business Manager at America Choice RV. The company offers sales of new and used RVs, complete service, parts, rentals, collision repair, and warranty repairs.

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