Are you ready to hit the open road in your RV? You might want to hold off before starting your engine. Despite all their bells and whistles, RVs are notoriously difficult to maneuver. Ask any experienced driver and they’ll tell you all about the touchy brakes, massive blind spots and the wide turning radius. Driving any large motorhome brings with it a new set of challenges – ones that often go ignored in driving schools. Here are some of the most common lies about RV driving so you can avoid making epic driving fails.
5. You’ll Stay in Your Lane
Does this sound familiar? You’re minding your business driving down the freeway when a driver comes barreling into your lane. You make a knee jerk reaction and swerve, but not before coming to terms with your mortality and preparing yourself for the great beyond.
Okay, that might be a little dramatic. But there’s no denying that someone driving into your lane is a scary ordeal. RV driving poses a special challenge to new drivers, especially since lanes are built for smaller vehicles. RV driving instructors teach students to avoid veering too far into the next lane. It’s easier said than done, however, when you consider the difficulty in determining how close your passenger side is to the shoulder. Make sure to watch your mirrors closely and stay in the right lane until you feel comfortable on the road. One tip? Pay attention to your back tires. Frequently check your mirrors to get a closer look at your tires’ lane position.
4. Go the Speed Limit
Let’s face it: nobody drives the speed limit. You’re practically required to drive 10 miles per hour over the limit on the freeway because…hey, they can’t catch us all.
While years of conditioning may influence your need for speed, the truth is you have to drive slow in an RV. In fact, most driving experts recommend you don’t ever exceed a 65 mile per hour speed limit.
Really, though, beginner RV drivers should drive even slower. RV accidents are frequently caused by speeding through turns and not braking fast enough. Don’t be afraid to drive slower than traffic – even if that means getting honked at by your fellow drivers. Driving an RV is more about leisure than it is speed, so take it slow and value your safety over speed. Plus, slow driving is a great way to get better gas mileage. It’s a win-win.
3. You Don’t Need a Backup Camera
Don’t let your driving instructors fool you: backing up is no walk in the park. Backing up is already a stressful task for drivers. Now consider how difficult it is to back up a 40-foot behemoth in the middle of a crowded parking lot.
Motorhomes are built with large rear view mirrors to maximize their visibility. Still, there’s no denying that backing up an RV can feel like playing a game of Russian Roulette. Countless drivers think they’ve backed up successfully, only to find massive scrapes and dents along the side of their coach.
Driving instructors advise that you get someone to guide you through this process. Sure, it’s helpful. But it’s not always foolproof – especially when you can barely see them from your 10-foot tall captain’s chair. Try installing a backup camera instead. These nifty pieces of equipment give you a clear picture of the hazards around you. They’re also affordable, reliable and easy to install. It might be an additional expense, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid playing bumper cars next time you go camping.
2. Filling Up On Gas is a Sinch
I think I can clear it. These immortal words have caused RV drivers to hit everything from gas pumps to awnings. While you’re probably smart enough not to take down an entire gas station, you’ll want to pay extra attention when filling up on gas. For one, make sure to pick truck stops (not gas stations) that are designed to handle RVs. This will provide you with extra room to craftily maneuver your way to the gas pump.
Another tip? Pay attention to your tail swing (also known as your RV driving instructors’ favorite words). Tail swing is the extra distance gap between your coach and the rest of the vehicle when turning. Essentially, it’s the inspiration for those pesky “this vehicle makes wide turns” signs. You’ll want to pay special attention to your tail swing at the gas station. Be sure to give yourself at least 3.5 feet of extra room from the pump to account for your tail swing. Your RV and the gas station attendant will thank you later.
1. You’re Ready to Drive
Let’s face it: driving an RV is a scary proposition. You might think you’re ready to drive your shiny new motorhome, but even the finest of driving instructors can’t prepare you for the rigors of the road.
Most motorhome drivers are ill-prepared for the challenges of driving such a uniquely large vehicle. In fact, most states don’t even require RV drivers to get a special driver’s license or take an additional driving course. Many drivers hightail it out of the dealership before the ink is even dry on their check – and never look back.
It takes some settling in to fully understand the ins and outs of RV driving. Even after taking a class, many RV drivers are caught off guard by just how jarring the driving experience can be. Everything from the turning radius to the brakes can be intimidating for first time drivers. Treat your driving like you would any other skill. Dedicate the time to practice and perfect your driving skills and to fine tune your development. It will take some getting used to, but you’ll get the hang of it before you know it.