Not all vehicles are created equal. If you’re thinking about purchasing an RV, you need to know there is a huge learning curve. Driving an RV requires a lot of experience, skilled maneuvering, and excellent response skills. The more you drive, the safer you become. So if you’re new to driving an RV, be more cautious until you have more miles under your belt. Here’s what you need to know about RV Driving.
Top Concerns When Driving a Motorhome
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Recreational vehicles are much larger than a car or truck. If you attempt to drive an RV the way you drive a car, you will quickly find out that doesn’t work. RV’s are much slower to accelerate and brake. That means it takes much longer to get going and to stop.
RV drivers need to be hyper-aware of their surroundings. If a car cuts in front of you, your instinct is to slam on the brakes.
- Towing Dynamics: If you’re towing a trailer or car with your RV, the braking dynamics are quite different. A real concern is “jack-knifing” your vehicle. To prevent that, you’ll need to brake slower.
- Slower Braking: If you’re driving a motorhome, even if it’s a small Class B or a large bus like a Class A, all of their braking performance is nowhere near as good as a car.
- Driver Fatigue: Fatigue is also another factor. Unlike car drives where the majority is done with short trips. RV drivers spend hours behind the wheel. When you drive an RV, you need to make sure you are well-rested. An overtired driver can’t anticipate problems.
- Inclement Weather: Weather is a big factor when driving an RV. Rain and wind are big factors. If you’ve ever been upset in your car on the freeway due to a semi encroaching into your lane, you’ll soon find out when driving an RV that it’s not entirely their fault. The RV is like a sail on a sailboat, it has huge flat sides which catches the wind, and the wind has a big influence on where the RV goes.
- Road Hazards: Road debris is another huge hazard. In a car, your much more maneuverable so seeing a hazard at the last minute is easily avoided with a quick swerve maneuver. But in an RV, a quick move like that could end up flipping the RV over. It’s wise to give more distance with the vehicle in front of you so you have time to react to road debris. You need to be vigilant in scanning the road for blown out tire pieces or items that may have fallen off of a truck.
- Overhead Clearance: Height of RV. In a car or a pickup truck, you never care about the height of your vehicle. But with an RV, most are 9′ tall or taller. And that height, especially an RV over 10 feet tall, you’ll have to pay attention to the height clearance on overpasses, bridges, and most importantly tree’s on city streets and parking lots. Trust us, the first day I got my small Class B, I backed into a tree branch in a shopping center! I was focused on parking between the lines, but I paid no attention to the tree that was above the parking space.
A smart driving strategy is to drive in the right lane, In the event of an accident you can pull off to the side of the road with minimal concern of a collision. RV drivers need a lot more space for driving than smaller vehicles. Because it takes longer for RV’s to brake, that extra distance can mean the difference between safely braking and having a collision.
Top Concerns When Pulling a Towable RV
Towing a trailer is not easy. In many ways, you need to learn how to drive all over again when you are towing an RV. Swaying is a primary challenge for drivers. RV’s can sway for many reasons. The most obvious is due to windy conditions. It’s not realistic to completely avoid windy conditions but you may need to drive more slowly.
Tow Hitch Capabilities
When towing, it is really important that you make sure that the vehicle pulling your RV is designed to pull the weight of your recreation vehicle. Different types of hitches will allow you to better distribute the weight of your RV, but even a weight-distributing hitch can handle only so much.
Why is monitoring and maintaining RV tires is so much more important than on your car? It may seem odd to hear that maintaining the tires of your RV is extremely important; more critical than maintaining your car’s tires.
RV Tire Concerns
- Low Mileage Tires: The reason being is that tires on RV’s can wear out more quickly. One reason is that motorhomes are not being used daily like everyday vehicles. The act of driving an RV assists in maintaining the wheels.
- Sun Damage: RV tires are also more susceptible to damage from the sun. That’s why most RV drivers cover their tires when not in use.
- Tire Sitting: When an RV sits in a spot for a week or longer, the tires can develop “flat spots”. These flat spots affect driving and with enough weather cycles and time sitting in one spot, internal damage to the tires steel structure could occur. Another preventative method is to raise the tires off the ground slightly to relieve excess pressure.
Ways to Maintain the Life of Your RV Tires
- Proper Load Weight: Keep track of the weight of your vehicle. There is a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) label, found on the driver’s side of the vehicle. This label includes GAWR (gross axle weight restriction), the rim size for the front and rear tires.
- Proper Tire Pressure: Maintain proper tire pressure for the load your RV is carrying. Tire pressure specifications for the front and rear tires can usually be found on the RV itself or the owner’s manual. If they are over inflated or under inflated they will be at a greater risk for being punctured or blowing out. You’ll also need to consider the correct tire pressure for the load your RV is carrying.
- Tight Lug Nuts: Prior to any road trip, make sure your tires are in excellent shape, have been properly inflated and that the lug nuts are tight.
- Tire Age: Check the age of your tires. Just because your tires have plenty of tread depth, doesn’t mean the tires are safe to drive on. Each tire manufacturer posts for each model of tire, the life expectancy of that tire. You can find the manufacture date of the tire right on the tire itself. This is something most car drivers ever worry about, but in an RV, it’s extremely important.
- Weight Limit: It may be tempting to load up your RV but if it exceeds the weight limit you are putting your vehicle at risk for a tire blow out.
- Cleanliness: Keep your tires clean as well. Mud and debris, over time, can break down the tires’ efficacy.
Another factor are dually wheels. Many RV’s have dual wheels (that’s two tires on the rear-left and two tires on the rear-right), much like you see on semi-trucks. While they look very cool, they pose new challenges the average car driver never worries about.
If you’ve ever seen shredded tire pieces on the freeway, they were most likely caused by a tractor-trailer. The big reason is that in a dually wheel setup if one of the tires gets a flat, the driver may not notice it since there’s usually no change in the way the truck drives.
A deflated tire generates heat. And with enough time and speed, that tire overheats and shreds or worse, catches fire.
A lot of RV’s have dually wheels. And extra care needs to be considered when driving an RV with this kind of tire setup. It’s highly recommended to check your tire pressures at EVERY STOP on the freeway (gas fill-up, potty break, etc).
RV drivers can learn many lessons from truck drivers
- Check Tire Pressure Often: Check tire pressure every time before driving on the freeway or highway
- Tire Pressure Balancers: Use tire pressure balancers. These devices join the tire valves together so that both tires maintain the same tire pressure.
- Make It Easy To Check Inner Pressure: Use extended tire valves for the inner wheel. This way it’s a lot easier to check the tire pressure of the inner wheel.
- Use Pressure Sensors: Use TPMS sensors. Many cars come standard with TPMS sensors nowadays. But not so on many RV’s and trailers. But there are plenty of radio-controlled TPMS sensors that you can add as an aftermarket item. And most of these attach to the valve stem, so you don’t have to unmount and re-mount each tire. They’re really handy so you can watch your tire pressures, as you drive, from the comfort of the driver’s seat. And most of the good ones will even alert to a low-pressure condition.
Top Reasons for Accidents When Driving an RV
Although accidents cannot always be prevented, there are many common causes for accidents that occur while driving an RV.
The most obvious is an inexperienced driver. Without a clear understanding of proper acceleration and braking, a driver with little to no experience can cause an accident.
Speeding is another cause of accidents. The size of RV’s dictates a slower pace. If you are afraid you may lose your deposit if you don’t get to a campsite in time, don’t risk your safety by speeding. Make a phone call and let them know you are on the way. A deposit is not worth the risk of speeding.
High winds can cause accidents as well. When you are towing an RV, high winds can cause the trailer to sway. If you can’t get the swaying under control, better to pull over and regroup. Don’t overload the RV. If the weight exceeds the capabilities of either the camper or your towing vehicle, you may experience difficulties that could lead to an accident.
Mistakes in stopping distance are another cause of vehicle mishaps. Heavier vehicles simply need more time to stop. If you misjudge the distance, you may find yourself rear-ending the vehicle in front of you. Keep your distance from other vehicles and look for brake lights in the distance.
Driving Advantages of a Motorhome VS a Towable RV
There are a few differences between driving motorhomes and driving towable recreational vehicles. Because RV’s are all-in-one, driving a motorhome has a lot of positive attributes.
With a towable RV, you have the challenge of excessive swaying due to windy conditions or inexperienced driving. Although wind plays a role when driving a motorhome, the vehicle is more easily controlled.
An all-in-one RV can typically drive the speed limit whereas towable RV’s may need to be driven below the speed limit for safety. The ability to park an RV and pull it out of parking spaces is not an easy task. It is made easier when the vehicle is an all in one. A towable RV makes it a little more challenging because the car can be going one direction while the trailer moves another direction.
Towing a TOAD (car) Behind a Motor Home
There are different types of towing available. The first is dinghy towing. In this method, all four wheels of the vehicle being towed are still on the ground. This requires a vehicle with a manual transmission or a vehicle that was made to be towed by an RV.
The second method is trailer towing. This means you have attached a trailer to the back of your RV and placed the vehicle on the trailer.
The third option used is dolly towing. In this instance, two of the vehicles is off the ground.
Different Types of Trailer Hitches
- A rear receiver hitch is a universal towing device. It can be used for more than trailers.
- Pintle hitches also called ball mounts, can pull between 10,000 to 60,000 pounds!
- Weight-distribution hitches help more evenly distribute the weight between the RV and the vehicle being towed.
The RV life is truly exhilarating. Driving an RV has its challenges and precautions. It’s important to be well rested prior to driving and to pay attention to the weather.
Check Weather Reports
Although it would be tempting to get from point A to point B as soon as possible, if the weather is unfavorable, it is wise to wait it out. When towing an RV, windy conditions can cause the RV to sway.
Be sure to keep up with the maintenance of your tires, as they wear down more quickly than the tires on your truck or car. There are pros and cons to both driving an all-in-one RV versus and a travel trailer.
RV’s brake slower and are much less maneuverable than a car. The safest thing to do is drive slower than you would normally drive a car.
Did we miss anything? What would you add to our list? What do you drive and why? We’d love to hear from you with your thoughts or questions. Comment below.
Be Safe And Happy Driving!