RV Driving: Best Driving And Backing Tips For New RV Owners
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Introduction to RV Driving and Backing
RV driving can be a little intimidating at first, but it’s really not that difficult. There are just some general tips that you should follow to make sure you’re doing everything right when it comes to driving and backing your RV. In this blog post, we’ll go over those tips so you have all the information you need before taking off on your next adventure!
Things to Check Before You Drive/ RV Driving Safety
There are plenty of things to consider before hitting the road to your main destination. You may be concerned or nervous prior to taking the wheel for your first big RV trip. This is a natural feeling. Here are some things to think about before buckling your seat belt and turning the key!!
Know Your Roof Clearance:
It is super important to know the specs of your recreational vehicle. Before you start your drive, you need to be aware of your clearance. When driving, you should always be aware of the height and width of your vehicle. You want to avoid any low-hanging branches or tree limbs by looking up at eye level when backing! But, most importantly, you don’t want to find yourself stuck on a road where you can’t pass under a bridge or worse, stuck wedged under that said bridge. Ugh!!
Plan Your Route/ RV Tips:
One way to make sure that you avoid overpasses or roads that are unpassable is to plan your route ahead of time. Take the information about your vehicle and use that to plan the route accordingly. Make sure that you won’t end up on a bridge that is rated for less weight than you are carrying or a road with a pass that you can’t clear.
Adjust Your Seats:
Adjust your seats to a comfortable level. This is important for both the driver and passenger. You don’t want to be all scrunched up in your seat or driving with your neck at an awkward angle! It is important to be relaxed and comfortable for a long drive to ensure safe travels.
Adjust Your Mirrors and Steering Wheel:
Make sure that all of your mirrors are adjusted in a way to show maximum visibility. This will help you to see any cars in your blind spots, any children or animals that may be running across the street, and other hazards on the road. You will want to ensure that you can see your wheels for turn clearance. Since you are driving a longer vehicle than you are used to, it is important to take the time to adjust your mirrors before you hit the road.
Adjust your steering wheel so that it is comfortable and easy to control.
Check all of your lights and hazards:
Make sure that your indicator lights, hazards, and headlights are all in working order. This will help you to avoid any potential accidents with other drivers.
Do A Brake Check:
A trailer brake check is where you stop and then brake. You should do this at least three times before you hit the open road to make sure that your brakes are functioning properly, especially if you have a trailer.
Check The Weather:
Knowing the weather conditions ahead of time will help you to make the necessary preparations. You will want to know if there are any inclement weather warnings so that you can plan accordingly.
For more checklists, check out this article!!
RV Driving Tips/ RV Driving Safety
Now that you are ready and prepared to hit the road, it’s time to go over some important tips for driving your recreational vehicle. There are many tips to help keep you safe while on the road. Here are just a few.
For more newbie tips, check out this article!!
The most important safety tip for keeping safe while driving an RV is to only drive when you are fully rested. You don’t want to take a risk by driving when you are too tired. If your body is worn out, then it will be hard for you to react quickly in case of an emergency or if something unexpected happens on the road.
If you feel that you are starting to get sleepy, it is always a smart move to pull over and get rest before continuing on. There are options for RV owners to sleep for a while traveling.
For ideas on where to rest, check out these articles.
Keep A Safe Distance:
Because your stop time increases when pulling a trailer, fifth-wheel, or driving any type of recreational vehicle, it is important to keep more distance between you and other cars. You want to be able to stop in time if a car tries to turn across your path or if they stop abruptly. The fastest way to ruin a trip is to end up in an accident.
Keep your speed down when traveling in an RV. The tires are generally not rated for super high speeds. With the amount of weight that you are pulling, you will not be able to stop quickly. These factors create a recipe for disaster. You have an increased risk of tire blowouts, accidents, or other life-threatening situations on the road. Your life and the lives of your passengers are not worth risking for driving a few miles faster. Just keep it slow and enjoy the music on the radio and get to your destination safely!!
Keep To The Right:
It is recommended that you stay to the right when driving a recreational vehicle. This allows for easy shoulder access if there should be a problem. It also gives your vehicle the best possible visibility to other vehicles.
Be aware of bridge and overpass clearances. When you enter RV parks and campgrounds, pay attention to tree limbs and other things that may hit the tops of your rig. These things may cause damage to the exterior of your RV.
Know Your Limits:
We mentioned the importance of driving when fully rested and planning your trip prior to leaving. Don’t plan for a longer trip than you are capable of. Many RVers try to keep to the 3-3-3 rule. Drive no more than 300 miles per day. Don’t drive more than 3 hours per day. Stay more than three nights. This allows for the proper amount of rest and enjoyment.
Tail Swings/ Making Turns:
RV tail swing refers to the swing of the rig when you are making a turn, or the distance the overhang, or the portion of the body that extends behind the pivot point. This is something that many people don’t think about but it can cause accidents if not taken into consideration while driving.
With an RV, when you make a right-hand turn or left-hand turn, your rig will have some form of tail swing to one side or another. Take that into consideration when making a turn. Make sure that you have enough room to maneuver and avoid an accident with another car or other object in the roadway.
Take extra time when traveling through mountain roads with an RV. The extra weight on the vehicle makes it harder to navigate these roads. The added time will ensure that you are safe in this type of driving situation as well.
Plan For Fuel Stations:
It is important to plan for a fuel station when you are traveling in a recreational vehicle. This is because you will have a larger vehicle and some stations will not be accessible to you.
When you are using the interactive map on your phone, be sure that you account for fueling stations along the way. If there is not one when needed, you do not want to run out of gas in an area with limited cell service or find yourself stranded due to running out of fuel.
How do I maneuver through intersections in an RV? This can be an intimidating situation for a new RV driver. The best advice in this situation is to stay calm and plan ahead. As you approach the intersection, carefully pull your vehicle up and prepare to turn.
The best tip is to wait until you have a completely clear path before proceeding, then continue with caution. Watch your back wheels, take your time, go slow, and try not to get rattled. Don’t let other cars stress you out. Waiting until you have space is your prerogative and it will get easier with time.
Staying relaxed while being a novice RV driver may sound impossible but it is very important. The more stressed you get, the more likely you are to make costly mistakes. This is why it is so important to take your time and go slow.
Staying calm while driving will help you stay on the right track.
Watch Your Wheels/ Sides:
One of the biggest things to learn when driving an RV is to use your mirrors to watch your wheels and sides. Keep an eye on the wheels to make sure that they are not getting too close to curbs, tree limbs, or other objects. This will help you avoid dings and provide safety for the people in your vehicle as well.
Braking distance increases as the weight of your vehicle increases. This means that it will take you longer to stop an RV, especially if there are slick surfaces.
It is important to always be aware of your braking distance and plan accordingly. If the surface is wet or icy, make sure that you have extra room in front of your rig so as not to create a rear-end collision with another vehicle.
Common courtesy is important on any road with any vehicle. It is especially important when navigating trips with an RV.
Being polite and aware will help ensure that you have a pleasant driving experience. It’s not just about respecting other drivers, but also the space around your rig. Keep in mind how wide your RV is when parking so as to avoid damaging another vehicle or property with a side collision.
Tips For Parking/ Backing Up
Parking and backing up may very well be the most intimidating part of learning to drive an RV. With a little bit of practice and the correct guidance, you will be a pro in no time!! Here are some tips to help you on your way.
Take your time and go slow when parking or backing your recreational vehicle. It is better to be safe and take your time. You aren’t in a race. Making quick or unsure moves is a sure-fire way to get yourself in trouble.
Use Your Mirrors:
It is crucial to use mirrors, particularly when backing up. This way you can see what’s behind your RV or if there are any obstacles in front of it. This will help you avoid crashing into anything and getting stuck on an incline! The best advice for this type of situation is to stay calm and take your time.
It is also a great idea to get out and walk around to see if there are any obstacles or debris that will potentially cause damage when backing.
Watch Your Sides:
Always watch the sides of your vehicle when parking or backing up, especially if you are in an area with limited visibility. You never want to collide with another car or object by accident which can lead to costly damages.
Plan For Parking Lots:
Parking lots can be very difficult to navigate, especially if you have never been in one before. The best tip is to park as close to the entrance as possible so that you don’t have a long walk after your journey home!
Watch Your Wheels:
It is very important to keep an eye on your wheels for when you are backing up or pulling in and out of a parking space. This will help you to make turns and guide the vehicle properly without hitting anything in the process.
Good Side/ Bad Side:
When you are using your mirrors for backing an RV, there is a side that is easier to view and there is a side that isn’t. The “good side” is the side where you can see more clearly. This means that this will be the easiest to maneuver when backing up and parking an RV.
The “bad side” would be the opposite- it’s not very easy to see out of a vehicle if you are on this end! It is always helpful to use a guide (person) to assist you with hand signals when backing.
Use A Partner:
It is best to have a partner that you trust that can assist you when parking/ backing an RV. This is a great idea for when you have to maneuver in tight spaces or if you are unsure of the area.
When you are working closely with someone, it is important to come up with hand signals that you both understand to avoid confusion. Communication is key.
Walkie Talkies can be a great tool to use with a partner when backing/ parking. They can assist with clear communication.
It is important to note that these are just general tips and parking/ backing an RV may be different for each person. You will have to find what works best for you!
Back up Cameras:
There are many backup cameras on the market that can be purchased for use to aid with backing your RV. This may be a good option for those who are not confident in their abilities or those who have limited visibility.
The price range for a good backup camera is anywhere between $200-$400.
Pull Through Sites vs Back in Sites:
When you book your campsite, you will either be given a pull-through site or a back-in site. The ease of accessibility will vary greatly from campground to campground.
Pull-through sites can be easy or difficult to get into depending on many different factors. These things include the size of the RV, the size of the site, trees, and more.
Back in sites may be more difficult to maneuver into due to obstacles such as trees or other vehicles. It is important not to park or start backing up until you have been able to fully see the site.
Tips For Making Parking Easier:
-Turn off the radio
-Don’t let other campers try to guide you
-Take your time
-Roll All Windows Down
-When Backing Know Which Way to Turn the Wheel (**if Backing a Trailer, the wheel turns the opposite direction than you want the trailer to go)
-Get Out And Walk Around If You Need To
Practice in an empty parking lot:
Before your first trip with your recreational vehicle, go to a large empty parking lot and practice turning, backing, and parking. This will give you an opportunity to understand your vehicle’s turning radius.
Use the lines in the lot as a guide. If you have a partner, use this time to practice your communication and hand signals.
Practicing your driving will not only give you confidence but will also help you to develop a system that works for your RV and needs.
If you still don’t feel comfortable, there are many different RV driving school options available. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Be a safe and responsible driver. Schools will teach you everything that you need to know while giving you plenty of practice driving. Here are some options for RV Driving schools!!
There are apps for everything nowadays. This includes RV trip planning, fuel stations, dump station locations, and more. Check out this article for the best RV apps available!!
RV Driving Safety Precautions
Be safe on the road. Make sure that you are prepared for roadside emergencies or obstacles. It is important to keep items and phone numbers handy in case something happens on your travels. Here are a few suggestions for those just in case scenarios.
You may want to have roadside assistance protection in case you have a mechanical problem or a tire blowout when traveling from one location to another. There is nothing fun about being stuck on the side of the road!! You will feel much safer with a plan in place.
A First-Aid Kit
It is important to always keep a first-aid kit in the vehicle. This can be helpful for any type of emergency and you never know when it will come in handy!
A Flashlight or Lantern
If your car breaks down at night, having a light is important so that you can see what to do about the situation. You may need help from someone else with this one, but a flashlight or lantern is important to have.
Flares or Roadside Triangles
If your car breaks down on the side of the road, it is important to have something that will alert other drivers. Flares or Roadside Triangles are one way to make sure that you are seen in this situation.
Conclusion To RV Driving and Backing Up
We hope some of these general driving and backing tips for RV owners have been helpful to you. If we’ve missed anything, please leave a comment below or reach out to us on social media. And if there is one piece of advice that will be most useful once you get behind the wheel, what would it be? Stay tuned!
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Hello! My name is Cortney. I am 45 years old. I live full time in a 33 foot airstream trailer with my husband of 21 years. I run my own business out of my tin can and love living small. I have two grown kids and three pets. I have worn many hats including mental health counselor and truck driver. My husband is prepping for retiring from the Navy in the next five years. He has been serving for over 22 years faithfully.