“Learn how to drive an RV before you get on the road!”
I’m sure you’ve screamed that at someone on the highway before.
You seen them approaching your lane on the highway. That lumbering slow-moving RV that you just KNOW is going to want to get in front of you. And then (of course) creep along at 45.
They tick you off don’t they? And how about JUST as you are getting ready to swing around to get past them, they move left also so you’re STILL stuck behind them!
Then the RV drives down the highway with their turn signal on for m-i-l-e-s and you mutter under your breath “get OFF the road already!” as you whip around them?
You know what I mean?
Of course you do.
But now you’ve got the RV. And while you haven’t gotten a clue on how to drive it, you know you don’t want to be one of them.
Here are the worst RV driving habits and how to avoid them. I hope this article helps you in learning how to drive an RV so you can get on the road safely!
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1. Hitting the road with no RV driving experience.
Realize that most RV owners are probably NOT experienced at driving their rigs. If they just bought the RV they may not have spent any time watching videos or learning about how to drive an RV.
How annoying, right? (Not to mention unsafe!)
Don’t be that guy. Just don’t.
There is something called RV Driving School believe it or not.
And EVERY RV owner should be willing to take a class to learn how to safely and confidently operate their own RV. No matter how big or small it is.
The truth is, safely operating a vehicle is not second nature. This is why teenagers are required to have a permit before a license, or take Drivers’ Ed in school. They make mistakes and gain valuable experience with a mentor to learn from.
Just like you weren’t born knowing how to drive a car, RV owners don’t walk away from the purchase transaction knowing the tips to driving their RV. This includes you!
Get the experience you need to drive an RV safely down the road. Go to an RV driving boot camp or the RV Driving School.
It will save you (and the other cars on the road) much more peace of mind.
Most of the certified RV trainers for the RV Driving School are former truck drivers or at least have been driving – and backing up – RVs for many years. They are able to share their perspectives and tips with new RV owners.
The RV Driving class is scheduled online, a date is agreed upon where the trainer drives to the RV park or campground to begin the class. The trainer helps the owner learn how to set their mirrors correctly, where their pivot points are, how to measure the length and height of the RV and other key points all RV drivers should know. The owner(s) do ALL of the driving, with the direction of the trainer.
In my opinion, RV owners should be REQUIRED to pass a driving test and given a special license, just like professional truck drivers are required to pass.
2. Driving an RV like a car.
Oh my gosh. We’ve all seen this guy driving down the road like a maniac…passing you at 75 miles an hour in a 40 foot diesel pusher, dog on his lap, cigarette in his mouth.
I beg of you, please do not do this. An RV is not a car.
In fact, an RV is more like a semi-tractor or pick-up and boat. This means they take much longer to stop or get up to a speed. And don’t forget corners. It will take more skill, thought, and time to maneuver around a corner.
When you drive an RV, it’s vital to remember you can tip over easily going too fast around a curve or making a tight turn.
Seriously, there’s nothing like going through the Appalachian mountains in your rig to remind you of your mortality.
It’s also really important to know you may need to borrow someone else’s lane when navigating a concrete curb or center island. Try your best to ensure you have the room to do this!
And always always always go under the posted speed limit, especially when entering a curve!
Even if your rig is a small Class C, it’s still an RV. It’s heavier with a lot more to break inside. Err on the safe side, my friend.
3. Embracing road rage
If you are a hot head, traffic gets your blood pressure up, and otherwise easily irritated, maybe you should give up driving all together.
Driving an RV while ticked off is just about the scariest thing ever.
Your focus is not on safe driving, but on remaining angry. And you are definitely making it an uncomfortable ride for everyone around you.
And when you’re not worried about safety, it can be easy to affect the other drivers on the road. So keep this in mind:
When you cause damage to someone else because you weren’t thinking clearly, that is just plain irresponsible.
You need to get your emotions 100% under control before you get behind the wheel or get off the road immediately.
Guess what else, Grumpy Gills?
When driving, there will be traffic and there will be construction delays. And of course, there will be idiots around you.
Just accept it.
Plan your travel time accordingly. If you are running late, it is no one’s fault but your own.
I use an estimate of 1 hour for every 60 miles of drive time. So if my trip is 330 miles, I figure it will take about 5.5 hours to drive. Give yourself 6-7 hours to make that trip and plan to get out and walk around for 5 minutes every 2 hours. It gets your blood flowing again and clears your mind.
Check your tires, go potty, walk the dog, get a bottle of water…whatever! Just get OUT of the vehicle and move around.
Many RVers follow the “330 rule” – Never drive an RV more than 330 miles or get off the road by 3:30 pm on travel days.
YOU are in control of your 24 hours every day, so learn how to plan for your benefit. If you have a great travel day and all goes as planned with no delays, great! It’s time to celebrate! If the day doesn’t go perfectly, it’s OK – don’t play victim. It happens.
Take a few breaths, go for a walk to let some steam off, and don’t forget to plan for a great travel day tomorrow.
4. Not knowing how to back up the RV
As an RV driving school instructor most of my students tell me backing into a site is their biggest challenge.
That is understandable as many car drivers never back up unless they absolutely have to.
On the other hand, RVs have to back up a LOT. Unless you want to pay top dollar all the time, the majority of sites at an RV park or campground are back in.
Knowing where your obstacles are and using the GOAL method (Get Out And Look…often) is 1 key to being able to safely and successfully back up the RV.
Practice makes perfect: Learn how to set up the maneuver correctly, then practice it until you can back up like a pro. This will help you avoid being the great entertainment in the campground – the couple who scream at each other for 2 hours, then pull out giving up.
For couples who RV together, figure out (polite) hand signals to communicate with each other.
I recommend BIG arm movements like you are guiding a helicopter or airplane. These are more visible to the driver looking in the mirrors. If the spotter is just wiggling fingers in the wind 50 feet behind the driver, it is useless. If the spotter doesn’t drive, the spotter MUST AT LEAST sit in the driver seat before directing the driver to get a perspective of what the driver sees.
Ideally, both RV owners should take a class to learn how to communicate AND maneuver the RV correctly. Yes, there are many different ways to do it correctly, but only one way to do it wrong. And an “oops” is expensive.
A lot more expensive than an RV driving class!
Be a smart RVer – take an RV driving class.
5. Never inspecting your RV.
When you drive an RV, it’s important to remember this really is a home on wheels. There are many moving parts to your rig. You’ve got to take a lot into consideration. And you’ve got to inspect your RV often to make sure it’s road-ready.
RV weight distribution can affect the safe handling of the RV. Just because there are cabinets under the sink doesn’t mean you should fill them up with heavy items. Distribute the items in the RV evenly from front to back and from left side to right side. This is essential! Store your items so they will travel securely without popping open doors or sliding around.
It’s also important to know how much your rig should weigh and how much it actually weighs. An RV that’s overweight on 1 axle or 1 side is more prone to a tire blowout. Not only can blowouts be expensive, they can be fatal.
ALWAYS check your tire pressure on travel days.
Under inflated tires are more likely to blow out. Use a Tire Pressure Monitoring System to get a constant reading on all the tire pressures and temperatures. It works via a bluetooth sensor that is installed on each air valve for each tire which syncs to a small digital monitor in the cockpit. If you are towing a car behind your RV, make sure those tires are monitored as well.
Perform your pre-trip inspections regularly on travel days – save yourself hassle, stress and expense.
RV travel can be a great joy, or it can be a stressful experience.
YOU are what determines which it will be for you and your family.
Now, GO RVing!
Share your worst RV driving story below!
Candace has dabbled in many interests over her lifetime. From boating, horseback riding and gardening in South Florida, to driving tractor-trailer across North America in her middle years, she has embraced what she is truly passionate about. When people ask about her full-time RV traveling adventures or how to manifest a life you love, she often replies “your thoughts today create your future”, “there is no such thing as a coincidence” or “we all are given the same 24 hours in a day, spend them wisely”.
You can find her over at rvingft.com
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