Top 11 Essential RV Driving Tips
If you lack confidence as a driver, getting behind the wheel of an RV those first few times can be very daunting.
Thankfully, it shouldn’t take too many miles on the road for your confidence to grow. However, that confidence should not get in the way of caution.
In these 13 essential RV driving tips, we will give you some advice on how you can be a safe and more competent driver next time you go on a trip.
So if you are ready, let’s get to it…
1. Know Your Dimensions
When driving your RV you need to have your spatial awareness intact. This means knowing the dimensions of your vehicle both in practical terms (aware of the exact measurements so that you do not go under a bridge that is too low for your RV), and general terms, (having a “feel” for the size when driving in general).
You should have these dimensions within the user manual. If not, get out the tape measure and measure the tallest point of the RV from the ground, as well as width and depth.
This will take care of the practical dimensions.
To get a feel of the actual size will require getting out on the road, (which links to our final point below – practice). The more hours you spend behind the wheel, the better your spatial awareness of your RV will be.
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2. Keep Your Distance from other vehicles
If you are driving right up the rear of other vehicles, you are driving dangerously. Why put that extra pressure on yourself anyway?
Safe RV driving means allowing extra space for braking and decision-making.
You are in a large and heavy vehicle, by keeping your distance from others, you are reducing the chances of an accident should an incident occur in front of you.
So how much distance should you give? We recommend at least 500 feet. If you prefer measuring by counting spatial distance, allowing 5 Mississippis between you and the vehicle in front will put you in good stead.
3. Never Drive While Tired
This is a standard driving rule that should certainly be followed when driving an RV.
Not only are you driving a larger vehicle than normal (unless you are a lorry or bus driver by trade); you will be doing a lot more miles in a day than you normally do.
Your concentration levels will not necessarily be used to the demands of RV driving over long durations.
This means keeping on top of your tiredness.
Take breaks, swap driving duties if you can, and don’t be afraid to change your plan should you feel tired.
Sticking to an itinerary and attempting to drive through your tiredness is a recipe for disaster.
Don’t be afraid to pull over for a nap, or even reschedule a booking (or lose money on a booking). Getting to your destination later than planned but in one piece is a lot more preferable to an alternative scenario of a fatigue-induced accident on the road.
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4. Keep your speed low
This is connected to the previous points; keeping your distance and not driving while tired are all wrapped up in the need to take your time and drive slowly.
As you gain experience you will know the kind of itinerary to make in order to keep your speeds low and enjoy the experience on the road.
An RV vacation is not about rushing around after all.
We like speeds on the open road of no more than 60 miles per hour. There is no reason to cruise above these limits in a large RV.
Pay no attention to the trail of traffic behind you (should that occur). Never be bullied into driving at speeds you’re not comfortable with.
And remember, you’ll likely be covering lots of miles; you’ll get better fuel economy driving at 60 miles an hour.
5. Know the capacity and responsiveness of your brakes
Your ability to stop quickly is going to vary depending on your RV size, load, and weather conditions.
It will certainly be very different from the Prius (or comparable vehicle) you use every day for the commute.
To have awareness of your RV braking ability is another skill that will come with practice, however, attempting to gain awareness of it from the start is important.
Your RV with supplies could weigh anything from 5,000 to 10,000lbs.
Vehicles of this weight do not come to a halt quickly. This is why keeping your speed low and your distance from the vehicle in front far is so vital.
To be a safe RV driver, you need to get used to how your vehicle will brake in any circumstances.
6. Don’t overuse the brakes on gradients
Keeping to the subject of brakes, when driving along steep landscapes, do not overuse the brakes to keep your speed down.
A heavy RV will gain speed down a large hill, if you are holding the brakes the pads will heat up and can become damaged.
Using the gears and engine braking is your friend here. A lower gear will keep your downhill speed limited, with the occasional stab at the break (instead of holding them) required to keep those engine noises less strained.
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7. Keep an eye on the Weather
While we all love driving our RVs in sunny and warm weather, you will not be able to keep the elements at bay all the time.
Heavy rain and wind make for tough RV driving conditions. If you are out on the road in an icy blizzard (first of all, why?), make sure you have a plan in place.
The important thing to do is know what weather you can expect ahead of time.
Download a weather app and/or check the meteorological websites of the area you will be driving through.
If things turn for the worse, pull over and make camp until conditions get better.
8. Keep in the far-right lane
Because you are traveling slower than other vehicles, you should always keep to the far right when on the highway (or any dual carriage roads with the option of two lanes).
This allows for others to move past you, and for you to maintain a safe speed without being bullied.
Should you have mechanical issues, or even just need to turn off the road, keeping to the right also makes this easier without the need of changing lanes across traffic. (If you are not exiting the highway, however, you should free up the right lane for the traffic that is.).
The right lane also gives you better visibility through your side-mirrors, which is another great benefit of that position on the road.
9. Ensure your Mirrors are correctly adjusted
On the subject of mirrors, it is important that these are correctly adjusted for your driving position at all times.
Seeing what’s to the sides and rear, is a vital part of safe RV driving.
Before you hit the road, spend a little time adjusting the mirrors so they provide the best visibility.
If things change on your journey, do not soldier on regardless. Pullover and reposition them as you need.
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10. Perfect the Parking
For learner RV drivers the prospect of parking can be daunting. It doesn’t take long to get used to it, however.
Thankfully, most campsites and rest stops have ample space and parking should not be a problem. Getting used to backing into a position where there is no threat of hitting anything is a good place to start.
This will give you confidence for when the situation might be more demanding (i.e a tighter spot with vehicles closeby.)
No matter your level of skill, you should have a spotter to help when reversing into a park.
Knowing your RV dimensions will also help here of course. Practice will make perfect.
11. Clock up the miles for practice
As with any new skill, it may take a little time before you are settled into your RV driving seat and feel comfortable at the wheel.
The important thing is to not shy away from driving. Either by allowing someone else to take the wheel all the time, or finding reasons not to go out at all.
If need be, take the RV for drives when not on a real trip.
Practice all the points we have mentioned above so that your confidence levels increase, and your driving ability does too.
Focus on turns, parking, and any other maneuvers you find difficult.
Before you know it, you’ll be a very competent RV driver who looks forward to getting behind the wheel.