Tips on How to Drive an RV

RV-handling

Though they may seem monstrous, RVs are not as difficult to drive and maneuver as they look. With a little patience and practice, you can learn how to drive an RV and it will feel just as easy as driving your car. However, it will take some time to get used to how the RV handles differently. Because of this, you will want to take some time to practice driving your RV before hitting the road on your first cross country getaway.

Handling

A big part in how your RV handles is how you approach different driving situations. Things such as traffic, parking, and braking changes need to be handled based on the situation at hand when traveling. As you’re learning how to drive an RV, just remember that no matter where you are driving or what you are maneuvering through, your RV is bigger than a car. Make sure to leave enough space and be aware of all of the vehicles around you.

Before leaving for your road trip, take the time to learn where your blind spots are and work to eliminate them as much as possible. Everything from additional mirrors to cameras can help you eliminate the dangers associated with vehicles getting in your blind spots. Because of the blind spots, try to stay in the far right lane when driving on the highway and avoid moving in an out of lanes when possible.

Parking

One of the best tips on how to drive an RV is to keep on driving forward at all times. Though this is not always possible, it is the easiest way to reduce your chances of running over something when backing up. For example, when parking, try to park in spaces where you can easily pull through when leaving. Better yet, when stopping at rest stops, park where the trucks park. They are larger and offer pull-through parking, making it easier to leave.

trailer-handling

Braking

Because of the size, braking with an RV will take longer than in your car. When learning how to drive an RV, make sure to have patience when in traffic and always allow ample room between you and the vehicles in front of you. Many drivers do not understand the distance it takes for an RV to come to a complete stop, so make sure to watch out for others who pull in front of you and pull back to give yourself enough space. It is best to keep a four- to six-second gap between you and the car in front of you. If you are towing a vehicle behind, make sure to allow additional time and distance when it comes to braking.

Turning

Turning an RV requires a larger radius than when in a car. Taking a turn too sharp could end you up on your vehicle’s side or up on the curb. You also need to be careful when turning and make sure you stay in your own lane. To do so, simply pull out further into the intersection before starting to turn the wheel.

Wind

Wind can have a huge influence on how your RV handles when on the open road. Everything from aerodynamics, to height and width, to weight will affect how much the wind will hinder your driving. A great tip on how to drive an RV is when the wind starts swaying and rocking the RV, it’s necessary to slow down and keep a good grip on the steering wheel.

Owning and driving an RV can be a fun experience. It can open up so many vacation possibilities and give you a sense of freedom. However, because it handles differently from a car, it will take time, practice, and patience to feel fully comfortable with it. If you follow these simple tips on how to drive an RV, you will feel like you have been driving one all your life.

Related video: RV Tips for Quieting Your RV on the Road

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Discussion
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23 Responses to “Tips on How to Drive an RV”
  1. doug derrick

    I HAVE JUST PURCHASED A ROADTREK CAMPER VAN..DO YOU HAVE TIPS FOR THIS MORTORHOME (POPULAR 210 MODEL) THANKYOU…DOUGLAS DERRICK

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Doug. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club and the opportunity to assist with your RoadTrek Camper. This is a very popular model and has been a big seller for many years. I would suggest downloading the predeparture checklist from out website and make sure you properly charge, maintain, and store the batteries if you are planning on doing some dry camping. There are several videos on the subject on the site. Other than that, it’s a pretty unique self-contained unit and you will be very pleased with the handling going down the road!

      Reply
  2. Walt

    Learn how to adjust your brake controller. Go to a big deserted parking lot and practice until you are comfortable with your rig.

    Reply
  3. Bob

    what happened to the video on how to drive an RV? It was the main reason I when to your web site and invested $7.00. I was looking for a tool to help teach my wife how to drive. ‘Anyone can give the tips you gave. Very unprofessional. I will be sure to let the various clubs I belong to know that you do not have the product you advertise.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Bob. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and your interest in the Driving Video. For the past year we have been shooting, editing, and posting videos on every aspect of RVing every month and Driving is one that was at the top of our list, however weather issues and other logistics have pushed it back down the schedule. I developed the 6 hour driving seminar for The Recreational Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation that is being taught at FMCA rallies, WIT National Rally, and many other functions. I also conduct a Driving Seminar at the RVIA Fall RV Show and various other shows across the country and assure you we will have an outstanding set of Driving Videos available. The article written by Heather was an overview of the driving experience and not intended to be an in-depth tutorial for beginners. I think it’s a wonderful idea that you are taking the steps to get your wife more comfortable with driving and RV, at most of my seminars the husband does all the driving and the wife wants nothing to do with it!

      Here are some starter tips for getting started:
      1. Get familiar with the rig before ever hitting the road. To many people jump into the drivers seat thinking it’s just like drive a car (bigger maybe but not different) and they take no time learning where the important functions are located. Adjust the seat so you can see the mirrors and dash gauges. You may need to move the mirror on some models as the A pillar or window frame is in the way. Adjust the mirrors so the inside 1” shows the sidewall of the unit and the rest out the sides. It should also be adjusted horizontally to show just above the back wheel, this will give you the best field of vision and the convex mirrors should be adjusted to see the wheels. You typically don’t need to see the wheels unless making a turn in the campground or backing up in which case you can readjust if needed for those times. Get to know where the cruise button is, windshield wipers, horn, everything so you aren’t fumbling for it in an emergency. Take a look at the visor to see if it will be any use when the sun shines in…most aren’t!

      2. Measure the rig and put the dimensions on the dash on a label or masking tape. What’s on the brochure is not the actual height and width. Have these readily available when you come to a low clearance area or weight restriction, don’t guess!

      3. Driving is not difficult, it’s just different and the biggest challenge will be becoming familiar with how the rig handles, turns, and stops. Depending on the turning radius, you will need to know when to start to turn making that right hand turn. Most rigs are at the time your seat gets to the clearing of the turn, others need to go several feet past. Keep in mind if you’re driving a Class A, you are sitting over the wheel vs a Class C that is more like a truck. Getting a feel for where the front and back wheels are is the biggest key in becoming more comfortable driving.

      4.PRACTICE!!!! This sounds simple, but it’s important. Go to a church parking lot during the week or a high school/college parking lot on the weekend. Get a set of orange caution cones and set up a corner to practice on. Interstates are 14’ wide, city streets are 10-12’. Set the cones to 12’ and put 4 sets for the drive lane and 4 more for the turn lane and see when you can make the turn and if the unit cuts shorter and clips the corner cone, or you make the turn but the front driver’s side goes to far into the other lane. Keep in mind that there are times it’s impossible to make a “legal” right hand turn meaning you can not make the corner without going into the outer lane. This is why it’s important to be alert and pay attention to what needs to happen way before getting to the intersection! There are times I’ve had to “cheat” to the left lane on the drive lane like semi trucks do to make the turn. There are also times I could not do that and had to nose out into the outer lane on the turn lane! And yes I’ve stopped some traffic in some of those situations as well, but the key is to not panic! Be aware that there is a tight turn coming, look at your options, and act accordingly.

      5. Center the vehicle while driving down the road. The tendency is to place the vehicle on the road just like we do our cars, however the RV is about 2.5’ wider and it’s common for first timers to hug the shoulder or even drive with the passenger wheel off the road. Become familiar with what “center” is, use your rear view camera if applicable, watch the white lines behind you in the mirrors, all this helps. It may take a while to get comfortable with this as she drives, so you’ll have to just hold on over on the shoulder for a little bit!

      6. When making turns on the interstate and highways, you’ll have a tendency to cut a little close going both ways because as stated before, you are over the wheels and your front field of vision is different so you start turning sooner. Again, understanding where the wheels are going is important. Some first timers actually place a small sticker on the windshield indicating where the white line on the side of the road should be during the turn.

      7. Understand your limitations! According to government testing, the average automobile driving at 60 mph has a total stopping distance of 268 feet or 18 car lengths. That’s 88 feet for perception and application and 188 feet for actual stopping. An RV weighing 22,000 lbs takes about 3-4 times that distance! Keep a 3 second following distance and even more with wet pavement. Understand your acceleration as well, knowing that you probably can not pass that semi going up a hill and will get caught in what I call “The Pocket”, the conglomeration of vehicles trying to pass on the left and right side and just getting stuck in the pocket! If you travel 65 mph and someone jumps into your following distance, backing off 2mph will get you back to a comfortable distance in less than 20 seconds.

      8. Scan ahead! Watch ahead for signs of trouble like the two semis following each other really close and the small car sneaking up to pass. Stay back and let them jockey around. Look to the guy on the on-ramp who is supposed to yield the right of way on a merge but doesn’t look like he will! Don’t go into the left lane unless there is a wide open space front and back! It’s better to slow down and let the car in rather than going to the left and getting stuck because you don’t have the power to pass and the traffic behind you gets impatient and starts passing you on the right!

      Lot’s to consider, but being prepared and paying attention is important. We will hopefully get this and much more on the website soon, however you are welcome to contact us with any questions that might come up. Hopefully this is of benefit?

      Reply
  4. Georgia

    Does the handling of an RV differ between one with springs and one with air shocks? We are shopping for an RV and are looking at gas models as well as diesel pushers.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Georgia. We would be happy to assist you; we just need some more information. What is the make/model/year of your RV?

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Georgia. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club and the opportunity to provide some information on the handling of different chassis models. Air shocks in my opinion provide the best ride going down the road, less “bump steer” and not affected by the wind. However it’s not just the air suspension that creates the superior ride, the weight of the chassis and overall coach provides a better “girth” so it moves less with wind and trucks passing. Along with that are bigger, wider tires and other suspension issues. And a much higher cost! Today’s Ford Chassis with the leaf springs is night and day different than the chassis’ of old with a much better ride and handling than the old P30 Chevy chassis and others. My folks drove a 35’ Winnebago Brave to Alaska and back with a workhorse chassis and had no problems! If you are not going into the 35+ foot length, I would suggest test driving both to see if the added cost of a diesel with air bags is worth it for your driving pleasure?

      Reply
  5. Donald

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: Forester 3051 S, RV Year: 2016

    While on a recent motor home excursion, we got caught in some fairly strong and gusty winds. Driving got to be challenging as winds and passing trucks seemed to jerk us all over the road. I had to slow down considerable in these conditions to maintain control. I also learned that I had to be careful not to over correct in reaction to the gusts. I am hearing about mechanical adaptations that can be made to ease the driving impact of windy conditions. What is a steering stabilizer? How does it work? Is it what I want to improve driving comfort in windy conditions?
    Don

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Donald. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your handling issue. There are several great products on the road to assist with handling your rig in windy conditions, however the first thing I would recommend is to have your entire suspension thoroughly checked by an RV expert! Weak shocks, low air bags on older P 30 chassis and even inappropriate tire pressure can all affect handling and drivability. Just slapping on a steering stabilizer is masking the problem. First, go get your vehicle weighed at a CatScale. http://www.catscale.com and you’ll find them at Flying J, Pilot, and Bosselman truck stops. Put the steer axle on the first scale, drive axle on the second and towed vehicle on the third. Find your weights for the front axle and rear axle to make sure you are not over the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR). Then combine the two to verify Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) to verify you are not over that rating. Next, divide the weight by the number of tires on the pad, this will tell you how much weight is on the individual tires, go to http://www.rvsafety.com and find your make, model, and year tire, match the weight with the chart and this is the proper tire inflation, not what’s stamped on the tire!!!

      I would recommend Roadmaster as they will help verify the chassis components and have a chart that describes the individual enhancements that are available and what they do. I believe the RSS Anti Sway is one of the best products on the market.

      http://www.roadmasterinc.com

      Reply
  6. Michael

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Flair 26D, RV Year: 2016

    Half the time my power visor won’t work and I have to turn on the generator or plug in power to get it to work. There are times it will work with the engine on or off. And when it does work I forget what power source, or none, was operating at the time. Thanks.

    Reply
  7. gary

    RV Make: dodge, RV Model: roadtrek popular190 , RV Year: 2000

    I have had the ball joints and tie rods changed and still have slack in steering. low winds still have trouble with maintain control. what else can I do?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Gary. I would suggest contacting Roadmaster directly as they won’t just sell you a steering enhancement package but will research what you’ve done to this point. You will need your make, model, and year of the rig and probably the chassis VIN number which will help them identify what problems and solutions that chassis has. You can find more info on them at their website: http://roadmasterinc.com/index.php

      Or call them directly at: 1-800-669-9690

      Reply
  8. Walt

    RV Make: Winnebago, RV Model: Chalet, RV Year: 2005

    What are the best camera locations if one or more cameras are used to aid in “spatial awareness” for the Class A?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Walt,

      The best location for a single camera is the back of the motorhome up on the top trim piece. This will get the camera above almost any towed car or trailer and show you not only the towed vehicle, but traffic behind you. If you are going to add a second camera, place it on the driver’s side either on the mirror or on the sidewall of the vehicle facing back. This will show you what traffic is in the blind spot on the driver’s side in case you need to move from the right hand lane to the left for on-ramp traffic of other lane change. I typically stay in the right lane to avoid setting stuck by motorists that feel I’m not going fast enough and have to pass me on the right before I can get back over! If you want the ultimate “spatial awareness”, add a third camera to the passenger side and you’ll have 360 vision.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  9. L Powell

    RV Make: Thor, RV Model: ACE 29.2, RV Year: 2013

    The trans downshifts to far and the engine revs to high on the slightest uphill grade, like an overpass. Is there a fix for this? It is better when not on cruise, as you can work the throttle but some times it revs way past where it needstoo.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello L Powell,

      Could you please provide us with the year, make, and model of your RV and we will have our experts look further into your question.

      Thanks
      Becky RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
      • Michel Ferland

        Hello L Powell, I previously owned an RV that did the same thing, would downshift on the slightest climb. The fix for mine was to allow the engine to breathe, the air intake hose had an end cap that forced the air from the a small opening on the side of the cap, I cut it out, problem fixed.

        Reply
  10. albert

    RV Make: winnebago, RV Model: sightseeker, RV Year: 2004

    people keep signaling that my toad is swaying has anyone observed this and is there a solution thanks al

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Albert,

      To provide more specific information on the issue with your swaying toad, we need the make, model, and year of your RV, the toad, and the type of tow bar. Typically swaying of a towed vehicle behind an RV is due to weak suspension of the towed vehicle such as shocks, alignment, and even tire issues like tread and uneven tire pressure!

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  11. Michael Hughes

    RV Make: Sprinter, RV Model: 249RKS, RV Year: 2002

    I have a Ford F150, Triton 5.4 engine with a towing package. Do you think this vehicle can tow the Sprinter for long trips?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Michael,

      To provide more specific information on your towing capacity we need to know the model year of your Ford F150 as well as the cab/bed configuration. Also, we need more info on the Sprinter such as model, year, and options. When you find your tow vehicle specs, visit RV Safety & Education Foundation as they are the experts in safely matching truck to trailer. You can find your towing capacity here:
      http://www.rvsafety.com/towing-guides

      Then you will need to determine the weight of your Sprinter with all the items you put into it such as clothing, tools, water and personal items. Knowing what your rig weighs when it finally is ready to hit the road is important!

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.

      http://go.rvrepairclub.com/C8705

      Reply