Crain RV Tips and Tricks
Your Official Newmar, Tiffin, Jayco and Airstream Dealer in Arkansas
10 Rules and Tips for new RVers!
1. Understand the RV difference
What is the RV difference? It’s the fact that your Class A coach is much taller, wider and heavier than any car or truck you’re used to driving. Most cars these days are pretty small – about 15 feet or so in length – so if you’re dealing with a 40-foot motorhome, you’re operating a vehicle that is many times larger than your car.
When you’re operating a motor coach, you have anywhere from 12 to 15 feet behind the rear axle, which presents you with tail swing. On top of that, you usually have 18 to 24 feet minimum between the front wheels and the back wheels, which gives you off track. So essentially, you have to be constantly aware of the fact that your coach’s footprint is a big one. As soon as you start driving it like a car, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.
2. Always perform a pre-trip inspection
If you learn one thing from me let it be this: Always perform a pre-trip inspection. If you’re not sure how to perform a proper pre-trip inspection, you can google it. Many RV drivers fail to do so out of laziness. It’s why you’ll see RVers take off from a campsite while still plugged in to a power source or with their awnings out. If you don’t perform a pre-trip inspection, I guarantee you’re going to have a problem. Maybe not today, but you will tomorrow.
3. Know the right way to set and utilize your mirrors
There is such an unbelievable lack of understanding as to what RV mirrors are supposed to do and how they’re supposed to be set. When it comes to mirrors, most people assume “well it came this way; I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be set.”
One in five large vehicle accidents are connected to a driver’s mirrors. Either the driver failed to use his mirrors when changing lanes or turning, or his mirrors were improperly adjusted. There is a video posted on Google that talks about how to make a right turn without hitting a curb, and it has to do with – you guessed it – proper mirror usage. It addresses the fact that you should be using your convex mirror when turning. It’s one of the things we spend a lot of time on because it’s one of the main areas where damage occurs.
Some people believe the convex mirror should be facing downward so that you can view your front wheels, which is absolutely incorrect. Your convex mirror is meant to help you see alongside your coach. If you have a person standing at the rear of your motorhome, you should see the top of their head. If you’re able to see well above that person’s head, that means your convex mirror is set too high.
4. Master the four basic RV driving skills
Every commercial driver in North America has to master four basic driving skills: straight line backing, tight right turns, dockside backing and parallel parking. Anyone we train is going to be proficient in these areas when we’re finished with them. If you know how to perform these maneuvers, you understand the location of your back wheels and realize how large a footprint you have, which is vital. If you don’t, you probably won’t be comfortable behind the wheel of a Class A motor coach.
5. If you’re just starting out, consider using a spotter
Even with proper training, many drivers require a little extra help before they arrive at a point where they are fully comfortable behind the wheel of an RV. One thing that can make a big difference is developing a driver/spotter relationship. The spotter alerts the driver of his or her surroundings and helps to navigate tight turns and lane changes. One of the easiest ways to maintain this team effort is with
RV Headsets allow instant communication between the driver and the spotter. There is no delay and no buttons to press. It’s just like talking over the phone. Someone can be at the back of the coach checking both sides at all times and can communicate with the driver quickly and easily.
6. Know how to manage “tail swing”
It’s a fact that for every three feet behind your rear axle, you have the potential for one foot of tail swing heading in the opposite direction that you must manage when turning. If you’ve got 12 feet behind your back wheels, which most RVs do, and you make a sharp right turn, guess what’s going to happen to whatever is sitting directly to your left? You’re going to come in contact with it. Failing to account for tail swing is a big reason many new RV drivers damage their coaches.
7. Understand the concept of “off track”
Off track is the difference between the path of your front wheels and the path of your rear wheels when you turn a corner. Take a stretch limousine for example, compared to my little red hatchback. Both vehicles have very little space behind the rear wheels. Unfortunately, the distance between those front and rear wheels is 28 feet for the limo and 9 feet for the hatchback. So when turning a corner, the limo has to go much further out because only the front wheels turn while the back wheels follow. If you don’t go far enough out, the back wheels are going to go over the curb, possibly causing the limousine to strike a nearby object. That right there is an accident caused by off track.
8. Always maintain the proper following distance
It’s a fact that when you go from 20 miles per hour to 40 miles per hour, it’s going to take you four times longer to stop because that stop is going to require four times the distance. When you double your weight you’re going to require twice the stopping distance. Double weight and double speed means you’re going to require eight times the stopping distance because it multiplies. It’s a concept known as “velocity squared,” which is the formula police use while reconstructing an accident in order to figure out how fast a person was going. Stopping and following distance is key to a safe journey no matter what kind of vehicle you’re driving, but especially if you’re operating an RV.
9. Adapt to your environment
RV drivers must know how to handle three core environments – urban, rural and highway roads. There still exist a large number of roads – particularly in rural environments – that are less than 12 feet wide because they were built before 1955. In addition, there are many highway driving challenges that are amplified when you’re behind the wheel of a 40-foot motor coach, including lane changes, merging and moving over for law enforcement. If you don’t move over and slow down when approaching a traffic stop or other incident involving the police, you’re going to get a ticket. Being familiar with the different variables each environment presents is important to staying safe – and out of trouble – while out on the road.
10. Remember the basics
There’s a lot that doesn’t get covered in great detail, but is still important to remember for as long as you own your RV. These include:
- Always keep two hands on the wheel, even if you have Comfort Drive
- Remember to keep your windows closed when your coach is in motion
- Know when (and when not) to use the engine brake,
- Driver fatigue is real and it is dangerous. If you’re tired, take a break.
- Keep your engine RPMs high enough, especially when climbing steep hills in hot weather
- Wear your seat belt. Just because you’re in an RV doesn’t mean you can drive around unprotected
- Always remember to signal your intentions when changing lanes
- Monitor tire wear early and often. A blowout is no joke.
I hope these tips are helpful!