Get some helpful tips for staying safe on the road.
Nobody ever learned to walk the first day they stood up. As with everything in life, to get good at something you’re going to need practice. The same goes for learning to drive an RV. That said, there are certain things you can do from day one that promote good habits and safe driving that will eventually become second nature. Just think of this as your first day at RV driving school.
School’s in session.
Who’s the readiest of them all?
The first lesson we’re teaching at RV driving school is that you want your RV set up properly. This includes putting your seat in a good position, adjusting the steering wheel so you can comfortably turn it, and making sure your mirrors are properly set so you can see as much on each side as possible. Finally, of course, put on your seatbelt. Simple things like this help you avoid any unwanted distractions on the road.
Safe, not stirred.
Better safe than sorry, as they say. That’s especially the case when going on a vacation. So be sure to thoroughly check your vehicle before you begin your travels. This includes your tires, fluids, belts, and levels. If you’re not mechanically inclined, you might want to have a professional mechanic look the vehicle over for you.
Tread lightly with your tires.
The only thing keeping your RV on the road is your tires, so given the size of the vehicle you’re driving, you want them in the best shape possible. Checking your tires before each trip is imperative. Make sure they’re properly filled, as both over- and underinflated tires can lead to a blowout. When you’re parking the vehicle for more than one day, save tire stress by blocking and leveling your RV. Finally, for safety’s sake, you should probably replace your tires every seven years. That’s even if you think they don’t look worn!
Before leaving make sure to fill up your propane tanks. And while this might sound silly, be sure not to travel with any of your burners lit. Also, be sure the vents in your RV are clear of any rubbish—or nests small rodents may have built. You may want to invest in a propane gas detector to prevent any mishaps.
Be a weight watcher
RVs allow you to bring all kinds of stuff with you on your vacations; it’s one of the reasons people love them so much. That being said, don’t overload your vehicle. Also, be sure to always tie down heavy objects. You don’t want them rolling loose on a twisty road and throwing off the center of gravity.
Stick to the plan
Since some states will restrict the size of the vehicles that can travel on certain roads, and some RVs will not fit under certain bridges, you need to have a plan before heading out. There are both free and paid RV apps out there that can help you plan your route. (Check out our Best RV Apps blog for more on that.) Or, of course, there’s always Google Maps. You should probably also have a good old-fashioned road atlas on board. Before leaving, be sure to share your route with some family and friends in case of emergency.
Easy there, lead food.
Remember, it ain’t a Lamborghini
You’re not on the autobahn, and your RV can’t make quick turns and stop on a dime. So just take it easy when you’re on the road. Take plenty of time. Since you’ve probably made a plan and know where and when turnoffs are coming, make sure to ease over well in advance. Navigating corners also is much more complicated than you’d expect, so until you’ve got the hang of it, slow and steady is the way to go.
Pull one over on the weather
Winter driving presents its own complications. The most important thing to remember is to slow down even more than usual. Leave at least three times as much space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you as you would normally. Also, while most cars are front-wheel drive, RVs aren’t. If you find the rear end sliding and you feel you’re losing control, simply pump the brakes to regain control. If weather conditions warrant, pull over.
Consider an actual driving school
Given the complexities of navigating a large mobile home on the road, you may want to consider a professional RV driving school. What’s covered in the courses may be somewhat redundant to what you’ve already learned through trial and error, but the fewer errors you make while driving an RV, the better.
In the end, it’s practice makes perfect. Empty parking lots are great. Just find yourself a big open parking lot and start learning how your RV handles. Set up cones to practice turns and parking. Before too long, you’ll be driving like a champ and feeling at home on the road as much as you are at the RV park.
Now that you’re a bit comfier behind that wheel, steer on over to our Driving an RV for the First Time guide for much more on how to stay safe on your way to adventure.