If you’re new to RVing, you’ll quickly learn that driving a motorhome is not at all like driving a car. Parking, turning and gas stations will present challenges you didn’t know existed. Learning to drive your motorhome will take practice, patience, and a little bit of courage.
Obviously, parking a large motorhome requires much more room than it takes to park a car. This is one of the big reasons why some people choose a van-sized Class B motorhome. When you finally manage to find a parking space, make sure you’re parked so you have enough room and a clear way out; if car parks in front of you, you could be stuck until it moves.
If you’re parking in a store parking lot, go to the outer edges, where cars are less likely to park. If you need to park horizontally across several spaces, pull up to the last space in the row, so no cars can park in front of you.
If you must go somewhere in town with your motorhome, look at the area on Google maps before you go. This can give you an idea of what parking may be like.
Hitting the Brakes
Your motorhome is much larger and heavier than a car, and it will take much longer to stop. You must maintain a wide distance between you and the vehicles in front of you. Likewise, it’s OK to drive a little under the speed limit, and be sure to keep a lookout for signs of trouble ahead. If there’s an accident or road work up ahead, you need to give yourself time to stop.
When you’re going down a steep grade, downshift into a lower gear so the engine can slow you down. Avoid riding the brake. Instead, hit the brakes in short bursts, rather than riding it. This will help to reduce brake wear.
Beware of Overpasses
You must pay attention to the bridge and overpass clearances. Know your motorhome’s height and watch for low clearances. This is doubly true for tall 5th wheels. This also applies to pulling into gas stations.
If there’s a truck route, take that instead of the car route. Plan your travel route ahead of time with the Mountain Directory, and an RV GPS, which can alert you to low clearances and plan an RV safe travel route.
Driving a motorhome in the wind is perhaps the biggest challenge. Wind blasting the sides of a motorhome will batter it about, and can even push you into another lane. Wind also applies to big-rig trucks passing you. If you can, avoid driving your mtorhome if it’s very windy. Keep an eye on your weather app for windy conditions, especially wind alerts. As you’re driving, keep an eye on your rearview mirror for trucks passing you. If there’s a passing truck or if it’s windy, hang on to the steering wheel with both hands. You always need to be alert and focused while driving a motorhome, and that goes double in wind.
If your motorhome is very hard to handle in the wind, you might consider applying Air Tabs. These stick onto the body of your motorhome, and can improve handling in windy conditions.
When you’re traveling in a motorhome, it pays to check the weather frequently, both where you are now, and where you want to go. You may want to adjust your travel plans, to avoid inclement weather. While you may enjoy a winter wonderland of snow, your motorhome may not. Driving on a road that’s been cleared, with no ice, is not a big problem. However, you want to avoid driving an RV in “snow chain” conditions. For one thing, you probably don’t have a set of snow chains for your motorhome. Likewise, if there’s a big rainstorm coming, you may want to adjust your travel plans. And tornados, avoid those, as well as hurricanes. The point is, don’t drive your motorhome in seriously bad weather if you can avoid it.
Gassing up your motorhome at a truck stop is the easiest way to go. Truck stops are designed to accommodate large vehicles. Many gas stations, especially ones in cities, are not designed for large vehicles to safely maneuver around. You’ll see many RVers talking about apps such as Gas Buddy, which shows you the lowest prices; however, a gas station with the lowest price is worthless if it’s inaccessible to your motorhome. The most important feature when driving a motorhome is easy in and out, not saving a few pennies.
Finally, try to plan routes that by-pass the big cities and major interstate highways. This will help to keep your travel-stress low. Avoiding big cities and high-speed interstates is also safer. Taking the “roads less traveled” are usually more scenic and the small towns you will pass through are often safer and easier to park in. In addition to an RV GPS, you can also get the Mountain Directory app to help you plan safer RV travel. The Mountain Directory has maps marking out most of the steep grades and treacherous roads in the United States. It’s a very useful tool when planning on how to safely get from point-A to point-B. Your GPS may simply have you go the fastest route, which may not be the most RV friendly.