Even the greenest RV newbie has a well-established relationship with the open road. By the time we get our first RV, most of us have carried a driver’s license in our wallet for decades. But this familiarity often works against us when we become RVers, making many of us lazy and reluctant to learn new rules of the road. Unfortunately this attitude puts us at risk of common newbie RVer mistakes, like overheated brakes and collisions with stationery objects. The good news is that you can avoid the hassle of these preventable RV repairs, by reviewing the Top 5 Rules of the Road for RV newbies.
Rule #1: Don’t drive too far or too fast in one day.
If you’re like most RVers, your road tripping wanderlust probably began with epic cross-country road trips in passenger cars. And like most new RVers, you were probably surprised to find that taking an RV road trip is more physically and mentally taxing than a typical automobile road trip. Starting, stopping and navigating a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds more than a passenger car forces us to be more alert to road conditions, which is mentally exhausting at day’s end. Driving a rig also requires patience, because a 10-hour driving day in a passenger car is about the equivalent of a five hour day at the helm of a recreational vehicle. Tackling too much driving in one day leaves us physically exhausted and puts our safety (and that of our passengers) at risk. As RVers we must plan our routes and trips accordingly.
Rule #2: Make RV maintenance a regular part of your life.
RV maintenance is more important than ever when it comes to starting, stopping and maneuvering a heavy vehicle. RVs take more braking power than a passenger car and have more complicated systems, that when broken, can compromise your safety and comfort – and cause a lot of property damage if things go awry. Plan for ongoing RV maintenance throughout your year by adding maintenance days to your calendar. The most important daily, monthly and quarterly aspects of RV maintenance include (but aren’t limited to):
- Maintaining tire pressure
- Monitoring fluids
- Inspecting brakes
- Generator inspection
- House systems safety check (plumbing, heating, electrical and roof, among others)
- Maintaining your hitch for a towable or tow car
Rule #3: Know your RV size and GVWR
Passenger car drivers rarely consider the height or weight of their vehicle on the open road, but when you drive a home on wheels it’s critical to know the physical dimensions and capabilities of your rig. Those clearance signs at gas station overhangs and low bridges all take on new meaning when at the command of a RV. Everything from the tires on your wheels to the height of your air conditioner can mean the difference between an uneventful driving day or becoming a Darwin Award Recipient if you make contact with a stationary object like this guy. Always know how tall, heavy and wide your rig is before embarking on your first trips.
Rule #4: Learn how to use your brakes.
Overheated brakes are a leading cause of RV fires on the highway because too many newbie RV drivers don’t understand the importance of using lower gears on steep grades. You can avoid overheating your RV brakes by preparing for upcoming conditions. Before you turn the key, study a book like the Mountain Roads Directory, which describes over 700 mountain passes in 22 states. When you’re on the road and encounter a steep downhill grade, switch to lower gears to slow yourself down. You also want to regularly inspect RV brakes and keep them adjusted to avoid costly repairs.
Rule #5: Be a courteous, patient driver.
RVs are called “recreational vehicles” for a reason: there’s no need to be in a hurry when you are at the command of a ten ton vehicle that can cause a lot of damage under the right circumstances. Since we are the ones out there having fun, take it easy on the road and fall back when ordinary drivers try to pass. Keeping a slower pace not only conserves fuel but it gives us plenty of time to react if Speedy Gonzales cuts us off.
The more trips you take in your RV, the more you’ll find that these rules of the road can help us become better drivers no matter what size of vehicle we’re driving. If you have other driving tips for RV newbies we would love to hear them so take a minute to share your feedback below!
About the Author:
Rene Agredano, a Coach-Net member since 2015, is a self-employed full-time RVer who enjoys writing, jewelry design and animal advocacy. Her adventures with a three-legged dog and husband Jim are chronicled at LiveWorkDream.com.