Although there are several unique driving and towing tips when comparing driving a motorhome with a “toad” and driving a truck pulling a trailer, there are many generic tips and tricks that pertain to both. For the past 10 years I’ve conducted driving seminars throughout the country and not only do I get new owners or people looking to buy for the first time, but I am amazed at the number of seasoned veterans I get to attend the class. And they all say the same thing; “I learned some new things and did not realize some of the changes in road use laws”!
Before You Ever Hit The Road
Over the years I have seen too many customers jump in the driver and passenger seats and take to the open road with the mindset; “I can drive anything”. Driving a motorhome or towing a trailer is not difficult, it’s just different and you need to be prepared for those differences. For the new owner, get to know your rig before pulling out into the wide open spaces. Take a tape measure and actually measure the height, width, and length and write them down! What is printed in the brochure is not correct and it’s important to know how tall your rig is before you try to test the low clearance sign! I can guarantee if you see a sign that says 12’6” and your rig is 13’2”, it will be 12’6” when you come out!!! I also recommend you weigh the rig and put all the information on a label on the visor or dash for quick reference.
Next, take some time to sit in the driver’s seat and get familiar with all the functions such as the windshield wiper button, speed control, even the radio. You don’t want to fumble around at the last minute finding these things. Position your seat in a manner you can see the dash, especially the speedometer and can see your mirrors. I’ve seen way too many motorhomes that have the “A” pillar or window bar in the line of site. You may need to adjust the seat to a different position or even move the mirror. Now adjust your mirrors with the inside inch showing the side of the rig. For truck owners, purchase a quality set of towing mirrors rather than the add-on kind, they do not stay tight and will jiggle horribly and you will not be able to see. You need the mirrors out far enough to see the sides. Adjust the main mirror so you can see the floorline of the unit and use the convex to see the wheels. This will give you the best field of vision and the fewest blind spots. Now have someone walk around the rig to see where your blind spots are located.
Practice In A Safe Environment
One of the most important components in driving is negotiating the right hand turn. It’s easier to make a left hand turn as you have open real estate, the right hand turn has the curb and obstacles in the way. So you will need to understand how your rig cuts with the back wheels and how your trailer tracks behind your truck. Typically bumper towed trailers track or follow the tow vehicle closer than 5th wheels and motorhomes. You need to know how far into the turn you have to go to safely make the corner. City streets are typically 12’ wide so find a parking lot at a large church during the week or a Junior College on the weekends and place cones at 12’ and then make a corner with more. Practice making the corner and soon you will find how far to go before starting the turn.
Keep in mind there are times you will not be able to make a “legal” right hand turn, meaning starting in the inside right hand lane and turning into the inside right hand lane. Due to traffic, a tight curb, or other obstacles, you may need to move slightly into the left lane like semi trucks do or take up some room on the left lane after the turn. It’s easier to stay out of trouble than it is to get out of trouble meaning…be prepared. Look ahead, if you know the turn is coming, scan the area to see if you might have a tight fit and need to steal a little space from another lane. Looking ahead will allow you to determine if you do it on the first part of the turn or the second due to traffic. Being prepared and planning ahead will help tremendously.
Stay In The Middle Of The Road
Most first timers have a tendency to hug the right side of the road with the passenger almost riding on the shoulder! When they first start driving, they place themselves just like driving a car or truck, however, you are now driving or pulling an 8.5 foot RV and it’s much wider. Use the white line on the right side and the center line on the left to gauge where “center” is. You do not want to drop the wheels off a high shoulder and come back up to fast. If you do drop off, slow down and wait for a good opportunity to bring the unit back onto the road with less height.
Stayed tuned for Part 2 where we will discuss your RV tires and weight ratings.
About the author:
Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles, authored an RV handbook reference guide and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
RV Repair Club is your go-to online resource for enthusiasts who want quality RV maintenance, repair, and upgrade information – a community where passionate RVers can come together to gather knowledge and share their experiences.
W.B., Green Cove Springs, FL ~ “We didn’t need a tow but needed a new tire brought to our location. Coach-Net coordinated it very well.”