Improve your RV Driving Skills

Towing a trailer or driving a large motorhome is different than driving a compact automobile. The more proficient your driving skills and knowledge are, the more your confidence and abilities increase.

There are several driving techniques, mostly used to train professional drivers that cross over nicely in the RV driver education arena. When you learn these simple driving techniques you become a better driver. As a matter of fact, just understanding the concept of these techniques can increase your driving ability significantly.

Note: These are excerpts from our Drive your Motorhome Like a Pro online video course

Here are 5 important driving techniques every RV owner needs to understand

RV Pivot Point

It doesn’t matter if you are driving a motorhome or towing a trailer, every vehicle has a pivot point. The pivot point is a fixed point on the vehicle at which the vehicle rotates around when making a turn. It sounds more complicated than it is. If it is a vehicle, like a truck or a motorhome with two axles the pivot point is the center of the rear axle.

If it is a tandem axle, like a travel trailer or 5th wheel trailer the pivot point for the trailer is at the center of the two axles.

The important thing to remember about your pivot point is if an object, for example a gas pump, is located at the center of your pivot point or behind your pivot point you can turn in the direction of the object and not hit it. If on the other hand the object is ahead of the pivot point and you turn in the direction of the object you can hit it. This of course is also dependent on the distance you are away from the object when you start making the turn.

Tail Swing

Tail-swing is the distance the overhang, or the portion of the RV’s body that extends behind the pivot point, moves in the opposite direction you are turning in. In some cases, it can be as much as 30 inches. This means if you are only parked 24 inches away from the concrete barrier at a gas pump and you turn away from the pump to exit the gas station, tail-swing can cause the rear of the RV to hit the concrete barrier. Accidents like this happen every day.

The first thing you need to do, to avoid this from happening, is know what your tail-swing measurement is. To do this park your motorhome or truck and trailer parallel directly alongside a straight line in an empty parking lot. Next, make a full lock turn in the direction opposite from the line and have someone measure the maximum distance the tail of the RV swings over the line as you slowly turn and drive away from the line. You will see the tail of the RV cross over the line. Take the measurement at the maximum point where the tail extends over the line. This is your tail-swing, and it represents the distance you need to park away from an object to avoid hitting it as you turn and move away from the object.

Proper Set-up

Once you have all this information you will know exactly what you need to do to properly set-up for a maneuver. The set-up is the most important part of any maneuver.  Set-up is how you position your rig to start a maneuver after taking all these other factors into consideration.

By setting up further away from the obstruction and starting to turn earlier, you can turn into a much smaller lane or opening. Also, by knowing your tail swing you know how far to be away from an object before you start your turn Something that really needs to be stressed here is don’t force a turn. If there is not enough room to make the maneuver, stop and wait for traffic to clear to complete your turn. And if it doesn’t look like there is enough room to make the maneuver, don’t do it.

Reference Points

Establish reference points. In a car you have a hood in front of you to use as a sight, but in a motorhome you have very little in front of you to assist in staying centered in your lane and on course.  While you are at the parking lot to establish your turn data, park the motorhome with the driver’s side of the coach alongside a long line.

See where that line intersects the bottom of the windshield. If there is no specific reference point to use, mark the spot with a piece of tape or other type of marker. Then move the coach, so the line is on the passenger side, and mark the windshield the same way. This will give you your limits. These marks will give your subconscious mind some help to stay centered in your lane and maintain a straight course. You should also note where your windshield marks or any reference points you have established on the dash are when centered on an average-width roadway.

RV Mirrors

Did you know that almost 30% of the hazards you encounter on the road happen, or come from behind you? This is one, if not the most important reason why getting the maximum viewing area from your RV or tow vehicle mirrors is so critical.

For the most part there are two types of mirrors commonly found on motorhomes. There are the type that extend out in front of the motorhome on long arms, and the type that are fixed to the sides of the motorhome.

If you have the type of mirrors that extend out in front of your motorhome on long arms, you need to make sure the inside edge of the mirror is flush with the side of the coach. On the majority of motorhomes I have inspected, with mirrors like this, the mirrors are not set correctly.

The best way to check your mirrors is to stand in front of your coach and sight down the side. The inside of the mirror head should look like it is just touching the side of the coach. Having the mirror flush with the side of the coach gives you the best overall view.

On the passenger side of the coach you should set the mirror flush with the outside edge of the awning arms. If the mirror is too far in or out, you are losing valuable viewing area.

Adjust the flat part of the mirror so you can just see the side of your coach along the inside edge, and so you are looking back level with the ground about one-fourth of the way from the top of the mirror. You really don’t need to see a lot of sky. If the convex or “spot” mirrors are independently adjustable, set them the best you can so you can see out horizontally to the ground and alongside the coach.

Make sure other adults who travel with you are capable and confident in driving the motorhome too. It’s better to share the driving duties, or at a minimum have the ability to drive if the need presents itself.

Happy Camping,
Mark Polk
RV Education 101
http://rveducation101.com/

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