Driving that big RV isn't difficult, just different
By Paul R. Huard
Copley News Service
Even the seasoned RV navigator needs to stay in top form when rolling down the road. After all, that home on wheels isn't like a compact car that can scoot into tight parking spots.
What do the experts say you should keep in mind when driving an RV? The nationally recognized drivers at GoRVing.com say that steering a motorhome or towing a trailer isn't difficult - just different.
If you can drive a car safely, you already have the skills necessary to drive an RV. RVs don't require a commercial driver's license for personal use. The automatic transmission, power brakes and steering in a passenger car are standard features on most RVs.
Keep the following in mind:
- Sit in the driver's seat before leaving and adjust all mirrors for optimal road views.
- Account for your vehicle's size when turning. The front and rear wheels will track paths much farther apart than those of a car.
- Allow more time to brake, change lanes and merge onto a busy highway because big vehicles take more time to accelerate and slow down than small ones.
Drivers with towables should also:
- Match the proper tow vehicle to your RV. Most full- and mid-size family cars can pull a trailer. So can today's popular vans, SUVs and light-duty trucks. Check the maximum weight it can pull. Use the right trailer hitch, and make sure it is hitched correctly.
For a safe towing system, also make sure you have the proper hitch, tire inflation and anti-sway devices. And for the best trailer/tow vehicle match, consider these factors:
- Engine horsepower
- Transmission and axle capability
- Cooling equipment
- Springs and shocks
- Power brakes
- Power steering
Your auto dealer can tell you more about the towing capacity of your particular vehicle.
- Connect brakes and signal lights. Make sure that the trailer's brakes, turn signals and taillights are synchronized with the towing vehicle.
- Back up with care. By placing your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, the trailer will move in the direction you turn your hand. (For example, to move the trailer to the right, move your hand to the right.) Once the trailer is moving in the proper direction, avoid any sharp movements of the steering wheel.
It's also wise to have someone stand outside the vehicle to make sure the driver avoids any obstacles not seen in the mirrors. If another person is not available, the driver should inspect the area behind the vehicle. Doing so can prevent surprises and accidents.
Whether you're driving a motorhome or a tow vehicle, make sure you and every passenger wears a seat belt. According to the National Safety Belt Coalition, this is the single most effective thing you can do to prevent serious injury.
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