How to Feel Safe Driving an RV for the First Time
Driving a full-size RV for the first time can seem like a daunting task. Once you climb behind the wheel, you might feel overwhelmed by the size of the motorhome. However, with a little preparation and planning, you can ease your worries and enjoy the experience.
We've put together a handy list of things to do to help you feel safe driving an RV for the first time. Buckle up and get ready to hit the road.
Your Pre-Drive Checklist
Before you put the key in the ignition, it's important to run through a checklist of items to make sure you are set up for a great trip. Start by understanding your local state regulations regarding the license you need to drive your rig. In some states, you might need a specialized license if the gross vehicle weight exceeds a certain limit.
Once you know that you have the legally required license, you can start your pre-drive checklist. Ideally, have someone else with you, as it is easier to check over everything as a team.
- Make sure the headlights and running lights are working properly.
- Check both turn signals in the back and front.
- Make sure the windshield wipers are working.
- Test your emergency flashers.
- Check to make sure the horn works.
- Inspect the RV tires, making sure there is still good tread and no signs of dry rot or uneven wear, and that they are filled to the correct tire pressure.
- Make sure that all antennas, TV dishes, and exterior steps are secured and ready for travel.
- Ensure that your leveling jacks are retracted, and all leveling blocks are stowed away.
- Double-check that all hookups are disconnected, including water, sewer, power, and cable TV.
- If the RV has slides, they should be pulled in and locked into place
- Retract awnings and make sure all outside items are stowed away including chairs, rugs, and solar panels.
- Adjust your mirrors.
If you are towing a car behind your RV, you will need to:
- Make sure the tow car is in tow mode or neutral.
- Ensure that the tow vehicle is properly secured to the RV.
- Connect the RV hitch and tow accessories.
- Attach the brake control line to the tow car.
- Check the function of the turn signals and brake lights on the tow vehicle.
Now that you have checked the outside, it's time to make sure the interior of your RV is prepped and ready to go. The interior needs to be safe as well. Because if you have a drawer slam open or something slide toward you while driving it can be jarring, distracting, and downright dangerous.
- Check to make sure all cabinets and drawers are in their locked position.
- Make sure rooftop fans are closed and locked.
- Turn off the water pump and water heater.
- Shut off interior lights, generators, and inverters.
- Secure the bathroom door and any bathroom products.
- Stow away food items and lock the refrigerator.
- Close all windows.
- If you have a pet onboard, make sure their water bowl and food are emptied and put away.
Planning the Route
Prior to driving away, make sure you have a route already planned. Check your fuel level and if low, choose a gas station along your path. Locating gas stations ahead of time with free apps, such as GasBuddy or Gas Guzu, can guarantee you won't get stranded and can save you big money at the pump.
Make sure you know the height, weight, and width of your RV. This will prepare you for bridges along your route and any roads that might not be designed for your RV.
Whether you plan to use an onboard navigation system, a cell phone GPS, or a road atlas, make sure you have an easy, distraction-free way to follow directions and that you know how long the trip is expected to take. This can help you plan breaks along the way to prevent fatigue.
Check the weather ahead of time to make sure your path is clear. If inclement weather is predicted, plan to stop early or postpone your drive.
What to Expect on the Road
When first proceeding, start slow and get the feel of the RV. If possible, begin in an empty parking lot. This will allow you to gain a better understanding of the acceleration and braking distances of your RV. Get a feel for how wide your RV turns and test out using your mirrors. Once you are comfortable, it's time to hit the open road.
During your first trip, make sure to always give yourself ample room to maneuver. Allow extra space between you and the car in front of you, as RVs take much longer to stop than passenger vehicles. This becomes even more important when your RV is heavily weighed down and/or pulling a vehicle.
Stay in the right lane when possible, which will let faster drivers proceed past you while decreasing the stress on yourself and your RV. When coming up to a turn, give yourself much more time and space than you think you need. Taking your time through a curve, keeping an eye on your mirrors, and watching the tail of the RV will greatly reduce the chances of damaging your RV.
Gain Road Warrior Status with Transwest
Now that you have managed your first adventure with your RV, keep practicing the skills above and create your own custom checklist to go over every time you hit the road. These simple things will build confidence in your driving ability and reduce unexpected situations along your route.
Remember, when you need help finding the perfect RV for your needs, our team at Transwest is here to help. We know how exciting it can be to hit the open road, and we want to make sure you have the right motorhome to make your next adventure the best one possible.
Visit one of our locations to shop for a new RV, or stop by a service center to make sure your RV is ready for your first trip. We can't wait to help you achieve road warrior status!
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