RVs range in size from oversized vans to interstate buses. Beyond the sheer scale for these homes on wheels, they're extremely heavy and have limited visibility, making them challenging to drive. But with preparation, practice, and some upgrades, you can improve their overall safety.
1. Develop a safety checklist. Consult it before every trip. This includes checking the condition and inflation of your tires, looking under the hood for problems with belts and hoses, checking oil and other fluids, and verifying that all exterior lights and turn signals are working.
2. Stay buckled up. You might look forward to getting up to make a sandwich while traveling. Don’t. Instead, pull over when you or your passengers want to go to the kitchen or bathroom.
3. Be proactive about RV maintenance. Many RVs travel significant distances and are then parked for long periods. The use pattern is quite different from cars, and there can be a temptation to cut corners. Maintain your vehicle according to the schedule recommended by the manufacturer. This will save you in the long run.
4. Replace older RV tires. Regardless of how much wear or use they have, Consumer Reports recommends replacing tires at 10 years old from date of manufacture, or sooner if specified in the vehicle owner’s manual. (Read our investigation on a Goodyear RV tire that is linked to multiple deaths.)
5. Add tire pressure monitors. It's wise to invest in tire pressure monitors that can warn you about problems before they become disasters. There are several products made specifically for RVs, with different levels of specificity (“low” vs. psi readout, for example). The better systems involve fitting a sensor inside the tire, with a remote digital display of tire pressure.
6. Balance the weight in your RV. This will improve handling and reduce tire wear. The RV should be loaded based on weight capacity and distribution, including the weight of towed vehicles or trailers, cargo in the basement storage, and water in the tanks. For loading details specific to your vehicle, refer to the owner’s manual that came with your RV.
7. Secure your belongings. All items should be stowed and secured when the RV is in motion to make sure they don’t move about the interior. This includes items in the cabinets.
8. Practice driving your RV. Operating an RV is very different from driving a car or pickup truck. So it’s important to practice driving. Each type has its own quirks, such as braking distances, roof clearance, and turning radius. Start in an empty parking lot with cones. And ask your retailer about classes.
9. Get a backup camera. If your RV isn’t equipped with a backup camera, add one. And when reversing, have a passenger stand outside with a handheld radio to watch for dangers that could be in your blind zones.
Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the September 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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