Driving on a Rough Road in an RV

white van on road near body of water during daytime

Driving on a rough road in an RV can lead to some amazing destinations. It isn’t possible to reach Alaska, for example, without some bouncing around. Most rough road damage is preventable. The following tips will make it easier to drive an RV on muddy or gravel roads, and ones that have pot holes, frost heaves, or which are generally in poor condition.

Watching Your Speed

Driving on a rough road requires patience and acceptance of the fact that you are not on a paved, four-lane highway. Head off on the rough road with the knowledge that it will take longer to traverse than a comparable distance on a good road.

Slowing down when you change road types, such as going from a paved road to a gravel road, will prevent a loss of control and give you time to see how your vehicle handles on the rougher surface. Then, maintain a steady speed, avoid swerving or making any sudden lane changes, and keep a safe distance from vehicles ahead of you.

Obstacles are much easier to avoid if you are driving for the road conditions, whether they be a frost heave, an animal crossing the road, or a large rock.

Preventing Cracked Windshields

The chance of receiving a rock chip is proportional to your driving speed. By slowing down and moving over when being passed by a vehicle, you reduce your chances of receiving a chip or long crack. Small chips should be fixed as soon as possible so that they do not become a crack that will require a total windshield replacement.

Tire Pressure and Blowouts

It is important for your RV’s tires, and those of your towed vehicle, to be inflated to the correct amount for the weight of the vehicle or a little lower. Over-inflating could cause a blowout while under-inflating the tires can give them a little better grip, but will reduce your gas mileage.

If a blowout occurs, resist the temptation to slam on the brakes and instead maintain pressure on the gas pedal.

Towing

Extra care must be taken when towing a car with a motorhome or a trailer/fifth wheel with a truck. Bounce from frost heaves can cause the tow hitch to twist or even shear off. The towing vehicle can also kick up rocks that could damage the towed vehicle.

Be sure to take frequent inspection breaks to examine your tires and towing system. For additional peace of mind, a tire pressure monitoring system and rear view camera can also help you keep an eye on your towed vehicle.

If you are traveling with someone and towing a car behind a motorhome, explore the option of driving the vehicles separately to avoid these potential issues.

Pot Holes

If you inadvertently drive through a large pot hole at greater speed than you should have, it is better to ease off the gas pedal than to slam on the brakes as braking could damage the wheel.

Dusty Conditions

Dust is a serious concern when driving on dirt or gravel roads. It is a good idea to cover the front grill to protect the radiator. Dust on battery terminals can cause a short, ruining the battery. It is therefore important to regularly clean the engine area to keep it in top operating condition.

Muddy and Otherwise Slippery Conditions

When a loss of control is felt on a muddy or slippery road, gently ease off the gas pedal and look firmly in the direction you wish the vehicle to go, which will set you back on course.

Protecting the Interior

Rough roads can also wreck havoc on the interior of your RV. Be doubly careful in securing items prior to travel and exercise caution when opening cabinets upon arrival. Pay special attention to the refrigerator as the bouncing can shake lids loose and create a mess. Carefully securing items will also reduce the number of potential projectiles in an accident.

Driving on a rough road in an RV is rarely pleasant and often nerve wracking, but it does not have to mean sustaining any damage or losses, major or minor, to your RV and/or towed vehicle. By slowing down, paying attention to the road conditions, and driving defensively, it is possible to drive a rough road in an RV while enjoying the scenery.

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