Common RV Mistakes

Common RV Mistakes & How to Keep Yourself Out of Trouble in 2024

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Last Updated on April 1, 2024 by Jessica Lauren Vine

Learning about these common RV mistakes can help you avoid some pretty serious trouble, so keep reading.

Sometimes we learn the hard way. In fact, some of us learn the hard way always. Anyway, the mistakes you make in your RV are amplified because of the sheer size of your rig.

We are too familiar with Robin Williams’s tromp to the Colorado Rockies in the classic RV faux pas’ film, RV. Nothing barks RV mistakes like when Robin Williams climbs on the front of the RV to get it over the hill. RV mistakes can be funny when people and/or property are not damaged. But the stakes can be higher when actual negligence and overconfidence trump good planning and proper risk management.

Dangerous RV Mistakes

Avoiding these dangerous RV mistakes will save you life, limb, and lots of cash.

Failing to Check the Weather

Not checking the weather can end your journey in a heartbeat and is one of the most common RV mistakes. High winds pose one of the most significant hazards to the safety of your passengers and other drivers and considerable damage to your rig.

Let’s call him Bill to protect the guilty; a buddy of mine took off one morning, heading north to Wyoming to fish the North Platte River (The Miracle Mile) south of Casper. He was pulling a 2005 Keystone Montana Mountaineer pull-behind. He stayed for more than a week and thought bringing it was worth it. He was in a hurry to get up to the river and start catching those beefy rainbows and browns, so much in a hurry, he took for granted the weather.

Somewhere between Cheyenne and Casper, Bill lost control of his rig when the winds across I-25 gusted up to 60 Mph. The trailer was totaled, and he suffered damage to his $60k Dodge Ram dually. This trip cost Bill an arm and a leg, and thank God, not his real ones.

Just a little heads up, if your route to Yellowstone takes you through eastern Wyoming, be aware. Wyoming has the highest constant wind speed in the country at 13 Mph. You can also expect gusts up to 60 MPH as you traverse Interstate 80, which runs east to west, or Interstate 25 north from Cheyenne to Sheridan. Wyomingites claim that the Cowboy State is windy because Colorado sucks and Nebraska blows.

Figure 1: This I-80 route is considered one of the most dangerous in America by truck drivers.

For most drivers of high-profile vehicles, wind speed, especially crosswinds, can become problematic between 40 and 60 Mph. A headwind probably is not that big of a problem, and a tailwind can save you some gas.

The folks that operate the website that offers Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training have the following advice for truckers dealing with the wind. I know you’re not driving a tractor-trailer, but most RVs meet the criteria for a high-profile vehicle.

Check the wind speed along your route for your travel day and perhaps the next few days. It’s easy. Download the Weather Underground app here (touted as one of the most accurate weather services). I have a background in meteorology, and I trust them.

Use your smartphone or built-in navigation system to plot a different course.

Get off the road – wait it out, be safe, and get to your destination alive

Back off that accelerator – sometimes slowing down, like when it’s raining or snowing, can avert a disaster

Know your rig and how much it weighs – it’s cheap to consider your RV, and the information is vital to safe RVing

Don’t blow off wind – it’s weather and can be severe and unpredictable

These tips can be found at CDL Training Spot.

I’m dead serious about this one. High winds can, at best, leave your whole rig totaled. But, in the worst-case scenario, they could leave you or others dead.

Driving Too Far In One Sitting

Here is another mistake that can jump up and bite you if you’re unprepared or have not thought things through.

Overdoing it or driving too far – know your limits, don’t go anywhere near them, and arrive at your destination intact.

Expensive RV Mistakes

If you don’t want to pay a lot of money for a costly mistake, avoid what comes next.

Know Your RV’s Height

Situational awareness is always critical when you are at the wheel of your Motorhome. Or your puller truck in front of your pulls behind. A little planning and head-on-a-swivel situation awareness can spare you thousands of greenbacks in repairs to your rig.

The highest point on my 2005 Holiday Rambler is what I like to call the R-2 unit, which is the dome protecting my steerable Dish Network dish. From ground to tippy-top, my rig is 13 feet tall. I’ve written that number on a sticky note in marker and stuck it on the windshield behind the useless rearview mirror.

Here are a few things you can do to avoid this costly mistake and ending up on a TikTok video.

Know the highest point on your rig and round up to the nearest foot

Plan your trip to avoid low-clearance bridges

Grab a Motor Carriers Road Atlas copy from Rand McNally – these truckers know their business. They know where the tunnels, steep grades, like the ones we have in Colorado, and locations of low-clearance bridges are.

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Keep an eye out for the unknown, like low-hanging tree branches and power lines.

I’ve been a victim of the last recommendation. I planned and prepared, but nothing could prepare me for that thick Cottonwood branch that sheared off my expensive awning and damaged some of the roofs. It was a while ago, but I remember paying around $10 a square foot to repair the roof. A new awning costs over $1,500 for replacement and installation. So, keep your head on a swivel.

Failing to Secure What You’re Towing

Another expensive RV mistake occurs when you don’t get the securing of your motorcycle to a bumper-mounted rack right.

For example, I wanted to transport my Kawasaki KLR 650 enduro bike without a trailer. It’s convenient and practical. So, I purchased a hitch mount carrier that met my bike’s weight requirements. The problem is I didn’t quite get the strap-down process right.

The KLR weighs 387 pounds dry, and the hitch mount carrier was rated 400 lbs. I was probably pushing it a little, but most importantly, these hitch-mount carriers bounce a little during driving. It, coupled with my poor strapping job, caused the bike to fall off the page when I pulled into a gas station.

Fortunately, the cycle got the drug and didn’t end up in the middle of the road. It was a simple mistake that cost me $900 to repair the bike. Knowing the carrier’s limits and taking the time to learn how to secure the bike could have saved me some moolah. The worst-case scenario is that the motorbike could have broken free and damaged another vehicle or vehicle – ONLY YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LOAD!

Prevent Costly RV Mistakes

Here are some simple steps to avoid costly RV mistakes. I promise you that not having a plan or maintaining your RV will cause problems and cost you money.

Simple maintenance on your rig can prevent costly problems down the road – check and inflate tires, check all fluids, check wipers, and ensure you have wiper fluid. Simple as that.

Have a checklist – Things will run smoother, and your RVing experiences can become much safer if you plan. Always have a plan; it can save you a lot of grief and money.

Learn as much as possible about your rig – know your RV inside and outside and learn everything you can about safely RVing. The following is a good resource, FMCA University Library – Family Motor Coach Association.

Funny RV Mistakes

“Why is the gas station attendant chasing us down at full trot?” I questioned my buddy Marcus, riding in the passenger seat as we pulled out of the Philipps 66 off Interstate 135 in Wichita, Kansas. “Did you remove the nozzle from the RV before you pulled out?” quizzed my good friend. “Crud, I thought you did,” I countered in dismay, just in time for the red-faced, winded attendant to reach my window. “I know what I did. I’ll talk to the manager.”

The manager reassured me that it happens all the time and told me that the hose and pump are designed to break away without gas spraying everywhere and a giant fireball erupting like out of some action movie. It was reassuring, but I still felt like a heel.

Most funny RV mistakes are harmless and cause little or no permanent damage but are fun, nonetheless. Several years ago, I lived at my Motorhome on my property in the Laramie Mountain range. Let me put it this way. I never take my rig out on these days – Labor Day, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July. Well, it was the end of the Memorial Day weekend, and all the amateurs were out making tons of mistakes one of the best ones I observed

Heading up Highway 14, AKA the Poudre River Road in Northern Colorado, we found an RV sprinting home to beat the long-weekend traffic. Unfortunately, it appeared the guy was in such a hurry that he forgot to stow his outdoor mounted grills before he broke camp. Not sure how you can miss that obvious mistake, but this guy did. I’m sure he figured it out before he got out of the canyon (I hope he did). It would help if you always did a walk around your rig before you fire it up. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR AND OTHER PEOPLE’S SAFETY!

Here are a few more funny mistakes first-time and veteran RV owners make. But they’re funny, not dangerous, and have simple solutions.

Don’t fall in love with the first RV you see – many options and floor plans can meet your RVing needs.

Pack what you need – overpacking makes your rig heavier and guarantees hours of unloading at the end of your journey.

Test those batteries – you could spend your vacation in the dark and look silly to the other campers.

Use a spotter – I know you have a backup camera, but having a human back there increases my confidence and comfort level.

Do that walkaround – before you depart, ensure your steps are stowed and all antennas are retracted.

Secure all personal items before you pull out – avoid broken wine glasses, plates, and vases.

Common RV Mistakes – Life in The Right Lane

One way to minimize your RV mistakes is to slow down, take a breath and have a plan. Operating an RV can bring you absolute joy and happiness, but it can also wear you down and be stressful. Slowing down to an efficient and safe pace can make all the difference whether you have a pleasant road trip or a nightmare on Channel 9 News.

Taking a breath involves stopping, getting out of your rig, and sightseeing the majestic beauty in this great country. Don’t pull out of your driveway or stall without a plan. You travel at risk if you assume everything will go your way – from the roads and bridges to the wind and weather. Do your homework. Now get out there and enjoy some RVing.

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