Watching someone with no experience back in their RV is hilarious, unless that person is you! If you haven’t done it before, or it’s been a while, don’t worry. Every 5th Wheel owner has been there. Becoming proficient takes practice, but watch this helpful video and learn a few tricks from experienced RV’ers.
It’s that time of year when sober Snowbirds are thinking about the return drive home, and other forward-thinking RV’ers are excitedly planning long summer trips to new destinations.
In either case, you may be planning for some long days behind the wheel. Fatigue can set in unexpectedly with awful results. That momentary lapse of concentration when the mind is distracted, can subsequently lead to an inability to correct the unsavory direction your rig has taken.
Driving is Work
Ask any trucker about his glamorously easy occupation, and you’ll be faced with the kind of expression that asks if you’re off your medication, followed by a glance of the room in search of your custodial social worker.
While driving, your mind is constantly monitoring the GPS, speed, weather, and dash gauges while attempting to predict the probable behavior of traffic in front of you. While much of this may occur almost subconsciously, the mental awareness and continual eye movement will wear you out. Especially as darkness falls and your eyes and body strain with the additional focus and tension, that reduced vision creates. Driving all day to reach your waypoint, especially driving longer than planned because of poor weather or traffic is tempting but very ill advised.
Here are my suggestions accumulated over 100,000 km behind the wheel and the occasional inadvertent lane change.
Work in Shifts
If you have another driver on board take turns. They don’t have to be equal shifts if someone isn’t comfortable behind the wheel. Give the less inclined driver the shorter shifts (even just a half hour) on the easier, straighter stretches of road. You don’t even have to nap off-shift, the mental break from driving will be rejuvenating.
Stop often and before you get tired. Most tips say every two hours. I stop at scenic viewpoints even if I’ve only been driving 30 minutes. The next stimulating rest stop might be a couple hours away. Get your blood flowing by walking. I do pushups, deep knee bends or jumping jacks. You won’t look like a lunatic. People will know right away why you’re doing it and it may spur them on to do the same. You could save a life!
Those health nuts telling you to eat small meals all day are right. My grandmother would make my favourite meal when I came to visit. Ribs and spicy sausage surrounded by dumplings and sauerkraut seasoned with bacon. I would fill my belly and then lay down on the couch and sleep, while my girlfriend chatted with my grandmother. Big delicious greasy meals will knock you out faster than an MMA fighter in the octagon. I drive with single serving size foods like snack bars and fruit, especially grapes.
Avoid Late Nights
There’s less to see, and more eyestrain. Mental fatigue is the silent killer here. I’ve actually fallen asleep with my eyes open attempting to stay awake – not healthy. If I am planning to drive a long day, I start early before the sun comes up and finish before it goes down, with some leeway to reach my destination should traffic or weather hold me up. Having a back-up (sooner) destination at the end of the day is the mark of a seasoned hauler.
The Little Tricks
No, pumping caffeine and energy drinks into you is not a safe solution. The temporary boost in awareness is ‘temporary’. Then your body/mind crashes to lower than when you started. The same goes for rolling the window down, turning the radio up, sucking on menthol/eucalyptus candies, swallowing caffeine pills, splashing water on your face and eyelids, pinching or slapping yourself, talking/singing, … did I miss any? I’ve tried them all in my younger days, which has resulted in near death experiences. I recognize that I am one of the lucky ones.
When you are tired, you are tired. Be smart, plan contingencies, rest, and enjoy the journey.
Have any tips of your own? Feel Free to share them in the comments section below!
There are all kinds of tips and tricks out there for RV vacations, but we’ve put together a list of the most basic of RV essentials for those who are just getting started.
RVs are an amazing way to vacation.
With transport and accommodation combined comes a whole host of great benefits – freedom, flexibility, adventure, affordability and more. Of course, they also require a bit of insider knowledge. If you’re new to it, or are renting, it can be a little overwhelming – so we’ve put together a list of RV must-haves to get you started on your journey! Adding these simple, invaluable items to your packing list will have you road tripping like a pro in no time.
1. A First Aid Kit
We’re off to a fairly obvious start, but a kit of basic medical supplies is important. The kit should include all of the usual supplies, plus any special individual requirements like an epipen. If you’re heading to more remote areas, you might want to include a few survival items: emergency blanket, snacks, maybe even flares.
2. Non-slip matting
This has no end of uses in an RV. Bring pre-cut mats or a roll of material, and a scissors to cut them to size so you can give multiple surfaces the non-slip treatment. Where should you put it? Anywhere you might want to leave loose items: shelves, cupboards, tables, benches.
3. Dust pan and brush
There’s not much worse than a big mess in a small space! With so much flow between indoors and outdoors, an RV’s floors get dirty quickly. Hauling the vacuum out is bothersome but a dust pan and brush is perfect for spot cleaning.
4. Flashlight (and spare batteries)
Bring one for each person, so everyone can keep it within reach for night-time toilet trips. Not only does it light your path outside, it also lets you get out without waking everybody else by turning on the lights. A lantern might come in handy too, for al fresco dining and socializing.
A place to dry your wet things is essential camping equipment. You won’t want damp clothing spread out inside, so take any opportunity to get them out in the sun and air. There are some very advanced contraptions available, but a piece of rope is simple, effective and easy to fit into your luggage.
6. A GPS
Getting lost can be a bit of an adventure when you have no other plans, but if you have made any kind of bookings, it’s a pain. Phones are useful on short local trips, but if you are going anywhere remote or heading overseas, a GPS is definitely the way to go.
Evenings in the RV are the perfect opportunity for some friendly competition. A TV is very much an optional extra, but a pack of cards could be considered an essential. Avoid games with many small pieces that could get misplaced and stick to the basics – charades is a good one that requires no gear.
8. A camera
The experiences and the memories they create are the best part of an RV trip, and you will certainly want to record a few of them. For some people, a smartphone will do. Others might feel the need to bring an SLR and a GoPro too. Whatever your photography preferences, make sure you don’t forget a camera!
Did we miss anything? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
When it comes to buying trailer tires, the numbers you’re probably most concerned about are size and price, but there are a host of digits—and letters—imprinted on the sidewall of your tires, and knowing what they mean helps you better understand how your tires work, and how you can choose the safest trailer tires for your needs.
Tire class and size:
The first thing you want to see is ‘ST,’ which stands for Special Trailer tire. With their heavy-duty construction, trailer tires are built to tow heavy loads, withstand excessive heat, and reduce sway. Trailers can only use ST tires, and ST tires can only be used on trailers.
After ‘ST,’ you’ll see the numbers used to indicate your trailer tire’s size: 215, width in millimetres; 75, aspect ratio or ratio of height to width; R for radial construction; and 14 for rim diameter.
Load rating or load index tells you how much weight a tire can safely carry at its maximum air pressure. At its maximum air pressure of 50 PSI (cold), a load range ‘C’ tire might have a load rating of 1760 pounds.
Load range tells you the type of load a tire is designed to support at a specific inflation pressure. Trailer tires typically have C, D, or E load ranges. A load range ‘C’ tire, for example, is at its peak load capacity—possibly 1600 pounds—when it’s inflated to its maximum pressure of 50 PSI. A load range ‘C’ tire at 25 PSI might be able to support a load of 990 pounds, while at 40 PSI, that capacity could be 1300 pounds.
This tells you the maximum pressure (when your tires are cold) needed for your tires to carry its maximum load, in PSI.
This stands for the U.S. Department of Transportation.’ There will be about 10-12 numbers following ‘DOT.’ The first six to eight numbers indicate the manufacturer’s code, where the tire was manufactured and the tire size.
To find out when your tire was made, look for the serial number that begins with ‘DOT.’ The last four numbers indicate the week and year your tire was made, respectively. A date code of 2615 means the tire was made in the 26th week of 2015. Some trailer tire manufacturers suggest three to five years is the average life expectancy of a trailer tire, regardless of mileage.
Below the tire size, you’ll see either ‘radial’ or ‘bias.’ Radial tires (or ‘radial-ply tires’) are constructed with polyester and/or nylon plies that run across the tire perpendicularly, and sometimes include steel belts that run under the tread. Bias-ply tires Bias-ply cords layer in a criss-cross pattern from sidewall to sidewall, and they are also sometimes reinforced with a steel belt.
Puncture Resistance of Sidewalls
There is no specific sidewall marking that identifies the puncture resistance of a tire; however, a rough link can be made about durability based on the ply rating, tire construction and the application that the tire is used in. For example, a tire designed for highway use will not tolerate rough, rocky driving. An all-terrain tire which has been designed to handle off-road conditions would be a better choice.
A tire with LT 265/70r17 E markings on the sidewall tells us it’s designated for use on a “light truck” and the letter “E” indicates it is a 10 ply equivalent tire, keeping in mind that “plies” is an older term which is now more commonly referred to as “load range”.
Since newer materials perform better, a tire doesn’t need as many layers and makes for a lighter tire that runs cooler and performs better.
These load ranges show what the equivalent ply is:
Load range “E” = 10 ply equivalent
Load range “D” = 8 ply equivalent
Load range “C” = 6 ply equivalent
Older bias ply tires have sidewall markings that indicate how many cotton plies are in the tire, whereas most current/modern tires contain newer polyester, nylon-type materials and usually have only 2-3 carcass plies.
Also, the higher the load range, the more weight carrying capacity of the tire. To carry that extra weight, more air pressure is needed, and to hold that extra air pressure, a more robust carcass is used, which usually adds more durability.
You’ve made the investment in a quality refrigerator for your RV. Now you need to learn what you can do to keep it running for the life of your RV. Some maintenance can be done yourself, but others require a service technician.
Maintenance Checklist For the Do It Yourselfer
1.Be sure to check the burner flame for proper appearance. The flame should be light blue. If it has a yellow tip, this means it is burning incorrectly and should be serviced by a qualified technician. Check to be sure there is no spider web, insect next, soot or rust on or around the burner. If there is, knock it off with a small screwdriver and clean the area with compressed air or by blowing through a soda straw.
2.For proper ventilation, keep the area behind your refrigerator clear. Check the upper and lower vents and the area between those openings for any obstructions such as a bird nest.
3.Check all connections in the LP gas system (at the back of your refrigerator) for gas leaks by applying a non-corrosive commercial leak detector solution to all connections. Do not use a flame to check for leaks. The appearance of bubbles indicates a leak and should be repaired immediately by a qualified service technician familiar with LP gas.
Maintenance Checklist to Be Performed By a Qualified Service Person at Least Once a Year
1.Check the 12-volt battery system and wiring. Battery problems can adversely affect your refrigerator causing intermittent operation or dim interior lighting. The technician should look at the battery terminals, electrolyte level, amount of charge, etc. A normal operating voltage is 10.5 to 13.5 volts DC.
2.Finally, be sure the technician takes a look at the gas pressure, checks for gas leaks, cleans the flue tube and burner jet and checks the LP gas safety shutoff.
Let us know if you have any other tips we may not have mentioned in the comments below!
There are a few parts of RV ownership – specifically, 5th wheel ownership – that are a bit intimidating. For one thing, it is a significant financial investment to purchase a 5th wheel, so that is an early hurdle that you will need to clear. Also, driving such a big rig down the road can be intimidating to those with no experience, as driving a truck and 5th wheel is a big departure from piloting a sedan. However, the biggest challenge to 5th wheel ownership for most people is going to be the issue addressed in the title of this post – backing up the rig.
Backing up a 5th wheel is a challenge on multiple fronts. For one thing, the rig is rather large, so you may feel nervous moving in backward into an area that you can’t really see. Also, the rig is going to move in the opposite direction as your vehicle, so you will have to learn how to ‘dance’ with the 5th wheel in order to place it in exactly the right spot.
If you are struggling to back up your 5th wheel successfully, or if you would just like to have some tips in mind before trying for the first time, review the points below.
It’s All About Opposites
As mentioned above, you have to think ‘opposite’ when you want to back up a 5th wheel. At first, the fact that the 5th wheel moves opposite of your vehicle is likely to throw you for a loop, but you will get used to this factor relatively quickly. Try to find an open parking lot or another safe place to practice backing up and you will start to naturally respond to the way the trailer moves in reverse.
You don’t need to be in a rush to back up your 5th wheel properly. Take it slow, especially at first, and only keep moving back when you are confident in the direction that you are going. Don’t worry if other people are watching or even waiting – it isn’t worth pushing your 5th wheel into a bad spot just because you are trying to get out of the way.
Have a Spotter
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice that you can receive. If you are backing up your 5th wheel into any kind of a tight spot, have a trusted spotter and use them to direct your movements. If necessary, pick up some two-way radios to communicate between the cab and the spotter with ease. Or, if you prefer not to use radios, develop a few hand signals that you can use to make sure you are on the same page. Of course, you don’t want to back up into your spotter, so make sure you can see them at all times while the vehicle is in motion.
Stay on Driver’s Side
If at all possible, work on backing into spots that are on the same side of the vehicle as the driver. It is more difficult to go to the other side, as it will be harder to see as you back up. An experienced 5th wheel driver may be able to go the other way without too much effort, but stick to the driver’s side until you have confidence in your skills.
Spend Time Practicing
Just like any other skill in life, the only way to master backing up in your 5th wheel is to practice on a regular basis. If you are willing to put in some practice time in a nearby parking lot (or even in your own driveway, if it is big enough), you should be able to develop your 5th wheel backing skills in short order.
Have any tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments section!
Your bags are at the door. You’ve mapped your route. The RV is packed. Before you head south for the winter, remember to take care of the tires that are going to get you there.
It always happens at the most inconvenient times: on a snowy, narrow mountain pass, on a Sunday night 60 kilometres from the next town, or a mere hour into your three-day journey south. With all the kilometres and pressures we put on our RV tires, getting the odd flat tire is considered part of this mode of travel, but there are ways to help prevent flat tires in the first place, and ways to be prepared when it happens.
PREVENTING FLAT TIRES:
Check the pressure
Before you begin packing up your RV or motorhome, have the air pressure checked on all of your RV tires, including the spare tire. RV’s often sit for long periods of time before they move onto the highway, and between trips, tires can lose a significant amount of air pressure.
Under-inflation is one of the most common causes of flat tires, and it can also lead to uneven tire wear as well as poor handling and fuel economy.
If you have a travel trailer, once it’s fully loaded, be sure to weigh each axle to confirm that the gross vehicle weight (GVW) matches the recommended tire pressure.
Check for weathering
Depending on how and where they’re parked, RV’s can be exposed to the elements, and that can impact a tire’s condition. Inspect the sidewalls for cracking, feathering and fading. Exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause the rubber to deteriorate, and weathered tires aren’t as fit to handle heavy loads at high speeds and hot temperatures.
Check the tread
While you might only have eyes for your sunny American destination, remember you may have to go through at least one Canadian snowstorm. To reduce the likelihood of a blowout and for optimum grip and handling in cold temperatures and on snow, ensure you have at least 3.5 millimetres or 4/32 inches of tread depth left on at least all-season M+S (mud and snow) tires.
PREPARING FOR FLAT TIRES:
The only thing worse than getting flat tire on the way south, is getting a flat tire late at night in the middle of nowhere and being unable to change it yourself. Fortunately, with the right equipment handy and a bit of know-how, you can usually get yourself back on the road in no time.
Check your ‘changing a spare tire’ equipment
Some RV’s come equipped with a standard jack and/or tire iron to help you remove a flat tire, but some models don’t. Be sure you know where your equipment is, and know exactly what you have.
In a best-case scenario, you would have on hand:
- Accessible, well-inflated spare tire in good condition
- Jack or ride-on ramp
- Chock (for double-axle trailers and to keep other tires in place)
- Tire iron
- Cones to place around your RV as a warning to other drivers
For your safety and to help ensure your tire can be repaired in the future, only use inflator kits and sealants after educating yourself on how and when to use these products . If you get a flat tire, the best thing to do is put on the spare and get your RV to the nearest tire service centre.
Practice changing a tire
Now that you have everything you need to change a flat tire, practice once or twice on the driveway so you’ll be confident if you need to do it on your own in an emergency.