Class A motorhomes are the largest motorhomes on the road. After all, you’re bringing all of the comforts of home with you. While these roomy RVs might seem intimidating to drive at first, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. Plus, many luxury motorhomes are already designed with ease-of-use and driver comfort in mind, so there isn’t as much of a learning curve.
Still, it’s important to understand how to handle a vehicle of this size, especially when you drive one for the first time. To help you get started, we’ve compiled our top 7 tips for driving a motorhome to help you safely and confidently drive your diesel pusher motorhome to your next adventure. With these motorhome driving tips, you’ll be handling your RV like a pro in no time.
Depending on your state, you may be required to get a Class A or Class B (commercial or non-commercial) driver’s license before you can legally drive a motorhome that weighs over 26,000 lbs. If your rig is close to 26,000 lbs or more, contact your local DMV to learn more.
It’s important to understand that the larger and heavier the vehicle, the longer it can take to stop. You’ll need to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to slow down and come to a complete stop, even in normal weather.
It’s also important to keep in mind that hot brakes don’t work as well, and they wear out faster. To keep your brakes from overheating, avoid riding your brakes and use your gears to downshift (engine brake) when driving down hills. If you do start to notice a smell coming from your brakes, pull over when it is safe to do so and give the brakes a chance to cool off before continuing your drive. This is especially important when driving in the mountains.
Since it takes longer to brake, you’ll also need to make sure you’re leaving sufficient following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. The general rule of thumb in normal weather is to leave 1 vehicle length for every 10mph. So if you’re driving 50mph, leave 5 RV lengths in front of you.
For a 40 ft motorhome, that means leaving 200 feet of space between you and the next vehicle on the road. However, you’ll need to leave even more space if there is bad weather, like rain, snow, or fog. Even if the road doesn’t look slippery, it’s always best to slow down and leave plenty of room.
Some RVs include technology to help the driver mitigate potential accidents. For example, every Newmar model from the Dutch Star up through the King Aire are available with OnGuard™ collision mitigation technology, adaptive cruise control, and adjustable following distance control—all to take the guesswork out of your drive.
Most motorhome drivers find themselves driving at slower speeds than the rest of traffic, and that makes sense. The ideal speed to drive an RV is around 55-60 mph — the so-called sweet spot for RV fuel efficiency. However, the speed limit on most US highways is between 65-75 mph. Staying in the far right lane allows you to drive your RV at the optimal speed for your own safety and fuel economy, while allowing other drivers to pass on the left.
Staying in your lane can be somewhat challenging in taller RVs, which can be prone to drift when there are crosswinds. Fortunately, Newmar’s Comfort Drive™ feature prevents this type of drifting with adaptive steering that automatically adjusts to help you stay in your lane — without requiring a death grip on your steering wheel. That said, always keep both hands on the wheel.
Once you get the hang of it, driving straight in an RV can quickly become second nature. Getting used to turning might take a bit more practice, since you also need to take your tail swing into consideration.
What’s tail swing? For every three feet behind your rear axle, you have the potential for one foot of tail swing heading in the opposite direction. So, if you’ve got 12 feet behind your back wheels and you want to take a sharp right turn, you need to be aware of what’s immediately to your left. When you’re just starting out, it can be helpful to have a spotter outside the vehicle to guide you as you practice turning and parking.
Diesel pusher motorhomes aren’t just longer and heavier, they’re also taller and wider than any other car or truck you’re used to driving. Because of this, your RV may not meet the clearance requirements for certain overhangs, and it may be more challenging to navigate narrow roads in older towns. But don’t let that hold you back. It just means you’ll need to plan ahead and stay aware as you drive, which are great things to make a habit of anyway, no matter what type of vehicle you’re driving.
Again, there are tools and technologies available to help alleviate some of the planning for you. Newmar’s diesel pushers are all equipped with an Xite Dash Radio that includes a Nav-N-Go Navigation System—which takes the coach’s dimensions into consideration and plans the best routes for you based on them.
When you’re driving a Class A motorhome, there’s a lot to be aware of as you’re driving–your following and stopping distances, your turn radius, your overhead clearance, and more. Plus, you’re probably driving long stretches at a time. Driver fatigue is one of the biggest dangers on the road, so stay safe and avoid driving when you’re tired.
Driving a diesel pusher motorhome is an extremely rewarding experience. Now that you know these Class A RV driving tips, there’s no limit to where your motorhome can take you.