By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Says the RV salesman: “If you can drive a car, you can drive a motorhome!” While many of the “driving” principles are the same, driving a motorhome–or any other kind of RV–can present challenges to the fledgling RVer. In a series, we’ll discuss how to get used to driving (or towing) your RV. This is part 1 on how to ensure visibility in your RVing lifestyle.
Most of us RV because we yearn to see new places. But seeing in your RV is more than scenery, it’s also safe operating and not clobbering anything along the way.
Looking forward: If anything, the view from most motorhomes looking ahead is clear, and sometimes a mite distracting. If you have a penchant for sticking things on the windshield, make sure they don’t block your view. Keeping stick-ons low is best. Remember though, not all states are windshield “stick on legal.” Yes, radar detectors are legal in Arizona, but if you stick them (or anything else) on the windshield you can be pulled over, even cited. I know from first-hand experience having done a “ride along” with a state trooper.
Side swiped? When evaluating a motorhome for purchase keep a close eye on side view. This is where motorhome designers often come up short. Windshield pillars can be in “just the wrong place” and adversely your view to the side, giving unwanted blind spots. Some motorhome side windows are so small or blocked up with hardware they too, mess up the view. You can’t move them or eliminate them but you may think twice before buying a rig with “junk” in the way of your view.
Looking back: Rear-view mirrors are a CRITICAL issue with RVs. You can’t just toss a look back over your shoulder to see what’s going on, you must rely on mirrors. Again, motorhome designers don’t always have it right, window frames can block the view of a mirror. It may not be necessary to pass up a motorhome that has this fault as you may be able to relocate the mirror for clear vision.
The larger the mirror, the better the view. One source tells us that they feel the minimum adequate size for a rear view mirror on either a motorhome or tow vehicle is 10″ x 7″. If you’re putting together a tow package and your OEM mirrors aren’t adequate, skip the idea of adding a fender mounted mirror. They’re just too far away from the driver’s position to give safe judgment. Whatever mirrors you use, make sure they’re mounted tightly and have no loose adjustments. A vibrating mirror will throw a distorted–even useless–image your direction.
Convex mirrors are a godsend to RVers. Giving a wide-angle view, they eliminate a lot of blind-spots where small cars may be hiding out and can keep you from a smash-up when lane changing. “Stick on” convex mirrors can be added to existing mirrors but they then reduce the amount of “normal” mirror image, making for an unsafe condition. You’re better off adding an auxiliary convex mirror above or below the existing mirror, fixed on its own mount.
You may need to add extensions for mirrors on tow vehicles to get them out far enough to see around the trailer. Some factory equipped tow rigs (recent Chevy Silvarados as an example) have a wonderful setup: Push a button in the rig and the tow mirror extends out from the side of the rig. Done towing? Hit the button to retract it.
Rear vision cameras add a high tech back view. Some motorhomes come with these gems direct from the factory; they can also be added as an aftermarket item. They can be a wonderful asset when backing up into a site, or keeping an eye on the “toad car.” Similarly, back up cams can be mounted in the bumper of a tow vehicle making it easier to back up to hitch a conventional travel trailer.
In our next part, we’ll discuss how you can cope with the seemingly behemoth size of an RV.