By Greg Illes
Most RVs have cruise control capability, either on the steering wheel or one of the steering column controls. Most drivers have a basic understanding of this feature; some may have had awkward experiences with cruise control and may have abandoned its use.
But the Cruise function is really useful and should be a part of every driver’s skill set. When you master this handy feature the miles will melt away, you will spend less time staring at your speedometer and you will have more attention for traffic and scenery.
Basics — If you’re new to Cruise, thoroughly read your operator’s manual and get familiar with activating and deactivating it. Do this also if you haven’t used it in a while.
Incremental changes — Once set, Cruise allows small changes in set speed, up or down. Each RV is a little different, but typically one tap on the SET button will increase set speed by one mph, and a tap on the COAST button (or its equivalent) will decrease set speed by one mph. This is much more handy than killing and resetting Cruise to change speeds. It’s especially useful when following a vehicle that’s just a little slower, or when encountering a speed-limit change along your route (five taps, easy).
Wind and hills — Watch out for high-load conditions. In heavy head winds or steep hills, your cruise control may cause undesirable down-shifting and consequent engine over-revving. Time to cancel and go to Manual mode.
Downhills — Many Cruise installations will not down-shift for you. Time again for Manual mode. Note that for most units, manually shifting the transmission will not cancel Cruise.
Shift points — Sometimes you may find that your speed setting and load conditions are right at a transmission shift point. The tranny constantly shifts back and forth and just can’t find a stable gear. In this case, adjust your set speed one or two mph up or down, and the problem should go away.
Resuming — If your speed is considerably lower when you activate the Resume function, your Cruise may be very aggressive in regaining speed. In this case, you may want to reset your set-speed to your current speed and then use the incremental function to gradually get back to your desired speed.
Canceling — Now and then, you’ll be surprised by the Cruise and want to quickly cancel it. This is done by switching it off or by depressing the brake pedal. Note that the brakes don’t actually have to take effect; cancellation only requires that the brake pedal switch be actuated, which usually occurs at the very first 1/4 inch of pedal travel — so you don’t have to slam on the brakes to cancel Cruise. Try these cancellation modes several times until they are second nature.