By Russ and Tiña De Maris
While having a larger motorhome or towing a bigger trailer has its share of “pluses,” along with the increased length comes what for some is a “problem set.” When it’s time to fuel up your rig, getting in and out of the fuel station can become anything between a challenge and a nightmare. Swinging your rig around in a confined, tight area with plenty of “targets” you can hit can make even some experienced RVers break out in a sweat. What can you do to make fueling up easier?
Planning ahead can considerably reduce the anxiety level. If you fill up your tow rig while unhitched, that’s a great plus. Of course, on long runs you’ll no doubt have to fill while hitched up. Some thinking about the layout of the fuel station can make life easier. As an example, you’ll usually find that fuel stations where the fuel islands are parallel to the street access are easier to get in and out of. If the islands are perpendicular to the front of the building, then – unless there’s a pretty fair amount of space between the fuel islands and the building – you may have far more trouble maneuvering.
So here’s where a little advance planning can help – with technology. If you have a fair idea of your routing, use your Gas Buddy to help you find those great fuel prices, and look to see if there’s a photo of the fuel station available – in many instances there are pictures posted by users. Does the photo indicate the fuel island layout? Another techno application that can help: Google Streets and Maps. Bring up the street address of the station, then use “satellite view” and zoom down to where you can see the layout of the station. Advance planning also means fueling up before you’re at the panic level. One RVer says he fills up when he’s around 100 miles of an empty tank.
Some stations naturally lend themselves to RV-friendliness. Most Flying J truck stops have designated RV islands, designed for getting big rigs in and out with ease. It helps here, too, that these islands have both gasoline and diesel. That’s great if your motorhome motivates on diesel, while your toad car (which you forgot to fill up before hitching up) desires gasoline. If your only interest is in diesel, then fueling up on the truck island will make access and egress a breeze.
If you do find yourself at a fuel station where you’ll need to make a turn to get out of the island, it’s best to not pull in too close to the fuel island. Try and allow yourself three feet between the side of your rig and the island. That will make it easier to turn the rig without fighting tail-swing – and it’ll make accessing your basement storage (if needed) much easier. Of course, you may cause a bit of inconvenience to the folks using the next island over, so if you can, use an outside island (which makes getting out even easier). If you’re on the inside, by all means stay with your rig while you fuel and then get thee away from the island as soon as you’ve completed fueling – makes for good “RV public relations.”
Other tricks? Some RVers suggest that if the prices are fairly close, you may be better off spending a few cents per gallon more for fuel to have the choice of easier in-and-outing.
If you find yourself in a station where the islands are perpendicular to the building and it looks just “too tight” to get out, it may be easier to back your rig out, provided you don’t have a toad behind you that prevents it.
If you use the guidebook “The Next Exit,” you’ll find stations that are RV-friendly outlined in red print. And another thought on advance planning. If you’ll be back this way, make notes on stations that are easy (or difficult) to get in and out of.