Really knowing your RV covers a lot of ground. But before your first trip out of the driveway with a “new to you” RV, there are some important things to know about your RV. You need to know your RV’s measurements. Shoe size? Suit size? Ah, it’s a bit different!
A super-critical one of those measurements is your rig’s height. Push through a low underpass or try and fit under a gas station island roof could prove an undoing. You need to know precisely how “tall” your rig is above the roadway.
How do you measure your RV height? It’s easy to just run a tape measure up to the roof line and down to the pavement. But remember, there’s other stuff that sticks up above the roof line. Perhaps the tallest is the roof-mounted air conditioner. Since a tall object may be in the middle of the roof, getting the height figured out can be a bit challenging.
Measuring height means accessing the roof. A well-placed ladder with a spotter to help can get you up there. If you have a roof ladder mounted to the rig, you may be able to get up using it. Be careful. Test it carefully to be sure it’s firmly mounted and the hardware is good and tight. Once on the roof, it’s best NOT to walk on it. We work our way around on our hands and knees. Or you might put down “walking boards” to better distribute your weight.
Once you’ve found the tallest part of your rig, you’ll need to measure its height above the roof line. Then simply add that measurement to a measure from the roof line to the pavement. It can be more challenging on a fifth wheel, where the roof may not be the same height from front-to-rear. You may need to find something to act as a straight edge. We’ve found something like an aluminum or steel flat bar from the hardware store works good. It’ll need to be long enough to reach from the object on the roof, out to beyond the roof edge. With a helper measuring from the ground up to the straightedge, you’ll have your answer.
Length and width
With height out of the way, you’ll also need to know length. This, again, is a measurement you make, not a figure provided by the RV manufacturer. We say this because those numbers may not take into account added stuff. A bike rack. A platform shoved into the hitch receiver. Measure the distance between the farthest objects between front and rear. And don’t forget to hitch up your “toad,” if you’ll be using one, and include it in “hitched up” measurements.
You may also find a need to know your width. Measure from the farthest side-sticking objects, typically your rear view mirror set.
Hit the scales for weight
Finally, another important measurement is your rig’s weight. There may be occasions when you’ll need to know if your rig is light enough for a roadway or bridge. Knowing your rig’s weight can be a complex issue, particularly when we talk about knowing weight for tire safety. It’s a bit more complicated than we can talk about today, so for our purposes now, knowing the rig’s weight on all its tires will suffice.
It’s best to have the rig loaded with gear, fresh water full, and with a full fuel tank. A quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive weight check is at a local truck stop. Many have commercial scales. A popular “brand” is a CAT scale. You’ll need to check with the clerk at the fuel desk. They’ll give you instructions on how to pull onto the scale, and when to move forward (or back) so you’ll not only know your rig’s complete “gross weight” but they can also provide axle weight information. Don’t forget to add the weight of passengers in your figures. Follow this link to learn more about using CAT scales.
Where to carry all that information
Armed with all these important measurements, what do you do with them? Height is perhaps the most common “accident causer” if not known and applied to driving situations. We recommend this: Write down, or print out, your rig’s height in feet/inches and meters/centimeters. Post that information in a conspicuous spot where the driver can easily see it. The other information should also be kept in “the cab” so it can be referenced quickly when needed.
Tune in next week for more “Know Your RV” tips. And if there’s something about your RV that you’d like to know, drop us a line. Use the form below, and insert “Know Your RV” on the subject line.