Make a safe U-turn when the road goes the wrong way


By Greg Illes

Things that you never even thought about when you were traveling in a car become major events when you’re managing a seven-ton rig that’s thirty feet long — like turning around.

dead endIt seems no matter how carefully we plan and navigate, sooner or later we have to reverse a previous decision — and our direction. In many locales, this is not a big deal. Just go around the block or find a big parking lot.

But sometimes those opportunities just don’t exist. A long, lonely country road or some of those winding mountain passes offer miles and miles of unbranched narrow roadway on which it seems impossible to get the rig flipped around. Going forward might be undesirable or impossible, and backing up for miles is hugely obnoxious — and dangerous.

A technique that can work — with great care and a watchful eye — is to find a section of roadway where one side drops noticeably lower than the road itself. This often happens on the outside of turns along a slope or anywhere else that the terrain is uneven.

When you find that spot in the road, it becomes possible to let the rear end of the motorhome project out beyond the road edge while you make your turnaround. A road that’s only a few feet wider than your wheelbase will allow you to “saw” the rig back and forth and get it going in the opposite direction. I have done this on very narrow roads, and it has taken me maybe ten or fifteen back-and-forth motions to make it. But that beats going twenty or thirty miles to the next wide spot, or backing up for miles.

There are some real hazards to this approach, and it is not something that should be attempted casually. Here are some caveats:

  • If in doubt, don’t. It’s not worth busting your RV.
  • Not advisable on a busy roadway. (Busy roads will have other opportunities.)
  • Don’t rush — take your time and be calm, even if traffic is waiting.
  • Know your rig’s wheelbase, clearance and turning capabilities very well.
  • Have someone outside spotting your tire positions for you.
  • Never take a chance on running off the road edge.

Needless to say, it’s not for the newbie or faint-of-heart. But it works — safely if you’re careful — and can get you going again with only a few minutes of grunting and sweating.

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at