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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.

It 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.

dead endA 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 excellent blog at www.divver-city.com/blog.

Related:

RV Driving Skills: Know your pivot point and tail-swing

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T Edwards
1 year ago

Twice my Garmin RV took me the wrong way. Hauling a 40 ft. 5th wheel, I find the first business that can safely back into. Flashers on and my wife directing traffic. A good rear camera is a must.

Richard
1 year ago

Wow. Picky people. I’m sure these articles have a size limit, and endeavor to entertain to some degree. Thus they cannot cover EVERY scenario. Perhaps, as I once heard a professor say, “We are not here to give you all the answers, but to teach you how to learn/think/find them for yourselves.” Wish this concept still applied to our educational system.

david leach
1 year ago

The longest we traveled to turn around was 32 miles. It was a muddy construction motor pool. The best part was unhooking the towed van in the mud.

TIM MCRAE
1 year ago

The last couple of comments are very true but the article wasn’t named ‘magical U Turns in impossible places’.

Sometimes you HAVE to go miles out of the way, back all the way back to your mistake turn, or clear area or call a wrecker.

I am reluctant to say this but somebody asked…:

For trailers the answer might be, unhook, use brute force to spin it around on the spot, re-hook.

Yep. Horribly dangerous and NOT recommended!

I have done it with construction trailers and farm trailers and hay wagons.

Only do on a level flat surface. Lock the trailer brakes to prevent rolling. Reverse jackknife the trailer so it is almost perpendicular to the road. Then use a tow strap to pull the trailer around from the side of the hitch.

Go real slow! You are stressing things at unusual angles. Don’t get bent!

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

I think “brute force” and a tow strap to pull the trailer sounds to me like a recipe for disaster and major damage. At the very least you would have to have a wheel on your TT nose. No way with a fiver. The few times I’ve found myself in a dead end situation where there was NO way to turn around, I just resigned myself to backing up (we have a TT). While it can take some time to do this, no damage results. Motorhomes are even easier to back up, though you’ll have to disconnect your toad if it’s wheels down.

Nanci
1 year ago

Great suggestion! Hoping never have to use it! Have had to disconnect car and turnaround in more than a few places more than we wished though.

Bob p
1 year ago

I think you’re wrong, the pic at the beginning of the article shows a narrow wet one lane road. If you’re driving a 30’ class C you’re going to have at least a 145-160” wheelbase unit that will not fit across that narrow road in a back and fill turnaround. Driving a class A the wheelbase is even longer. This would work possibly on a two lane road but your pic shows a 1 lane road that may be 108” wide. Meaning your front wheels and back wheel will be off the pavement stuck in the mud. Have a good day after that.

Stephen Comstock
1 year ago

Motorhome fine, but this topic might have more appropriately addressed those who are towing their RVs.