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

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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.

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jillie
7 months ago

I am a school bus driver and the motto is always this. Leave yourself an out.

Sink Jaxon
7 months ago

I’ve been towing utility trailers boats and campers my entire life, and it’s ALWAYS a pain in rear for me. Some people are just innately good at it. I’m just not! And I’ve taken a lot of razzin’ over it! LOL!

Sharon B
7 months ago

Hauling around a full size condo is not my type of pleasure….although they are absolutely beautiful.
I realize that we humans have many needs and it shows with our choice of big rigs. But before heading on out to a destination I would really do my research. There are Truck apps that have complete information on roads, bridges, hazards, etc. I would think that is most necessary when hauling a big rig condo with mucho slides on a truck.
Caution using Google Maps. I recently had big issues with that site given me crazy directions that led me way out of the direct way to my destination. So now I have been using Waze which is good. But I hear that Waze is owned by Google also. Hopefully that site won’t get hacked.

Kip
7 months ago

I’m a new RV’er. We just literally bought our first one; it’s a Class C (24.5 feet). My husband is the driver now but I want to drive it, I’m just scared about getting into a tight place and not being able to manoeuver out of it. This article gives me some confidence but if I were to be driving alone, I think I’ll still be terrified. I’d have to get out every one or two feet to check my positioning because our coach doesn’t have much overhang. But I really liked what you wrote! 🙂

mdstudey
7 months ago
Reply to  Kip

It is great that you want to drive as well. I am a women who also likes to drive and it doesn’t matter what it is. I have rode my motorcycle all over the western states, cars and I love pickups. I have gotten in some predicaments. So jump into that driver seat and have fun. If you find yourself in a situation working with your co-pilot will get you out.

tom
7 months ago

For some “traps”, you might have to disconnect our towd to do the turn around.

Donald N Wright
7 months ago

Ok, for trailers and fifth wheels, do you try to back out or disconnect from the tow vehicle, turn the T/V around, then spin the trailer around ?

Martin A
7 months ago

unless on a perfectly level hard surface this would be very unsafe even with a tongue jack wheel, perhaps a small light trailer, but ours is about 28 feet and over 1,000 lbs tongue weight. if it started to roll while trying to spin it around it could be a catastrophe.

Captn John
7 months ago

You will be backing

Tommy Molnar
7 months ago

Since we pull a travel trailer, and we boondock often, I’m always mindful of the ‘road’ we’re exploring. I only go as far as I KNOW I can back out. We’ve done some major backups over the years, but luckily, we’ve never been stuck. It’s always an adventure.