Master your cruise control for smooth traveling

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By Greg Illes
Most RVs have Cruise control capability, either on the steering wheel or one of the steering column controls. Most drivers have a basic understanding of this feature; some may have had awkward experiences with Cruise control and may have abandoned its use.

But the Cruise function is really useful and should be a part of every driver’s skill set. When you master this handy feature the miles will melt away, you will spend less time staring at your speedometer and you will have more attention for traffic and scenery (safely).

Basics — If you’re new to Cruise, thoroughly read your operator’s manual and get familiar with activating and deactivating it. Do this also if you haven’t used it in a while.

Incremental changes — Once set, Cruise allows small changes in set speed, up or down. Each RV is a little different, but typically one tap on the SET button will increase set speed by one mph, and a tap on the COAST button (or its equivalent) will decrease set speed by one mph. This is much more handy than killing and resetting Cruise to change speeds. It’s especially useful when following a vehicle that’s just a little slower, or when encountering a speed-limit change along your route (five taps, easy).

Wind and hills — Watch out for high-load conditions. In heavy head winds or steep hills, your Cruise control may cause undesirable down-shifting and consequent engine over-revving. Time to cancel and go to Manual mode.

Downhills — Many Cruise installations will not down-shift for you. Time again for Manual mode. Note that for most units, manually shifting the transmission will not cancel Cruise.

Rainy weather — Reader Ralph Shrivalle noted: “Cruise control should be turned off on wet roads. Tires can lose traction and cruise control can try to adjust speed by changing tire speed,” which could lead to a loss of road control.

Shift points — Sometimes you may find that your speed setting and load conditions are right at a transmission shift point. The tranny constantly shifts back and forth and just can’t find a stable gear. In this case, adjust your set speed one or two mph up or down, and the problem should go away.

Resuming — If your speed is considerably lower when you activate the Resume function, your Cruise may be very aggressive in regaining speed. In this case, you may want to reset your set-speed to your current speed and then use the incremental function to gradually get back to your desired speed.

Canceling — Now and then, you’ll be surprised by the Cruise and want to quickly cancel it. This is done by switching it off or by depressing the brake pedal. Note that the brakes don’t actually have to take effect; cancellation only requires that the brake pedal switch be actuated, which usually occurs at the very first 1/4 inch of pedal travel — so you don’t have to slam on the brakes to cancel Cruise. Try these cancellation modes several times until they are second nature.

Happy cruising!

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 www.divver-city.com/blog.

##RVDT1413

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Lynda Caporn
25 days ago

What a great article on Cruise Control. I love this function on my 2004 Ford F250 pulling my 30ft 5th Wheeler Van here DownUnder. I find that my CC can sometimes over-rev in certain situations. Is that some that can be engineered out of the function or just something I can adjust in my driving style? Thanks for the great info…..

dkjen
29 days ago

one thing that drives me crazy is drivers on cc that are going 2 mph faster then me, with the trailer it takes them 3 minutes to pass me (so it seems). When passing you can excellerate (push the gas pedal) while passing and let up when you have passed. I always try to get around an RV as fast as i can when i am passing one.

Don
29 days ago

Our ’08 Coach also has the cruise control tied to the exhaust braking. With cruise engaged, the exhaust brake only operates if the driver applies the brakes. With cruise off, it will engage exhaust braking any time the throttle is backed off. And when cruise is turned off, then back on, it will resume the same set speed that it previously had. Since cruise controls are on the wheel, l find it much easier to control exhaust braking by turning cruise on and off than by using the exhaust brake controls, on the side panel near the tranny.

Don Biancone
29 days ago

Greg Iles, good job, could you please also do the same type of lesson covering the tow/haul function and how/if it interacts with cruise control? Thanks in advance. I have a 2013 class C with Ford E-450, Took me quite a while how to determine what to use when traveling in hilly/mountainous terrain.

Bob p
29 days ago
Reply to  Don Biancone

In hills your cc will use a lot more fuel, I always drive with my foot in those conditions.

warmonk
29 days ago

quote: Cruise control should be turned off on wet roads. Tires can lose traction …

Partially true. My GMC and my Ford automatically turn off the cruise control if the wheels spin.

warmonk
29 days ago

quote: Many Cruise installations will not down-shift for you

My GMC and my Ford both down-shift automatically to hold the set road speed when the cruise control is engaged.

warmonk
29 days ago

quote: your Cruise control may cause undesirable down-shifting and consequent engine over-revving

No it won’t. When the computer is in control, it will not allow over-revving.

JohnM
29 days ago

I use the cruise control all time when towing my travel trailer (and before that a fifth wheel). With the Chevy diesel in tow mode the computer controls both the transmission and the diesel exhaust braking system in tandem to hold the speed. This is especially true on the long and steep downhills. I almost never have to touch the brakes.

Fred
29 days ago

The newer vehicles have adaptive cruise control. When I set my cruise control, I never have to adjust it for slower traffic around me. It automatically slows & maintains the driver’s choice of distance between the vehicle in front of me. It continues to maintain that distance until it can resume my original set speed. I can go thru a large city on their freeways without having to cancel my cruise control. Technology is amazing. Also, the older cruise controls weren’t precise when adjusting the speed up or down. The newer ones raise/lower the speed exactly 1 mph with each tap of the +/- button.

Tom
29 days ago

My Ford chassis has a tow/haul setting. I find it useful on hills and cities.