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Rough Road Ahead: Four essential tips to avoid the bumps

By Gail Marsh
There are four key things to remember when you hit rough roads. You know, those bone-jarring, washboard-like highways where you hold your breath, white-knuckle-grip the steering wheel with both hands and pray that your RV does not literally shake apart behind you. At some point, you will hit sections of rough highway. And while cursing the Department of Transportation may release pent-up anger, these four tips are probably a bit more productive. They may save your rig… or even your life!

1. Slow down

As with any other road hazard, speed will exacerbate your problem. Not only does an increase in speed magnify the jarring, but it can also make you lose control of your rig. So, decrease your speed. Pull over to let others pass you, but do not let them intimidate you into increasing your speed. Let other drivers take the chance of putting their alignment or suspension out of whack. You slow down.

2. Drive in the left lane, if possible

We’re talking about four-lane highways here, of course. You may find that the left lane offers a bit smoother ride. You’ll need to keep a keen eye on the traffic behind your rig, though. Give yourself plenty of time to signal and switch lanes (back into the right lane) if a vehicle from behind you approaches. (Note: Many states restrict driving in the left lane to passing or exiting.)

3. Consider an alternate route

Yes, I know it may take additional time to reach your destination but consider the alternative. Find a different route using a map or app on your phone. Consult your travel atlas and state road map. Or ask a “local” about alternate routes you might use. Take the time to locate a safer, smoother route. You just might save your rig – and your nerves, as well!

4. Make sure you have the necessary equipment

Consider upgrading your tires and shocks. This will help a lot on rougher roads and provide greater comfort when on better highways, too. You may not know when road conditions will deteriorate. Be prepared for emergency situations, for both long and short trips. Keep your emergency roadside insurance contact information inside your vehicle. If your RV or tow vehicle becomes disabled, slowly move off the highway (if possible) and onto the shoulder. Carefully drive until your entire RV is well off the road. You’ll need a jack, spare tire, and a lug wrench to fix any flat caused by the rough conditions. You will also want some orange warning cones, triangles, or flares to alert other travelers about your breakdown. In case of injuries caused by a blowout or other road mishap, you’ll want to have a well-stocked emergency medical kit on hand, as well.

No one likes to drive over rutted or pothole-riddled roads. The fact remains, however, that many, many of our highways need serious repair. Unless and until our roads are fixed, RVers must know what to do to protect themselves, their rigs, and others as they travel along these highways. 

##RVDT1506

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Roger Marble
8 months ago

As I covered in my Jan 10 post on what happens when you hit a pothole https://www.rvtiresafety.net/2020/01/i-never-hit-pothole.html
Going slower or avoiding the impact can reduce the potential of suffering a “Blowout” a few hundred miles down the road.

Ralph Pinney
8 months ago

When possible and safe, I keep to one side of the lane and not in the middle, preferrably the left side. I keep the left tires on or near the centerline. There tends to be smoother road on the center line and the middle of the lane.

Bill Kocken
8 months ago

I strongly disagree with the drive in the left lane advice. It is illegal in many if not most states and with the volume of traffic on most roads you will be forced to move over to the right over and over and over. Inevitably you will miss someone come zooming up from behind and you will instigate a dangerous situation.

Gray
8 months ago
Reply to  Bill Kocken

Strongly agree. Slow vehicles in the left lane inspire anger and unsafe passing on the right (blind) side, and road rage. Stay in the right-hand (slow) lane. Slow down and follow the least-traveled track in the lane, probably as close to the right-hand fog line as possible. Also beware of speeding idiots who will pass on the left and cut sharply to the right across your path in their rush to the exit lane. Some will even pass you on the right, cutting across the exit lane beside you to then cut you off while veering left, sharply back into the traffic lane.

Yes, it happens. Ask any truck driver.

Frank
8 months ago
Reply to  Gray

I agree except in most cases the stretch of road is only maybe 20 miles and you can get back in the right lane again so why not use the left for a few miles.

Gordy B
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Have you run I-80 in Iowa. Unless they fixed it this past summer, it is constant bumps from the eastern border almost to Des Moines. It was so bumpy I got a severe headache. Problem was (delivering trailers) we had to cross on average twice a month (sometimes more) for three years.

Wayne
8 months ago
Reply to  Bill Kocken

Obviously traffic and road conditions would dictate what is prudent. In the rural west I have driven in the smoother left lane for miles without encountering another car in either direction. I’m one of the “crazy drivers” who tow the speed limit so cars rarely come up quickly. I monitor the rear view so I can get over for faster cars.
Sometimes signs are posted for truckers to use the left lane because the right lane is so bad.

ScottA
8 months ago
Reply to  Bill Kocken

No… If traffic is heavy then driving slower in the left lane is dangerous, sure. But you can’t blanket just say that, other places are different.

Donald N Wright
8 months ago

Ah, the main road to Chaco cultural Center, twenty miles from highway to National Park, ten miles of it is washboard rock. The other roads in are “Jeep” roads only. When I opened my Aliner Popup, screws, bolts, everything was on the floor. Leaving was just as bad.

Bob Elder
8 months ago

I agree. Fortunately we were just in our CRV. I was told the reason they have not upgraded the road was to keep the site from being “overloved”

Steve P
8 months ago

Yes, a very bumpy washboard road. What I thought was funny was seeing a sign after you have been bumping along for miles that says “The next 4 miles are unmaintained……..” We drove most of the whole road at 10 miles an hour or less in our older Class C. The Chaco ruins were worth the drive though. It is the United States’ version of Machu Picchu.

Tommy Molnar
8 months ago

Make sure you have lug wrenches that fit all your rolling stock. I have two. One that fits my truck, and another that fits our trailer. I was unable to find a four-way that fit both.

Cahriad
8 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Also include a fluorescent vests as part of your roadside kit.

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