Your rig is packed and fueled up. You’ve found your sunglasses and are wearing your comfy “long-haul clothes.” Your opened water bottle sits patiently in the cup holder and snacks are within easy reach. In short, you are ready to go! But wait just a minute! You’re not fully ready to head out on the road until you perform the following tasks. You must follow these things to do before every RV trip. They are important. Every time. For your safety, the safety of your passengers, and anyone who may travel along your same route—do not skip these simple, but vital actions.
These are the things to do before every RV trip
Set the seat
Settle down into the driver’s seat. Check to see that the seat position is comfortable for you and that you can easily reach the foot pedals as well as the gear shift, etc. Because Hubby and I trade off driving our fifth-wheel RV, we each have our own preferred seat positions. Even if you are the only driver for your RV, it’s a good idea to check the seat position. On any given day, a small adjustment to the seat may make for a more comfortable drive, especially when traveling a long distance.
Check the steering wheel
Position the steering wheel at a comfortable distance from you. The steering wheel should not obstruct your view out the windshield. Be sure that you are able to see all of the gauges on the dashboard, as well.
There are two types of mirrors, convex and flat.
- Convex mirror: This curved mirror can show up to three lanes of traffic when adjusted properly. From the driver’s side convex mirror, you should be able to clearly see the side of your RV and a small part of its traffic lane, as well as the adjacent two lanes of traffic. The same goes for the rider’s side mirror. When adjusted like this, mirrors will reduce your blind spots and enhance your safety. (Keep in mind that this mirror will not reflect distances accurately. For distance, you will rely on the flat mirrors.)
- Flat mirror: The flat mirror is used to see distances behind you. These mirrors are also used to see vehicles on either side of your rig. Adjust the flat mirrors so that you can see just a fraction of the side of your RV. That way, most of your view will concentrate on traffic around you. Also, adjust the mirrors so that the rear horizon line appears approximately 3/4 of the way up from the bottom of the mirror. That way, you’ll be able to see more highway and less sky.
- Getting it right: When both the convex and flat mirrors are properly adjusted, you’ll see a rear-approaching, distant car in your flat mirror first. The flat mirror should keep that vehicle in view until it appears in the convex mirror.
Before every RV trip you must check your lights. This is most easily done with a partner. Usually, I go outside while Hubby turns on the truck and RV lights. I watch from the back of our rig as he signals right and left, applies brakes, and activates the emergency signal lights. We also check the truck’s exterior lights to make sure that others who travel alongside, in front of, and in back of us can know our intentions based on our lights.
Have dimensions and insurance info handy
Another thing to do before every RV trip is before you leave home, be sure to post all of your RV’s pertinent dimensions and weight in a prominent place on your dashboard.
Be sure your insurance card and contact information are easily accessible inside your truck and RV, as well as carry an insurance card in your wallet or purse. In the event of an accident, you want to have an insurance card handy. If you carry separate roadside assistance insurance, be sure to also carry that information with you.
Make a last-minute check of the weather and road conditions (potential closures and detours) along the route you plan to travel. Make necessary adjustments as needed.
Make sure that both the driver and any adult passengers understand the proposed route. Non-drivers may help by watching and alerting the driver of upcoming turns or interchanges, if the driver welcomes the help.
If you have previously made reservations at a campground, it’s a good idea to call ahead to confirm your arrival time—or approximate time. If you are going to be late getting to your reserved campground spot, be sure to alert the campground ahead of time. If the situation demands that you cancel your reservations, do so as soon as you can.
Now you can fire up the truck! But don’t put it in “drive” until you’ve removed the wheel chocks! Then, hit the road. Stay safe and enjoy your trip!
I agree, especially the dimensions of your rv. Height in particular. I’m surprised by the fact that a lot of folks don’t know the actual height of their rig. And asking others instead of actually measuring it with a ruler is not a good idea. Every rv out there is different in some respect. My rv is a different height than what is in the spec sheet. Also something to remember is to look up on occasion especially when there are tree branches about. They can be anywhere.
These are all excellent recommendations. My wife and I each do a departure walk around after all checks are completed. Also I plan an early stop in a safe pullout to do one more walk around after everything is warmed up, just because. Also after a break in a rest area, another walk around to be sure no one has monkeyed with anything. Once had a nail in a tire of the tow’d about 20 miles down the road from a truckstop where there had been an unpleasant interaction with some truckers. They took exception to a sticker on my tow’d.
Don’t forget to check tire pressure!!
Check all the lights before moving! We are full time RVers and are amazed at the number of RVers that NEVER check their lights before leaving! Hope this article finds them and makes a lasting impression to check the lights EVERY time before leaving the driveway or campground.
Do your “Magic Number” walk around. Know how many things can be left unlocked, unsecured or open. Trailer hitch with locking pin, chains, storage doors, city water inlet, black/grey hose, stabilisers, windows, propane, etc. Count them. Know that number. Mine is 15. (Hitch is #1 and #15)
Walk around the vehicle/trailer. Touch every one, counting as you go. Hit your magic number: Let’s Go!
Something the article didn’t mention or the commenters is securing your house. We turn the heat way down or the air conditioner way up. We turn off the water. We also put various lights on timers. Cancel mail and newspapers. I also plug Garmin into computer to download all updates. In truck, turn on TPMS. More importantly, line up someone to cut your grass! We learned this after coming home to almost knee-high grass.
We came home to 3′ of snow, with a 150′ driveway. Slow trudge to the door.
never have heard the term ‘flat mirror’. i’ve always referred to it/them as ‘side-view mirrors’.
Often the drivers side mirror is flat but the passenger side mirror is curved (remember the “objects may be closer than they appear” on the mirror?). Gives you an expanded view on the passenger side.
Yes the passenger side mirror on almost all vehicles is slightly convex. The towing mirrors on my truck have a smaller convex mirror and an absolutely flat larger mirror and I hate it.
I have flat mirrors on both sides but wide convex below, similar to tow mirrors on a truck.
Dimensions and weights, what states are these required?
I think knowing the height of your RV is important. My wife and I watch Youtube videos of people trying to drive tall RVs under low bridges when we need a good laugh.
I totally agree. I just posted about this. It amazes me that some don’t know the actual height of their rig
Only needed if you drive on roads with low overpasses or weight limits. Also road near us has a temporary restriction to 10.5 feet. If you are 104″ wide you need to know that, it will feel very narrow.
Thanks for the tips. While I’ve been an RV’r for a long, long time I usually learn something or re-learn something from this newsletter. Thanks.
Most of us have already done that stuff with our mental or physical checklists.
Just another annual what needs to be done before your trip article.
This “just another annual” article may not be necessarily educational for you, Gary, there are plenty of folks who are new to RVing who will benefit from the article.
All good advice, Bob P is over the top. I do however agree with him on the mirrors,. I learned in a defensive driving course to adjust mine so that I need to tilt my head to see the side of the motorhome.
I would add one thing to the list for vehicles with air brakes. Learn how to test the low pressure alarm and lockout system. If You don’t know it do a simple google search.
Joe I 2nd that on the mirror position.
All very good ideas. A lot can be done a day or so before the trip. fluid checks, tire
pressure , lug nuts, lights and securing all outside compartments and doors and cabinets inside. That saves time trying to do it all on the day of the trip, and forgetting something.
We carry a folder with all important paper work.
We like to keep our checklist in Google Keep. You can add your significant other as a collaborator and keep a list that either of you can check off items as they are done or added to the RV/camper. The checked items are saved and can be easily unchecked when you are ready for the next trip. Keep is also a very handy way to manage grocery lists too by using this process.
We will also research points of interest and things that we might want to do at a destination and put those in another keep list. Then check them off as we do them, any remaining unchecked POIs get saved for the next visit. Something you really enjoyed? Uncheck it so you can do it again next time.
We use the Keep app as well. Very handy!
I added a few more items to your list. Don’t forget tickets to attractions, fuel card and discount card if applicable, secure items on counters, clean the windshield and mirrors, have sunglasses near by the driver, program the GPS for all stops, double check that your wallet is on board, Cell phone is on board and charged(ing) and accessible if not programed to the radio or GPS. Triple check the towed vehicle that it is connected properly, the last check should be about 1/4 mile from home or start point. Check the tire pressure, oil level transmission fluid and a visual of the engine compartment. I always test my horn, as a signal of departure that it is working properly. I always lock my door for security. I never leave without a 1/4 tank of fresh water, you never know if you get stranded or the radiator needs a little water.
As a typical journalist you have activated your typing fingers before engaging your brain. Your order of checking things requires you to get in and out of your vehicle several times, had you organized your thought prior to typing you would do all you checks in a chronological order and been ready to start your trip without getting in and out of your truck. Also I would differ with you on the proper adjustments of your mirrors, since you should know what the side of your unit looks like why do you need to be able to slightly see the side in the mirror? I adjust my mirrors so I can see the side of the vehicle with a slight tilt of my head for reference only. This gives a larger view of what’s in the lane beside you, talk to a trucker for your research.
“Typical” journalist? Pretty nasty, and unnecessary, response. All her tips are valid, & can be completed in whatever order we decide. I read RV Travel as a helpful guide to RVing. It offers “tips.” I think you take it (& yourself) way too seriously.
I agree. He went for the most inflammatory and insulting way to make his comments.
He might have suggested the order that would make things more efficient but rather than do that adds nothing of value. I see this site as a community of people helping one another. When I have made helpful comments to my surprise they have actually published them.
Bob P why don’t you join the community by providing helpful insights rather than taking this mr know it all superior attitude? OR you can continue to be a troll but please, do it somewhere else.
No kidding. The self-styled “expert” in all things has spoken.
Another snarky comment, Bob. Surely, with all your experience with RVing, you could add something helpful without insulting anyone. Just because you do something differently than the writer, doesn’t mean that she’s wrong, just a different opinion. You are the one that activated your fingers without engaging your brain. How about some tolerance of your fellow human being?
At least Gail is trying to help others in the community by offering Helpful advice, not demeaning criticism. Her advice on mirrors is what I remember from driver training from the ’70s. I have found that many times(not always) that when people have their mirrors adjusted as you suggest, it’s because they are lazy about turning their head to check the lane beside them before changing lanes.
I agree with the other comments that your “typical journalist” remark was unnecessary but then again you must be one of those typical know-it-all experts on every topic, skill, and career.
Great article! For the weather check, I really like an app called Highway Weather. You can plug in your start and end points and find the weather between them, and even get a recommended time to leave. Adding to your list, before each drive and when we stop for gas, like a pilot, the driver does a walk around the whole rig for a visual inspection. I want to be sure all of the hatches are closed, the awning is stowed correctly, there’s not a piece of trim loose somewhere, etc…
I will have to check that app out. Does it give you wind forecasts? I would really like something that gives that info.
Check out the windy app.
Yes it does.
Check the tire pressure including all spare tires, the oil level the power steering fluid level the transmission fluid level the brake fluid level
Yes, all good add-ons! Best to have a tire pressure monitoring system too!
Also, be sure to check the torque on all lug nuts before every trip.
Maybe staying in motels wasn’t so bad after all…