RV Winter Driving Reminder
DRIVING A COMMERCIAL VEHICLE-SIZED RV through a Canadian winter to reach sunnier climes can often be stressful, but adopting a professional attitude before you turn the ignition key will make a significant difference between being an average driver and being a good driver. Being a better driver, in turn, is bound to make a positive difference to the trip for you and your passengers should bad weather hit.
The vehicle has been serviced, possessions are packed, and the route double-checked, but are you ready to operate an RV in adverse conditions? RV drivers can often choose when to travel, but professional drivers don’t have that luxury and so they should be prepared to operate in all situations, plus they have a responsibility to do it safely, as should you.
Thoroughly circle your RV and check for issues. It doesn’t matter that it just came out of the shop, lights can blow, and oil leaks can occur on even the most rigorously maintained vehicle at any time, so get in the habit of doing a daily under-hood check and walkaround. It’s a legal requirement for the professional driver, but for the RV driver, it helps to protect your investment.
Tires are often forgotten, and it’s not so much the tread depth we’re concerned about, but more the tire type and operating pressure. Pressures change with ambient air temperatures -roughly 1psi for every 10°F, so it’s important to check them several times during the trip, as under and over-inflated tires can seriously affect the vehicle’s braking and handling capabilities. Also, remember that even though snow tires are available, most RV’s are fitted with highway (summer) tires that don’t have a winter tread pattern or compound, which makes them unsuitable for driving on snow and ice.
Most commercial trucks don’t have snow tires either, but they do have a weight advantage. Being heavier enables the vehicle to bite down through the snow to find traction. This is great to get going, but unfortunately, it’s a significant disadvantage when it comes to cornering or stopping when inertia usually overpowers the capability of the summer rubber. Your saving grace here is to employ defensive driving techniques; truckers that are piloting an 80,000-pound rig can’t stop on a dime in the best of conditions and need to drive defensively to remain in complete control of the vehicle. Using your wealth of driving experience, you know that the green light ahead will soon be changing to red, and you can also ‘read’ the actions of other motorists around you, enabling you to adjust your driving accordingly and in plenty of time. Smooth and steady steering, acceleration, and braking are essential to keep a large vehicle under control in adverse conditions.
Good all-around observation is also essential, and the mirrors should be kept clean and set correctly to achieve this. A small spray bottle of windshield washer fluid and a squeegee will keep the muck off, and you should make mirror adjustments so that you can see what’s going on behind and alongside you. If there’s more than a small strip of sky along the top of the mirror or more than a tiny column of vehicle visible on the inside edge, then the mirrors aren’t set quite right. You’ll never eliminate the vehicle’s blind-spots, but correct mirror adjustment will go a long way to reducing them.
Nothing is ever guaranteed, but careful preparation, a patient, professional attitude, combined with smooth and steady driving should ensure your RV trip through another Canadian winter is an uneventful one, and that your knuckles aren’t as white as the snow you’ve just driven through when you reach your destination.