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Old 02-02-2014, 08:16 AM   #1
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Pickup and first time drive Class A DP

or for that matter any RV

So I am getting ready to purchase the new RV. Maybe from a local dealer, but probably from somewhere that will require driving 400 or more miles back to a home base.

How do you learn to actually drive at least to get it home. Yes, a dealer may take you out to an open parking lot for a hour or so, but some of the dealers like RV Direct and MHSRV are more likely to hand you the keys after a short into and you are on the way.

Yes, there are courses, but you have to get the motor home there to take them, kind of "like the chicken and the egg".

Any insight would be appreciated, like how to align it on the road or use the air brakes correctly so the DP doesn't end up as a front engine model to first time I stop.

Really would like to actually get some behind the wheel lessons in a vehicle similar to the one I'm buying i.e. DP, 40 feet and so forth.

I live in Central New Jersey if that helps. The wife and I would certainly pay for lessons, but even the lessons I see advertised where they will send someone to you require that you have the RV.

This is the one of the last obstacles (besides how to pay for it) that I need to feel comfortable about so any input from the forum will be appreciated.

Regards,

Jim
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Old 02-02-2014, 08:45 AM   #2
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Swing wide and practice.
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Old 02-02-2014, 08:46 AM   #3
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One of the biggest things to get used to is that your are setting in FRONT of the steer axle when driving. With a car you're used to steering the front of the car around a corner. With the MH you are the front of the vehicle, drive deeper into an intersection then you would with the car, you'll first feel like your almost into the other lane because of where you set.
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Old 02-02-2014, 08:49 AM   #4
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Hi Jim. I had never driven one before either and I had to not only drive 800 miles back home, I was pulling a dolly with my civic on it. Here is a couple things to keep in mind. Do your best to adjust your mirrors to fill in blind spots. Remember tail wag. That big rear overhang needs room to swing on a tight turn. In a right or left turn at a normal side street intersection you might have to run 3/4 of the way into it before you begin your turn. And once you commit, you own that intersection for as long as you need. If someone pulls up and prevents you from continuing with the turn? Stop and wait. I just stare at them with a big vacant grin on my face. Works every time. If you are getting air brakes, I would take a few minutes to get a feel for them. They are different, but they are still just brakes. Keeping the beast in your lane is challenging at first. I was taught by a trucker friend to keep my right foot centered in the lane. It works. Others will be along with many more miles under their belt than me and with more advice. Good luck!
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:03 AM   #5
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These videos are helpful to start. (There are more links toward the bottom of the page to other videos). The best piece of advice is to never be in a rush, and to take your time.

RV Driver Confidence Course 1: Adjusting Your RV Mirrors - betterRVing! Experience better RVing.
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by campbell36 View Post
or for that matter any RV So I am getting ready to purchase the new RV. Maybe from a local dealer, but probably from somewhere that will require driving 400 or more miles back to a home base. How do you learn to actually drive at least to get it home. Yes, a dealer may take you out to an open parking lot for a hour or so, but some of the dealers like RV Direct and MHSRV are more likely to hand you the keys after a short into and you are on the way. Yes, there are courses, but you have to get the motor home there to take them, kind of "like the chicken and the egg". Any insight would be appreciated, like how to align it on the road or use the air brakes correctly so the DP doesn't end up as a front engine model to first time I stop. Really would like to actually get some behind the wheel lessons in a vehicle similar to the one I'm buying i.e. DP, 40 feet and so forth. I live in Central New Jersey if that helps. The wife and I would certainly pay for lessons, but even the lessons I see advertised where they will send someone to you require that you have the RV. This is the one of the last obstacles (besides how to pay for it) that I need to feel comfortable about so any input from the forum will be appreciated. Regards, Jim
I suggest as a first step, study these on line RV driving lessons by Lazy Days in Tampa:

http://betterrving.com/rv-driver-con...course-part-1/

Since you have a local dealer you may buy from, find a coach in their inventory of the size and type of your interest and ask for a test drive. You will discover your comfort level quickly.

If you are up for a trip. Go down to Lazy Days to look around and sign up for their confidence course. It's very basic but you will drive a class A around their campground. It's also a great place to see lots of coaches in one place. That's kind of RV central as there are a couple of other mega dealers close and 2-3 others 120 miles south in Fort Myers.

There are a number of RV driver schools around that typically have 2 day courses but as you point out, you need a coach.
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:22 AM   #7
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I flew 2,300 miles to pick up a never-seen-by-me Dutch Star. I also had never driven a motor home. I arrived at around 9:00 pm, spent about an hour checking it out, threw my suitcase aboard and off I went. Spent the first night at a Walmart buying bedding, misc. household items and groceries for the trip home.

Slow and easy was the key for me. It does take some getting used to looking out that huge windshield and using side view mirrors rather than a rear view. I kept my rear camera on the whole trip just for comfort sake.

Had a great 10 day road trip home including touring the Black Hills. I made reservations for pull-through sites not knowing how I would do backing up the thing. Turned out to be a piece of cake and arrived home with no issues for me or the coach. 2 weeks later driving in to a friends shop I scraped his dumpster with a basement door. I got overconfident and didn't pay sufficient attention. The big thing for me was

Most important thing I've learned in almost 10,000 miles now is you have to focus and pay constant attention to your surroundings. That focus is actually heightened when you're driving for the first time. It's after you feel "I've got it" that the trouble starts.

Maybe not recommended for everyone but I had a great adventure and now feel I can drive almost anywhere safely. We're currently on the west coast of Mexico near Puerto Vallarta in a beautiful park on the beach with sun, surf and high 80's. Water temp is 82
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:30 AM   #8
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If purchasing from a dealer ask the service manager if one of tech would teach you to drive after hours. Pay them what they want, probably time and 1/2 their hourly wage not shop wage.
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:34 AM   #9
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All the above good advice. Hopefully I can contribute a bit. Find where your various controls are. On my MH I have a huge bank of controls on the left side. One of which right in the middle is the power shade for the drivers side of the front window. When the sun is shining in your eyes it is hard to look down at that panel and find that button to lower the shade. Same with engine brake, and other controls. If your wife is going to be with you then have her operate everything she would want to operate while you were driving. The steps to the inside have a cover that in plcan be slid in place when you are driving. The cover on my unit is moved by an air cylinder. the first time my wife closed that when we were driving it made a big clunk. I like to have jumped out of my seat trying to figure what I had run over. The advice about how far to start your turn that was given to you is great. Do not forget though how sharp a bus can turn. You can cut so sharp you can run into something beside you that you would never have thought you were in any danger of hitting. I live down a narrow dirt lane. It is literally about 4 feet wider than my bus in spots. I have a 38 foot bus and in order to get it turned into the lane. I pull into the oncoming traffic lane just before my road. I pull the bus up until the front cap is just slightly past the road. I then turn as sharp as I can and it lines me up perfectly with the lane. I could not begin to make that sharp a turn with my car.

Air brakes are just different yes they have a lot of stopping power. In my case they are stopping a 38000 pound vehicle. Depending on the year of your new MH it probably has anti lock brakes. meaning that you wont make it a front engine bus no matter how hard you slam them on. I can guarantee that no matter how much safe distance you keep from the vehicle in front of you someone will pull in their so that you are only a couple of feet from their bumper. If I am not in heavy traffic I slow down more and give them room. If I am in heavy traffic I know that if I slow down someone else will do that again. I just stay at the same speed If I can. If they slam on their brakes and I cant stop in time maybe they should have thought about that when they cut in front of a 20 ton vehicle.
Before you start go through and check everything to make sure it is not going to come open or become a missile hazard. Make sure any passageway doors are shut if sliding doors make sure the locks to keep them from moving. Make sure the shower door is locked in place and the shower wand if you have one that is removable is firmly placed in the holder. Make sure kitchen drawers and cabinet doors are firmly closed. Mine close but I still went to Walmart and got some of the elastic bands women use to hold their hair. I can put them over the cabinet doors easily and they will stop them from coming open. Having doors banging around behind you is very distracting.

My last piece of advice is to get a pair of walkie talkies. When I first started with a 5th wheel a fried of mine that had been in the rv scene for quite a while recommended buying walkie talkies so my wife could help me with backing up and I would be able to hear her better. He said my marriage would stay happier by doing that. I followed his advice and now after a lot of parking episodes I agree with him.
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:41 AM   #10
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Both Steve and go6car mentioned the betterrving.com site, excellent advice. Steve also mentioned the Lazy Days course, again excellent advice. Both DW and myself took that course and promptly took off on a four month adventure covering probably 5K miles. Since they use there own coach for the driving part you do not need one. Other dealers closer to your home may offer something similar.
BTW, the use of "dots" that they Teach in the course and web works every time and highly recommend you and your partner learn it.
Some use Walkie talkies or phones to communicate. We do not use any voice commands at all. Everything is done by arm signals only. Actually quite similar to what is used on aircraft carriers. I think there is much less chance of misinterpreting something.
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:50 AM   #11
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To add so some comments...

GOAL...Get Out And Look before you back up. Don't let too many "helpers" interfere with your command of the vehicle. Get out and look at the situation and tell any helpers of your plan.
They can suggest options which you should listen to but in the end...it is your vehicle.

SCAN WAY AHEAD! In your small car you can ride other bumpers (not saying you should) and get it stopped fairly quickly. You need to adjust your scan to look WAY ahead no matter how open the road is. I'm looking at least 1/2 mile ahead on state highways for entering traffic and as many blocks as possible in urban traffic. You are also having to look BEHIND you a longer way to plan lane changes. You won't be able to "step on it" to get acceleration like your car to fit into a gap. If you need to change lanes then when you find a gap, take it even if you don't think you need it exactly then. You may not get another gap and find your self hitting the brakes, slowing down and then trying to regain momentum.

Best of luck!
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Old 02-02-2014, 10:12 AM   #12
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I found a video on youtube about driving the rv. Covers all the info you need. Sorry, but I don't have a link. Just go to youtube.com and do a search for rv driving.
Good luck in your endeavor.
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Old 02-02-2014, 10:24 AM   #13
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It won't be the same as an RV with air brakes, but renting and driving one of those big box rental trucks will help acclimate you to driving a larger vehicle. Maybe $40-50 a day plus mileage. Good luck!
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Old 02-02-2014, 01:34 PM   #14
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Everyone, this is some great info. I probably should get a go pro and video the trip as I am sure it is going to be exciting.

The funny thing is on our first trip to a dealer to begin this search they were slammed with customers. Had my sports car and almost hit a couple of RV's just trying to move around their parking lot to find a space. Showroom had large glass windows and I could see the sales people drawing straws to determine who would wait on me. ;-) Funny, just from watching me park the car, when the salesman came over he said "looking for your first RV"

Wife and I just got back from the Tampa Super Show, what started as a search for something around 35' and gas, we are now looking at the 40+ DP's. Even getting to the show was exciting, was driving along MLK, wife goes there the entrance, turn quick. Damn, missed it, back up... well there are some habits to break quick.


Again, thanks everyone.

Jim
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