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Old 08-21-2016, 01:56 PM   #1
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Winter Driving Advice

I realize it's August, but we live in Montana, and the snow flies early, mid October in most years.

I searched, but most threads are more about Winter living than Winter driving.

We will be using our motorhome during the Winter, not to live in, but to head South on multiple trips.

We have a heated and insulated basement area where the tanks are, so they should be protected.

We have a small toad, Jeep Wrangler.

I'm looking for advice on what I should prepare for with Winter driving in this motorhome. Having lived in Montana for 13 years and having headed South most of those years, we are accustomed to Winter driving, changing conditions, etc., but this is our first coach, so I'm trying to be prepared.

Any advice for preparing? Should we purchase snow chains for the motorhome? We have a tag axle, dual rear wheels, and the front of course. I assume the front wheels and outer rear would be sufficient for chains?

Other tips and tricks?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 08-21-2016, 02:28 PM   #2
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Driving in the winter is about the same as driving your car. For the most part the roads will be bare and dry so you can travel pretty much as normal.

I worry about the times the roads are snow or ice covered. We have ribbed tires and my experience with them is not stellar. You can travel but many times the tires are on the edge of traction. With diesel torque it would be quite easy to break the tires loose if too much power is applied at the wrong time. Some of the hills you may have to carry some speed. An example is I15 north of Butte. Driving that with 3 or 4 inches of snow is/could be an issue. I have no intention of changing to lug tires.

I really like to avoid the snow and ice because of salt. Nothing good comes of driving in salt. NOTHING.

We are fortunate we snowbird (head south early in the fall and return in the spring) and can miss most of the bad conditions. Currently we pull over and park until the road conditions improve. We use the coach at home for summer camping.

If you travel farther south I suggest you arrange for storage south of the snow belt. Perhaps Las Vegas or St George (anything south of Cedar City). Both would be good jumping off spots. And your fuel savings would be about what storage would cost. Plus no winterizing.
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Old 08-21-2016, 02:33 PM   #3
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Don't now about chains but in your case you might have to have then on certain roads just to be able access.

If you've driven in the snow with a car/truck you already have probably seen how the conditions change and drive accordingly. Slower speeds as the conditions degrade. Use the same judgement with a motorhome except understand that starting is slower and stopping is faster (if that makes sense). It would take a long distance to stop a loaded coach on an icy road. Be prepared to stop overnight in bad weather, don't take chances.

I would also suggest that you invest in a remote temp sensor for your basements. Although the furnace will push heated air into the basement it may not be enough keep them above freezing. Set up a back up heat source such as a ceramic heater.

I accepted a new position in the UP of Michigan in Feb of 2011 and drove up there in the coach in late March. Still snow everywhere and some areas the roads were slick. I took my time. Stopped in Central Wisconsin overnight, they had a severe snowstorm the week before and it was hairy. I boondocked at a Walmart and it had 10' snow piles around the perimeter. It was like an icebox. Ran the generator all night and small cube heaters in the coach and had one in the basement running. Had a remoter temp monitor for the basement. Spent the next months, April/May camped with only a 2 20 amp exension cords, ran cube heaters in coach and basement. Sometimes down in the single digits at night. I survived, barely. Snowed 24" in April and snow didn't leave until mid May.
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Old 08-21-2016, 03:16 PM   #4
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Good advice, thank you!

I might invest in some chains, just in case. I used to carry 8 of them when we had a TT, 4 on the Denali, 4 on the trailer. We never had to use them, despite many trips to Orlando from Montana in January.

Like the idea of the remote temp monitors, that'll help, and I already have a small electric heater for those compartments. I'm also planning to further insulate and isolate those compartments just in case.
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Old 08-21-2016, 04:07 PM   #5
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If you are planning on going through states with mountain passes, you should brush up on the chain laws. Each state varies slightly but one thing to keep in mind, if you are over 26,000 lbs GVWR, you typically have to follow the chain requirements that pertain to the commercial vehicles, ...semis, etc.

With that said, most RVers that I know, including ourselves, will not transverse the passes if the chain required signs are up. It's just not worth the hassle to put chains on a motorhome and toad unless you under time constraints that just have to be met. Since we have a home on wheels, most of us just pull over and wait it out. Usually, chains required conditions only last a few hours on most interstates and well-maintained state highways but can be up to a day if conditions warrant.

Other cautions about chains are 1) some motorhomes don't have the wheel well clearance to run chains, 2) using chains on a motorhome always presents the chance of doing damage should a link break off and start pounding on fiberglass parts in and around the wheel wells, 3) should chains come lose and get wrapped around the axle or between the duals, it sometimes can be a hassle getting them lose and off --usually you'll have to cut them off if you carry the tools to do so.

Furthermore, it's just one big hassle to get out in freezing weather when it's snowing and installing chains. I drove commercial buses for awhile years ago and I know first-hand what a miserable experience it is to install chains on a bus on the side of the road when it's wet, cold, snowy, slushy, muddy, etc. ...not a pleasant experience. Again, you have a home on wheels so why not just pull over and have a snack, watch a movie, listen to music, play cards, etc., etc. until they get the road cleared?

Also, some states will require vehicles 26,000 lbs. GVWR to carry chains whether you need them or not. Most of us who do travel in mountainous states in the winter will carry them but never intend to use them. Therefore, most just go out and buy the cheapest pair of cables or steel links --whichever is cheaper-- in the correct size and just keep them onboard in case an LEO ever asks to see them. The chance of having to prove you have chains on board is pretty slim so you can take the chance and not buy a pair as i don't think the fine is too great for not having them on board. The only time you may get checked is if you spin out or are in an accident on a snow covered road when the "chains required" is not to the point of being posted. In the case of an accident that's not even your fault as when another vehicle skids into you on an ice covered road, a state trooper may (probably won't but "may") ask to see your chains which you are required to carry.


eta: I didn't notice when I was writing this post that you don't have a diesel pusher so I suspect that you are below 26,000lbs. GVWR. However, there still are chain rules in many states that pertain to vehicles that are between 10,000 and 26,000 lbs. GVWR that are more restrictive than for normal passenger vehicles.
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Old 08-21-2016, 04:20 PM   #6
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The single best bit of advice is to be flexible. As long as you can wait out bad road conditions you can deal with the rest. One of the best things about winter weather is the snow stops and the road clears up usually in a day or two and usually predictably.
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Old 08-21-2016, 04:36 PM   #7
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Thanks all!

We are at 25,000 GVWR, so we won't fall into that category.

I think I'll pick up chains to put in, just in case. Planning works well, but sometimes, schedule will dictate we might need to go over a pass when snow is present (not crazy stuff, I'm not dumb), so having them is a good thing.

The only time we've had issues is if we have a pretty long trip and it's clear at home, clear on the forecast, then things change a lot. We try to vary our trip to avoid passes (in general, especially in Winter), but sometimes it's avoidable.

I don't mind hold up in a rest area though, or Walmart parking lot. ;->
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Old 08-21-2016, 04:50 PM   #8
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On my coach there was essentially no insulation in the front and back between the main chassis rail. The air flow would go through the compartments. I bought some cans of expanding foam and did the best I could to seal the areas.

I do have a 12 volt cube ceramic heater in my wet bay but wanted to provide heat to the rest of the basement compartments and another layer of security if the 12 volt heater went out. I have a propane furnace that would provide heat to the basement but if I relied on it full time in cold weather I'd have to fill the tank probably weekly. Running the generator and using small cube heater worked, not the best option but probably the best to keep things above freezing (barely).

When I was plugged in to 120 volt it would get cold, sometimes in the AM it would be down to 30F in the bedroom, warmer in the front where I had the heaters running. If it was really cold when I got back to the coach from work I'd kick on the furnace to warm it up in the coach.

FYI, I agreed to pay the campground an extra $100 per month to run the cube heaters. I didn't want to take advantage of them.
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Old 08-21-2016, 04:55 PM   #9
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On my coach there was essentially no insulation in the front and back between the main chassis rail. The air flow would go through the compartments. I bought some cans of expanding foam and did the best I could to seal the areas.

I do have a 12 volt cube ceramic heater in my wet bay but wanted to provide heat to the rest of the basement compartments and another layer of security if the 12 volt heater went out. I have a propane furnace that would provide heat to the basement but if I relied on it full time in cold weather I'd have to fill the tank probably weekly. Running the generator and using small cube heater worked, not the best option but probably the best to keep things above freezing (barely).

When I was plugged in to 120 volt it would get cold, sometimes in the AM it would be down to 30F in the bedroom, warmer in the front where I had the heaters running. If it was really cold when I got back to the coach from work I'd kick on the furnace to warm it up in the coach.

FYI, I agreed to pay the campground an extra $100 per month to run the cube heaters. I didn't want to take advantage of them.
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Old 08-21-2016, 06:08 PM   #10
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You mention that you are used to winter driving . That's a big plus .
Our coach plan in our winter area when leaving the house was simple . Leave the coach winterized and head south .Toilet flushing can be done with gallon jugs of water and drinking water (coffee) can be bottled . when we were at an location that was not too cold
we would de-wintewrize at a RV park . Spend a day or 2 there and catch our breath
and comtinue south.
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Old 08-21-2016, 06:42 PM   #11
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We drive from Ontario to Florida after Christmas. I completely winterize the coach in early November before the first freeze. Even though you have a heated basement, it is unlikely that your plumbing will be adequately protected by whatever heats the basement - particularly when the vehicle is moving . The financial and living consequences of a broken pipe(s) will be catastrophic. We leave the antifreeze in the black tank until we reach warmer climes then de-winterize flushing and filling all the tanks. I think you will find driving much simpler than you are anticipating if you select your route carefully and use the experience of other who have travelled to the same destination. Be sure to winterize carefully - we blow out the system then add the antifreeze - which I have found turns to soft to firm slush in below +25 degree temps. I no longer trust the labeled ratings of RV antifreeze. Good luck and have fun,
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Old 08-21-2016, 08:04 PM   #12
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Being in Montana you have a long way to drive if weather is bad. I'd suggest making your last fall trip more south and store your motorhome there. Then during the winter drive your Jeep to the storage unit.

For your last trip of the winter, bring it home in clear weather for use during the other months.

We 'had' to drive once in a snowstorm in Idaho and once in an ice storm in Texas. They were both freak, unplanned storms. I say 'had' because we were in the boonies with absolutely no safe place to pull over. They were the absolutely worst experiences we've had. A RV is not controllable in those circumstances.

Take that back....3x... the last time at the end of April on I-40 heading east to Albuquerque. A blizzard came in and the highway shut down completely further east. When we came to the stopped traffic there was no place to go. We spent the night on the interstate.

Putting chains on a RV is not a easy project in a snowstorm.
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Old 08-21-2016, 11:29 PM   #13
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We have been caught several times over the last few years in snow storms when the weather changed suddenly on I-90 and I-80. In every case we stopped at the earliest opportunity. A rest stop, ski area parking lot and fuel stop parking lot. It gets dicey when you start sliding around in a coach with a toad. Carry chains but we choose to park and wait it out.
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Old 08-22-2016, 02:49 AM   #14
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We're from Michigan - and seem to see our share of winter weather. . Our coach seems to do pretty well with the cold temps (we've been in single digits without any issues (other than the Aquahot running almost constantly!)

Driving on snowy roads is the bigger concern from my perspective. We're a 44' foot long, tag axle DP with a GVW of 43,000 pounds. I've never had a problem in terms of being able to control the coach on snowy roads. Adjusting your speed to match the conditions isn't rocket surgery. My two biggest worries about driving on snowy roads fall into two categories - the "other" guy who doesn't adjust for the conditions (and thereby putting my expensive motor home at risk) ... and the affects of the salt!!! Last year, we got stuck in a snowstorm while driving thru Indianapolis while returning home from Florida. The salt bath our undercarriage got ended up costing me a new set of entrance steps.

We'll roll thru snow when we must .... but quickly look for refuge (Cabellas, Walmarts, etc) if we're facing both snow AND heavy traffic. A drive in snowy/slushy/salty conditions is NOT a cheap endeavor. It requires a trip to the truck wash to get the salt off the coach (from both the body as well as the undercarriage) as soon as the conditions clear.
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