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Old 03-25-2014, 06:10 AM   #1
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How to Drive a Diesel MH for Dummies?

When I bought our current gas MH a year ago I did not want a diesel due to my lack of knowledge on operating a diesel rig. Now that we are thinking about selling the S&B and going fulltime I feel a diesel rig is a must. But again I know nothing about how to start, drive and operate a diesel rig.

Are there any books or websites that will educate a non-diesel driver on how and what to do with a diesel rig?
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Old 03-25-2014, 06:25 AM   #2
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There's really not all that much difference with respect to "driving" a diesel other than learning a bit about how air brakes work, regardless of whether or not your State requires a higher level license to drive a large, air brake-equipped vehicle. For learning about air brakes I suggest you read the CDL (commercial driver's license) manual for your state which you can usually obtain online.

Sure, diesels develop their torque and HP at lower engine speeds, typically, than do gas engines, and diesels have very little engine braking unless they have added compression or exhaust braking systems, but these aren't so different that you would have much trouble going from your present rig to a larger, diesel.

Maintaining a diesel is a bit different in that they are large bore, slow-turning, turbo-charged engines that don't have an ignition system, but they still require periodic oil changes, etc. Regardless of whether you do the maintenance yourself or have someone else do it, just follow the maintenance schedule and you'll be fine.

As someone who already has been driving a fairly large MH, I doubt you will have any trouble adapting to a diesel. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask them.
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Old 03-25-2014, 06:56 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by reubenray View Post
When I bought our current gas MH a year ago I did not want a diesel due to my lack of knowledge on operating a diesel rig. Now that we are thinking about selling the S&B and going fulltime I feel a diesel rig is a must. But again I know nothing about how to start, drive and operate a diesel rig. Are there any books or websites that will educate a non-diesel driver on how and what to do with a diesel rig?
The fact that You understand that there are differences that you need to be aware of, insures that you will be an excellent and successful diesel driver/owner.

The good news is that you don't have to become an expert to get started. I don't know of a single source for this knowledge, short of scheduling time at an RV driving school. Lazy Days in Tampa run a short, basic driving course. It's not specific to diesels but covers diesel topics. To become self taught, try braking it down into sections.
1. Safety items: air brakes and compression or exhaust brakes.
2. Drive train management issue: best rpm range for flat land and for long grades. Safe down grade practices.
3. Maintenance issues. You might call Freightliner at Gaffney, SC. They have classes on maintaining their chassis.

The rest is just an extension of what you are doing now with your current coach.

Part of the difference, and the reason for needing the diesel is the weight increase. Gas coaches top out at about 26,000 pounds GVWR. Diesel coaches start there are go up to over 50,000 when you include the tow.

For a prospective full timer there are lots of considerations.

Good luck & safe travels.
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:12 AM   #4
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Driving a d/p

We have never owned any type of m/h a got a 40 2004 Monaco with a 400 Hp cummins. We drove it back 850 miles the first 50 or so took some getting use to but after that no problems.Just remember you are sitting in front of your steering so turns are a little different.
I had to scrape 2 VW's from my fender well tell i got the turning down.
We will be full time in the next several months,so we have taken several short trips to get things down. The main thing is maintenance,stay on top of it.You may want to check in to an extended warranty,they cost some $ but so does a motor or transmission, frig,etc. Check it out at camping world.
Hope this helps. Tim (aka tag cat)
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Old 03-25-2014, 08:10 AM   #5
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You may want to take one of the classes offered by one of these:
RV School
RV Basic Training Driving an RV is easy . . . Let us show you how!
Rick Andrews RV Training School - Motorhome Driving Schools - Defensive Driving Instruction for RV, Boat Trailer and 5th wheel

And if you take one you might get a discount on your vehicle insurance.
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Old 03-25-2014, 08:21 AM   #6
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We started fulltiming in December and I wanted a DP for a MH but had the same questions/concerns as you had. I asked similar questions and talked to a few fulltimers as well with DP. Although we never drove a motorhome (just small trailer and fifth wheel), we decided to jump in and I am so glad we did. The Dealer helped out with some tests drives and I felt very comfortable driving the rig. We did take a MH confidence course before picking up our MH from the dealer.

You will love the ride in a DP and the exhaust brake as well.

Best of luck and happy RV'ing.
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Old 03-25-2014, 08:34 AM   #7
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It's a little different for sure. They start a little different, take a second longer sometimes to crank. And if it's cold, you have that block heater going on.

Plus the DP is going to have an air system you don't have.

An air compressor drives air into two tanks - one front, one back. That air is used to fill the suspension air bags, and drives the brakes and parking brake.

So you have two air gauges, that should stay at around 120 psi. If the pressure falls below 60, an alarm will sound at 65, and a mechanical spring brake will snap closed at 60, forcing you to stop. This would a failure, but something you should know about.

Turning, I imagine would be the same... The wheels might be a little further back, but surely not much.

From there, it's about know how to check the oil and radiator. Other than that, you will LOVE IT. You don't hear the motor while driving cause it's not right under your feet.

It's also important that you know where your low air drain points are, usually in the front wheel wells. There are pull cords where you can let a little air out, but the main point is to keep water out of the lines (water can freeze in the cold and stop your braking from working) Most systems have an air dryer, but it's best to understand they are there. Plus they need to be "exercised" meaning opening and closed to keep them from freezing in one spot just from sitting too long.

I learned a WHOLE LOT reading the texas DMV Commercial Drivers Lic book - they easily make it simple to understand a lot of what you need to know about those types of systems and you can read it in an evening.
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