Join Date: Oct 2012
Mhud (It would be nice to have your real first name somewhere)
I never drove a fifth wheel so I know nothing about that,, but I have driven pick-up trucks with long bumper-pull trailers behind.
I did drive a semi back when I was in graduate school during the summers. I have found that a lot of what I learned from my semi driving days is very applicable to driving a 45' motorhome. There are guys on here that probably do things differently, and people that I am sure do it better, but I can give you some pointers.
1.) As odd as it seems, the absolute best way to tell you where you are centered in your lane is not by looking forward, but by looking backwards! Your side mirrors will accurately show you the exact distance from your tires/coach to the center line or the curb line in a fraction of a second. You instantly perceive your relative position on the road. Now, from that view, you can then get a general idea of what that looks like when looking forward. I don't try to find a point on the dash that then "sits" on top of either white line (like I did when I first learned to drive a car) ..... but you develop a feel for where you are relative to the lines. Also, you can confirm that "feel" by consulting your mirrors. Doesn't make sense initially, but it is the way to develop the "sense".
2.) Know that you are big and long and you are going to have to do things that you don't do with a car. One of the things I am most vigilant about is driving through town where you may need to make a right turn and that right turn has a traffic signal or sign-post mounted right on the corner where you will turn. That is a real danger. It is very easy to then turn into the sign or traffic signal and cut the turn too short. I am looking for that situation any time the GPS says I need to make a right turn in town. When I see that, I start to slow and move to the left either into the left lane (of a 4 lane highway) or as far left as I can get. Sometimes, I have to slow and force myself into the left lane, or more commonly, half way into the left lane and halfway into the right lane so I block both lanes, with the right turn signal on all the time (which is one of the reasons you want those additional right turn signal lights down the side of the coach). You are going to need that extra distance away from that post or pole to make the turn.
3.) Remember, when driving one of these beasts and pulling a toad, you never back up. Never, unless you are perfectly straight going slowly down a road, and then I have seen people back up successfully several feet. However, your tow bar and toad will jack-knife so quickly you will be amazed and you will break the tow bar or severely damage your toad baseplates. I've watched owners break their tow bars in just 2 feet back up. Just don't do it. If you find yourself in a position (going around that corner I mentioned and realize you are going to be short), I would just stop dead and wait for the cars on the perpendicular street to clear so you can straighten out the turn and go completely into their lane, if necessary to make the turn.
4.) Related to that, the biggest issue in mind when doing anything other than simply driving down the road (pulling into a fuel station, for example), is "Am I going to be able to do what I am thinking about doing, by going forward only and not needing to back up??" The answer to that question has to be "Yes". If I have any question, then I don't do what I was thinking about doing. This is true even when you get yourself into something that seems right. I recently stopped in a truck stop for lunch (eaten in the coach) and the only "pull through" parking slot was very close to the way I came in. I assumed there was a way out of the truck plaza on around to the right, but I was not sure. Turning to the right would be an easy way out, but turning to the left was a very difficult turn, stressing the coach and the toad. So, I got out and walked the whole way around to the right and there was no way out to the right and the turn to the left was my only option other than unhook the toad, make the turn with the coach and then re-hook. So, I had to wait until both trucks on each side of me on the left and right left, and then by turning right first and then left, I could make the turn with the toad connected.
5.) In trucking, the passenger side of the coach is called the "blind side" and the rule is NEVER back to the blind side.... ALWAYS back up and turn to the driver side, so that if you need to, you can see what you are doing by looking out the window. There is also the axiom called "GOAL" which stands for Get Out And Look. If I have to back into an RV spot,, even if the park tells me to do it some way, if it involves a blind side back, I don't do it. I always back to the driver side, never to the blind side.
6.) Use the cameras and mirrors a lot.
7.) When making left turns, which are generally easier, be careful again of "short turns" Often there are center curbs and cars and it is easy to turn short.
8.) Don't get close to anything steel with the coach, such as diesel pumps or the metal poles beside the fuel pumps. Remember, the back of your coach swings the opposite way you are turning the front of the coach all the time you are turning. I stay as far away from stationary hard objects as I can be if I know that I have to make a quick turn to get away from the pump or object in front of me, and watch the rear corner of your coach in your mirrors until you are safely away.
Those are the main tips I can suggest. They have worked very well to me and therefore, am willing to pass them on. And good luck. You are going to LOVE the coach...... so much of an improvement!!
Gary and Dee, Zowie and Bowie (traveling cat sibs)
2019 Cornerstone 45B, X15-605hp, Imperial, Spartan K3,
2013 Honda CR-V toad, Demco Excali-Bar II,
Demco Baseplate, Demco Toad Light system, 73 de W5FI