Top Tips For First-Time Driving a Motorhome
If you’ve just taken delivery of your shiny new motorhome or you’re hiring one for your holidays, here are our top tips for first time motorhome drivers. They should help make your first motorhome adventure a stress free experience.
Tips for first-time Driving a Motorhome
Have a Checklist
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a motorhome driving along the road with its satellite dish up or the roof vents open. If you’re lucky there’s no harm done, but it can lead to very costly repairs, so make a checklist of things to do before you drive off. Check the outside of the motorhome. Are all the lockers closed? Is the hook-up flap secure? Is the aerial and satellite dish wound down? Have you closed all the roof vents? It’s also worth checking your bikes are secure (if you have them), and your tyres are looking good. Things flying around inside the motorhome is also not a great thing, so do your checks inside too. Are all the overhead lockers closed? Is everything put away so that it doesn’t roll around on the floor? Have you turned the gas off?
These checks don’t have to take all day, just a couple of minutes, and if you get in the habit on your first trip out, it’ll become second nature.
I don’t mean crawl along at a snail’s pace but heading off in a motorhome is an adventure. You don’t have to go hurtling down the road to get to your destination in the shortest possible time. You’ve got all day, so enjoy it. A motorhome needs a little bit more careful handling than your ‘hot hatch’, it takes longer to stop and turns in a wider arc. You’ll get much better fuel economy too if you take it steady.
Check your Mirrors
Driving a bigger vehicle than you’re used to means that you may well have to concentrate a bit more with your position on the road. Using your wing mirrors becomes much more important, and your rear view mirror is more likely to give you a nice view of the inside of your van rather than the road behind. If you’re hiring a motorhome make sure the handover includes how to properly adjust your mirrors before you pootle off down the road. You need to see the side of the motorhome but it’s also useful to see the central white line and the verge at the edge of the road. A motorhome is usually much wider than a car, so getting your positioning right is crucial. Visibility may also be more limited at junctions and especially when you’re joining the motorway, so check those mirrors.
If you’re going to overtake, remember that a motorhome is not as nimble as a car. Make sure you have plenty of time and your visibility is good. Also, make sure you have completely passed the vehicle you’re overtorway and a lorry is overtaking, make sure you keep over to the left as the lorry will cause some pull on the motorhome and may pull you over to the right a little. Just ease up a little and let the lorry pass.
Know your Motorhomes Dimensions
Get to know your motorhome’s dimensions as soon as you can. Knowing how high it is and how wide can save you panicking when you approach a low bridge or a width restriction sign. If your van hasn’t had any additions since it was manufactured then you can get the dimensions from the manufacturer’s website. If anything has been added, like a satellite dome, bike rack, roof box, etc. then it’s worth getting your tape measure out and checking for yourself. Once you’ve measured the height, width and length, write them on a label and stick it somewhere on the dashboard where you can see it. Remember, if you’re planning on travelling abroad, jot them down in metres too.
Simply put, your payload is the additional weight you can add to your motorhome’s unladen weight (MIRO – Mass in Running Order) while still keeping it under the maximum vehicle weight allowed (MTPLM – Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass). Your payload allowance includes the weight of additional passengers, freshwater in your tank, any waste water you’re carrying, your groceries, clothing, cameras, ipads, etc. So it’s important not to overload your motorhome as it may affect its handling and fuel economy. You can also be prosecuted for driving an overweight vehicle and this in turn could invalidate your insurance. If you want to know how much your motorhome weighs with all your kit, take it to a weighbridge. If you’re hiring a motorhome then check the payload when you collect it. Practical Motorhome has more information on payloads.
Keep Money at the Ready
If you’re heading off to Europe on your first trip then something to bear in mind is that you have to pay to travel on a lot of the better roads. The toll booths loom large before you’ve had time to worry about how you’re going to squeeze your motorhome through the unfeasible narrow barriers. So having your money to hand gives you one less thing to think about. A good idea is to keep a plastic pot in the glove compartment and top it up with loose change.
If you’re parking up and leaving your van for any length of time make sure it’s all secure. Lock the external lockers, make sure the windows are closed and all the doors locked. You wouldn’t leave a camera or computer on display in your car so don’t do it in your motorhome. Put everything out of sight. You should think about your security even if you’re on a campsite too.
Take the Motorhome Manual
There’s a lot to learn with a new motorhome so do take the instruction manual with you and keep it accessible. It will tell you the usual things like tyre pressures and where the windscreen wipers are but it will also tell you how to turn the heating on and how to drain the tank, where the grey waste outlet is and where to find your leisure battery.
Gettingaway in a motorhome is fantastic fun. You can park up in some beautiful spots, climb in the back and have the kettle on in a minute. A motorhome gives you the freedom to go where you want when you want. You can take off on the spur of the moment knowing you’ve got everything you need right there. So whether you’ve hired a motorhome for the weekend, or you’re about to set off for a grand tour of Europe, remember, the world is your oyster, so enjoy it.