The DOAI rally held at LazyDays Feb, 2002, offered us the opportunity to take the LazyDays Confidence in driving course. We found this to be an excellent class, and presented below are highlights of the class. After the classroom instruction, each student drove a new D on an obstacle course - LazyDays Crown Club campground roads that are somewhat small and challenging.
Note - these driving tips are for MOTORHOMES only - and only those motorhomes less than 40' in length.
SETTING YOUR MIRRORS
Most coaches have a large flat mirror on top and a small convex mirror on the bottom.
The top mirror should be adjusted horizontally so that you can see the side of your coach in the one inch surface of the mirror closest to the coach. The remaining 8" or so of the mirror surface gives you a view of the road behind you. The mirror should be adjusted vertically so that you can just see the rear red clearance (near the rear bumper) on the bottom of the mirror.
The convex mirrors should be adjusted horizontally so that you can see your coach in one-third of the mirror. They should be adjusted vertically to allow you to see vehicles alongside you.
Knowing how to make a turn so that your rear wheels track where you want (in other words, so you don't sideswipe anything), is one of the more difficult skills for a new driver. But before we learn how to do this, you first need to be aware of "tail wag". Compared to a car, motorhomes have a large overhang - this is the distance from the rear axle to the very end of your coach. As you turn a corner, the rear of your motorhome will swing out (tail wag) from your lane a distance that is directly proportional to this rear overhand length. You can approximate your tail wag by measuring your coach's rear overhang and dividing by 4. Add a foot or so for a safety margin and now you know how far you must be away from an object if you are going to execute a hard turn.
To make sure your back wheels end up where you want them to at the end of your turn, you will need to know your coach's steering angle (sometimes called wheel cut). For the Discovery, it is 50 degrees. If you have a gas coach, it is probably 45 degrees.
For a Discovery (or other 50 degree wheel cut coach), pull forward until your hip is aligned with where you want your rear wheels to track. As an example, if you are making a right turn, you would pull forward until your hip is at least as far as the curb. When you reach this point, make your turn. SPECIAL NOTE - this works for modern rounded curbs. If you are trying to negogiate a square (right angle) curb, then you will have to pull out a little further before you start to make your turn.
For a typical gas coach with a 45 degree wheel cut, align the front of your coach with where you want your rear wheels to track.
ADDITIONAL TURNING TIPS
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
Many drivers complain that they can't hold their coach on the road - they are constantly fighting the steering wheel. Of course, there can be many mechanical causes for this - anything from improper front end or axle alignment to improper weight loading. Also, most air-ride coaches will tend to rock a little from side-to-side on their airbags, and some drivers interpret this as a need for steering correction - that really isn't neceesary, resulting in another steering correction, and they end up going down the highway making a series of small left-right turns instead of driving straight. Another problem is that some drivers try to "aim" the coach by continually watching where they are only a short distance in front of them. As you drive, you should be looking 1/4 mile down the road, relying on your peripheral vision to keep your properly centered in the lane, as well as scanning your mirrors. In addition to giving you extra time to react, this will also result in your driving in a straight line and much less driver fatigue.
Due to the long wheelbase of your coach, the rear wheels track in a significantly different line than your front tires when going around a curve. Most drivers find this to be a particular problem on left-hand curves. On narrow roads, this means that you have to execute your turn a little later than you normally would as when driving a car - or else your rear wheels will cross the centerline or wander off the road on the passenger side. A good way to avoid this is to first pick out the apex of the turn and transfer the apex to the outside curve (for a left turn). Drive straight towards this point and when it disappears from your view, make your turn, tracking your front tire through the outside of the turn. Note that this is really applicable for tight roads with sharp turns and not the long wide turns of the interstate.
BACKING UP INTO A CAMPSITE OR PARKING SPACE
This is probably one of the most difficult things for a new driver to master. Here is the "LazyDays" technique.
First, you will need to ascertain a reference point for your coach. From the middle of your rear axle, measure 8 feet forward towards the front of your coach. Hopefully, this will be near the edge of a luggage door or paddle or something that you can see in your rear mirror. HOWEVER, you can use this alternative: Measure from this reference point to where you sit in the driver's seat. For the D, this is approximately 12 feet.
Refer to the drawing below:
Assuming you are driving a D, pull up parallel to your back-in spot and position your coach so that it is one foot from the curb AND your hip is at the right edge of the campsite. While you are sitting there, survey your parking spot for any special obstacles, including any bushes or trees with low-hanging branches or pedastals. If you are driving a coach with a 45 degree wheel cut, you will pull forward until the front of your coach is at the right edge of the campsite.
Next, pull forward until your "reference point" described above, is positioned at the right edge of the campsite OR just move forward the distance you measured above (approx 12 feet for the D). If you have a gas coach with a 45 degree wheel cut, you will have to make the necessary measurement adjustments and remember that your reference point for initially positioning your coach is the front bumper.
After you have pulled forward to your reference point, make a full hard right turn to the curb on the other side of the road. Then, turn your steering wheel hard left and back into the spot. This will put you close to the right edge of your camping spot, and you may need to make adjustments for your slideout.
ADDITONAL PARKING TIPS
Safely driving an RV involves many other factors. Here are some things that I ask all of you to be mindful of and consider:
The DISCOVERY OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC, was formed to promote the sharing of information and the camaraderie of fellow Discovery motorhome owners. Membership in the club is limited to owners of Fleetwood Discovery motorhomes.