Man and woman preparing to drive through mountains.

5 Tips for Driving Your RV Through the Mountains

5 Tips for Driving Your RV Through the Mountains

There are so many beautiful mountainous destinations to explore in your RV. But the thought of driving your rig up steep grades and along winding roads can seem intimidating. We have some tips to keep your journey safe. Let’s get started.

Is it Safe to RV in the Mountains? 

Primary road and driving safety measures come into play on mountains and flat ground alike. However, there are extra obstacles to think about in the hills. Whether you’re on a steep grade or narrow roads along cliffs, the safety of you and other drivers on the road needs to be at the forefront of your mind. 

Driving an RV on most mountains is safe, as long as you’re cautious. Plan out your route in advance. If there are turns that your RV won’t be able to navigate, take an alternative route. 

5 Tips for Driving Your RV Through the Mountains

Use the following five tips for driving an RV of any size through mountains. 

A van driving through the mountains.

1. Downshift Before Ascending and Descending

When ascending steep grades, there’s a possibility of your engine overheating. Downshifting helps your transmission stay at a consistent speed. If your RV or tow vehicle starts to get hot, find a place to pull over and let it cool down. 

Similarly, shifting into lower gears when descending a hill can save your brakes. However, the engine and transmission will slow your vehicle. Some RVs or tow vehicles automatically downshift, while you have to shift gears on other rigs manually. Read your manual and know how to operate your vehicle before your first drive through mountains.

2. Minimize Braking to Prevent Burning Your Brakes Out

Keeping a foot on your brakes while towing an RV or driving one in the mountains can do severe damage. The more you brake, the faster your brakes can burn out. Downshifting to slow your vehicle is the best way to minimize braking.

3. Take it Slowly and Use Hazard Lights

Go slow when driving through mountains. Never go over the speed limit. If the vehicles behind you make you feel rushed, pull over to let them pass. 

We also recommend staying in the right lane when there are multiple lanes. Use your hazard lights if you drop below the speed limit. This alerts other drivers that you’re driving with caution. 

If there are signs that have specific road rules for semi-trucks, abide by them as well. It’s a good rule of thumb to ensure your safety. The signs are there for a reason, and there may be a tight turn ahead that they’re preparing you to slow down for.

Young woman in a camper van enjoying spring time in a beautiful camping with pink flowers.

4. Keep the Engine Cool, Pull Over if You Have To

Be keenly aware of your engine while driving through mountains. If your engine heats up, pull over as soon it’s safe to do so. Let your engine cool. 

There are ways to prevent engine overheating, including keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance. Turning off your air conditioning in the mountains can also help. And like we’ve mentioned, driving in low gear is beneficial. 

5. Be Patient

Patience is a virtue and one that could save lives when driving through mountains. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Being in a hurry is when accidents happen. 

Rvs parked at a campsite in the mountains.

Driving an RV in the Mountains Is All About Staying Safe and Keeping Your Cool … Literally

Things can go wrong quickly when driving in the mountains. Whether you’re pulling an RV or driving a motorhome, mountains can present danger for a big rig. Horror stories like an RV that went off the side of a mountain in North Carolina recently serve as stark warnings. The motorhome was going too fast downhill. The driver missed a turn and nearly lost her life in a fiery crash.

Going slowly, even if others are passing you, and keeping your engine cool is key to a safe trip through mountains. Downshift, minimize braking, and use your hazards when appropriate. It can also be helpful to mimic what truck drivers are doing. For example, if commercial trucks are in the right lane going 40 miles per hour with their hazards on, do the same. Especially if you have a large RV, your size and the control you have in the mountains are similar to a semi-truck.

Keeping yourself calm is also important. If you’re nervous about going through a mountain pass, practice on some large hills off the beaten path. This can give you a feel for how your RV behaves going up or downhill. Even though you can’t entirely predict what it will be like on a steep grade, at least you’re getting a better feel for your RV.

Mountains are for exploring, so getting your RV through them will likely be part of your route at some point. Being prepared helps things go smoothly. Review these safety tips before your trip. Which mountain range are you ready to explore?

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