RVing 101 Guide: Turning an RV or Trailer

RV turning on the highway

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There are two aspects of RVing that terrify every beginner: Parking and turning. Parking an RV requires patience and practice, as does turning, as does anything you learn for the first time.

We’ll give you some tips and tricks for learning how to turn an RV safely. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect. While it may be scary to hit the road for the first time driving or towing an RV, if you don’t try, you’ll never overcome the fear of turning an RV. Let’s get started!

Handling an RV

Whether you’re driving an RV or towing a trailer, you must learn the basics of handling yourself on the road again. Even the most experienced driver will tell you that towing or driving a motorhome is different and difficult until you get used to it.

Driving or towing on the highway is easier to do than navigating city streets. This is where you’ll have the most issues adjusting. City streets are tighter and less hospitable to turning larger vehicles like motorhomes and trailers. If you’ve ever seen a semi-truck or trailer go over the curb, this is a little bit of what you can expect as you learn the ins and outs of turning an RV.

Pro tip: Consider taking an RV driving course at a local dealership to brush up on your RV driving and turning skills. Most dealerships offer classes, individual lessons, and more on the ins and outs of RV driving. You'll also want to pay attention to state regulations as well.

You must remember that when driving a motorhome or towing a trailer, you’re much heavier than you’d normally be driving a car. When fully loaded, a trailer or motorhome is going to need more braking distance and a wider turn radius, especially when making right turns. Left turns, for the most part, will be easier for you to master when RVing because you’ll have more room for error on this type of turn.

When it comes to right-hand turns, well, we all remember how comfortable they were when learning to drive. When making a right turn in a car, you hug the corner and drive into your turn. If you’re behind the wheel of a motorhome or towing a trailer, you’ll need to give yourself extra room in the front to make a full right turn by pulling out further before initiating the turn.

Let’s look at how the differences in turning apply to a motorhome or trailer.

Turning a Motorhome

The most important thing to remember when driving a motorhome is that your tires are not right in front of you. They’re usually under you, which visually means that you need to judge the distance of your right turn differently than you would when driving a vehicle.

This also means you need to drive further into the intersection and to the left or right slightly before making your time, ensuring your wheels have cleared the turn radius before beginning the turn.

When making a right turn in a motorhome, it’s imperative that you check your mirrors and be mindful of your blind spots. You may not see bicycles, pedestrians, or smaller vehicles next to you or on the sidewalk. Be aware of your surroundings before making your turn.

Pro tip: Never cross into the lane next to you if you can help it. Sometimes it can’t be avoided but do everything you can to make your right turns without doing so as you’ll block traffic and potentially cause an accident.

Turning a Trailer

If towing a trailer, you’ll need to consider trailer sway when making turns, particularly right turns. Like turning a motorhome, you’ll need to head into the intersection more than you’re used to before beginning to make your turn. The difference you’ll encounter is trailer sway, albeit ever so slightly.

This sway can be enough to move your trailer into the lanes next to you causing an accident or striking a pedestrian if you’re not careful.

This is where securing your hitch properly comes in handy. If your hitch isn’t as tight as it should be, your trailer may begin to sway to the left when turning right inching into the left lane and vice versa. If your hitch is too tight, your trailer may not turn as smoothly as you’d like.

This is one of those things that you won’t know occurs until it does, so make a note of it when you begin making right turns so you can adjust your hitch to make turning easier in the future.

Pro tip: If you find you’re getting too much sway one direction of the other when turning, consider investing in a different hitch system to overcome the difference. There are many types of hitch systems out there; it’s a matter of finding the right one for your setup.

Bottom Line

Turning a trailer or motorhome requires some practice and getting used to the distance issues that come with owning a recreational vehicle. By practicing your turns, especially your right ones, you’ll be able to judge how far out you’ll need to be and adjust accordingly on your travels.