Expert Advice: RVs

Jan Butchofsky/Corbis

Experienced RV drivers share the tips they wish someone had given them back when they first got behind the wheel.

PARKING "If you try backing up for the first time at a campground, you might hit something and make a spectacle of yourself. Practice parking before going anywhere. If you never master it, ask for assistance. It's the nature of RV enthusiasts to help each other." --Bob Livingston, vice president and group publisher, MotorHome magazine

DIRECTIONS "Get meticulous directions. Let people know you're driving a 36-foot motor home and need the straightest, easiest route. Making a U-turn in an RV is a nightmare. You stop traffic. It's a major deal." --Mike Marriner, cofounder, PBS series Roadtrip Nation

PETS "Taking your pet is one of the great joys of RVing. You don't have to pay for a kennel or leave your pet in a hotel room. You're bringing your home on the road, so do the same for your pet. Bring his bed and dishes. And take a long leash. It'll allow your pet to engage with people and other pets." --Jim Rogers, CEO and chairman, Kampgrounds of America

PACKING "Most rental companies offer packages with sheets, towels, dishes, and pots and pans. The packages don't cost much extra, and they eliminate the hassle of having to pack those items." --Harry Basch, coauthor, RV Vacations for Dummies and Frommer's Exploring America by RV

FUEL "Most motor home generators automatically turn off just before the fuel tank is completely empty. There's still some gas left to drive on, but you should fill the tank up right away." --Richard Coon, president, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association

SHOWERING "To conserve water, shut it off while you lather in the shower, before turning it back on to rinse. You still get a decent shower." --Chuck Woodbury, editor,

DRIVING "It's an especially bad idea to exceed speed limits in an RV because you need extra distance to stop. When merging onto highways, try to find long entry ramps so you have space to accelerate. Learn to use your side-view mirrors, too. Some RVs don't have rear mirrors." --Jan Harris, president, RVing Women

ENTRY STEP "Typical RVs have a pullout entry step so it's easy to get in and out. Make sure to stow the step before you drive. Someone almost always leaves it out, and the driver can't see it from his seat. When the step hits a curb--or someone's car--it can cause substantial damage." --Randall Smalley, CEO and chairman, Cruise America RV rentals

DUMPING "The sewer waste, in the black tank, and the water waste, in the gray tank, are both located beneath the RV. A panel in the RV's galley displays the tank levels. Wait until the tanks are at least three-quarters full before you attempt to empty them; otherwise they won't drain properly. Dump the contents of the black tank first so the soapy water from the gray tank can clean out the hose." --Mark Polk, owner,

HILLS "If a hill becomes too steep, you won't be able to make it to the top, no matter how hard you push on the gas pedal. Buy a mountain guide, available at truck stops, to identify troublesome hills. Approach any grade over 10 percent with caution." --Mark Emeth, consumer affairs director, Escapees RV Club

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