Almost anyone who has ever had the displeasure of driving an RV in high winds will tell you that it can be a very stressful white-knuckle experience.
No one likes driving an RV in high winds but the situation is likely to present itself sooner or later. For this reason, I’m sharing some suggestions to help keep you safe on the road in windy conditions.
Hang onto your hats, let’s go.
Why RVs are vulnerable to heavy winds
RVs are especially vulnerable to heavy winds because of the large surface area of the RV which leaves no place for the wind to pass through to relieve the pressure. The wind simply pushes against the sides/front/rear of the RV and can literally move the rig no matter how heavy it is.
Travel trailers are susceptible to trailer sway in heavy winds. This can lead to driver over-correction resulting in a back-and-forth rocking that can send the trailer out of control.
It can be tiring to drive or tow an RV in high winds and sometimes it’s downright dangerous. It’s at these times when you need to find a safe area to pull over and stop driving until conditions improve.
When it’s too windy to drive an RV
High winds are capable of overturning an RV. The longer and taller the RV, the more surface area the wind has to push against. But this can happen with any RV. Even smaller RVs are taller than a typical vehicle so we’ve all got more surface area.
There are numerous factors involved that may make it too windy to stay on the road so there is no specific wind speed to watch for. But I’ll cover some of the ways you can determine what’s safe, what’s not, and when it’s time to get off the road.
>> Related article: 7 Driving Tips You Should Know
Bottom line… I don’t think taking chances driving an RV in dangerously high winds is ever wise.
Factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions
There are four primary factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions:
- Wind speed
- Wind direction
- Driving speed
- How heavy the RV is loaded in relation to its GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)
All of the factors noted above combine to create greater potential for problems. The higher the wind, the faster you drive, the closer your vehicle is to its maximum allowable weight, and the more direct the wind is to a 90-degree crosswind, the more dangerous it is to drive in windy conditions.
Higher wind speed, directly on the side of a heavily loaded RV = SLOW DOWN! If it’s still not a stable drive, find a safe place to stop and take a break!
If the wind is causing you to leave your lane while you’re driving, it’s always time to stop. None of us wants to tip over but swerving in your lane is also very dangerous—to you and to others on the road.
You’ll notice that of the four factors listed above, only one is under your direct control as you’re rolling down the road and feeling pushed around—driving speed. I’ll get to more on that below.
Can wind actually tip an RV over while driving?
YES, the wind can tip your RV over especially while you’re driving it. (There’s far less chance of the wind toppling an RV that’s parked.) The force of the wind combined with the force of wind being generated by your rig can combine to tip your RV over completely. This is why it’s important to always be aware of how your rig is behaving on the road and respond accordingly based on conditions.
How much wind can a parked RV withstand?
A parked RV can withstand far more wind than a moving RV. The likelihood of wind tipping over a parked RV is low but you may feel the rig rocking uncomfortably especially if you don’t have leveling jacks.
>> Related article: RV Weight Distribution Tips for Packing your RV
Leveling jacks can help to stabilize your RV in heavy winds. If possible, you may also want to park your RV so that the front or rear of the rig is facing into the wind. This way, the full strength of the wind isn’t hitting the largest side of the RV.
What is a safe driving speed in windy conditions?
RVs vary so much in size, shape, and weight that there’s no way to suggest a single driving speed that’s safe for every RV in every wind condition. The important thing to remember is that the more vulnerable your rig is to the wind (see the four conditions above), the slower you need to drive (again, the primary factor that you’re in control of while rolling down the road).
While longer, taller RVs can act like a sail and catch a lot of wind, all RVs are susceptible to being affected by high winds. So all RVers should take safety precautions!
One factor that each of us has a considerable degree of control over is weight. Making sure to avoid overloading your rig is key for many reasons, including stability on the road.
How much wind is too much?
Again, there’s no one set wind speed that triggers a get off the road response from every RVer. There are simply too many factors at play. But there is a way to know when you should slow down or get off the road altogether.
Keeping in mind what I mentioned earlier—that driving speed is the variable that you have the most control of while underway—I recommend using that as your primary control factor.
I suggest using a bottom-up approach to anything related to driving speed. By that, I mean that you should start slowly and work your way up as conditions allow. It’s far easier to increase your speed if you’re driving a little slower than needed than it is to be forced to slow down (possibly suddenly) because things are getting hairy.
If the wind (regardless of its speed) is pushing your rig around, causing you to sway in (or out of) your lane, or causing you to feel uncomfortable, that’s your sign to slow down. And if necessary, find a place to stop and wait for better conditions.
Any time we’re not in complete control of our RV, we shouldn’t be driving.
What are wind restrictions?
You may sometimes see overhead signs warning of high winds. Some areas may even implement restrictions to limit high-profile traffic during extremely windy conditions. Typically, the vehicles that are restricted in those zones are large trucks and RVs so always check the area you’ll be traveling in for potential wind restrictions. These are put in place for your safety and for the safety of others using the roads in that area.
>> Related article: Dust Storms and Haboobs: Safety Tips for RVers
There may also be wind restrictions placed on bridges that span across the water due to the wind gusts that often occur in these open areas. Doing a little research prior to hitting the road and staying alert for changing conditions can save you a lot of stress and keep you safe.
Driving tips for windy conditions
Following are some tips for driving an RV in high winds. All of them will help to keep you safer on the road in windy conditions.
1. Slow down
When driving an RV in heavy winds adjust your speed. In two words, this simply means SLOW DOWN. If you feel your rig being pushed around your first reaction should be to slow down. If it’s still not feeling stable, slow down more. Or get off the road at the earliest safe spot.
2. Check the weather forecast and wait if necessary
Check the weather forecast and give yourself the benefit of a plan B that allows you to wait out the wind. The winds won’t blow forever and you just might enjoy an unexpected day of relaxation while you wait.
3. Drive with both hands on the wheel
Since you should always keep both hands on the wheel anyway, this should probably go without saying. But I’ll say it anyway: when you’re driving in windy conditions keeping both hands on the wheel is more important than ever. You just don’t know when a gust of wind is going to hit your rig in just the wrong way and you’re going to need to have full control.
Having both hands on the wheel keeps you prepared for the unexpected (at all times) and is the habit of every good defensive driver.
4. Be careful while driving on bridges and overpasses
Bridges and overpasses are common places for gusty side winds, so be alert. Also, large trucks passing your rig may create the same sort of wind disturbance, so be prepared when being passed.
But be sure to avoid overcorrecting as those gusts come and go. As with so many situations involving driving safety, reducing your speed should be a natural first response.
5. Take breaks often
When you’re driving in winds that aren’t excessive enough to pose a danger, you may be able to continue driving comfortably, at appropriate speeds. Even so, taking routine breaks is important. Operating an RV in windy conditions is more tiring and stressful and taking breaks keeps you in better condition to drive safely.
>> Related article: 10 RV Driving Tips
6. Check weather forecast ahead and wait, if necessary
Before starting on an RV trip, I suggest you check the weather forecast. You probably know exactly where you are going and you may even be aware of known problem areas along your path.
Speed was high
Weather was hot
Tires were thin
X marks the spot
—Burma Shave sign