The idea of backing up and parking an RV can be intimidating—especially to new drivers or people in new rigs. These large vehicles provide a home away from home but you first have to maneuver them into place. Anyone can drive and park an RV with a little knowledge and some practice. Here are some tips to help you gain confidence in your backing up and parking skills.
Backing up basics
When driving a coach in reverse, turning the steering wheel to the left will turn the back of the rig to the left. Adjusting the wheel to the right will turn the rig to the right. When you’re backing up a coach with a boat or trailer behind it, however, it gets more complicated: the trailer will always move opposite of the way you turn the wheel.
Before you begin to back up, check that your side and rear mirrors are adjusted so you can see all around you.
Go slow and stay calm
Driving slowly gives you more time to see how your vehicle moves and react appropriately. You’ll be better able to avoid accidents (like driving into a campsite electricity hookup pole) if you maneuver slowly. Plus, it’s easier to stay calm when your speedometer is below 5 miles an hour.
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Owners of some newer RVs have the advantage of cameras and video monitoring systems that make it easy to back up just about anywhere. Read your RV manual to learn about any onboard systems.
Before you hit the road, check your backup camera. While they’re very sturdy when built-in to the coach, dust or other debris may sometimes obscure the view, so it’s a good idea to turn on the monitors and make sure you have a clear view behind you.
A backup camera is meant to enhance your parking skills and give you peace of mind. Use your mirrors as well plus any other cameras to make sure you have a clear view of your surroundings.
Parking and Maneuvering
Designate an RV parking helper
If possible, have a spotter outside of your coach to help guide you into the spot. They will have a better view of the ground and can watch for hazards that are difficult to spot from the driver’s seat.
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If you’re driving solo, consider asking a fellow camper for assistance. Campsites are full of other RVers who have valuable experience that can help you. In most cases, other campers are eager to help.
Let the spotter know how you want them to communicate. Which side of the rig do you want them on? Should they use gestures or words to explain how far you have to go and which direction to turn the RV?
Open the driver’s and front-seat passenger windows so it’s easy to hear the spotter. Most people prefer to have the helper stand behind the driver’s side of the RV where they are visible and have a good view of the situation. Never let the spotter out of your sight. If you can’t see them, they’re in danger.
Ensure they have a headlamp or bright flashlight if you’re backing up in the dark. This light will help you tell where the person is and serve as a tool to guide you into place.
Choose your spot wisely
Gas stations, rest stops, mobile home repair shops, and some campsites feature pull-through spots. RV drivers can cruise straight into the parking area or designated spot without backing up. At campsites and resorts, these spots are often highly sought-after especially by overnight campers and may be difficult to obtain without booking well in advance.
Some places like big box stores have parking lots with two spots adjacent that you can treat as a pull-through parking area. Don’t hesitate to choose places with these wide-open parking areas especially if you’re not comfortable backing up your rig.
Select a parking spot that allows you to back up to the left whenever possible. This direction is easier to maneuver because your steering wheel is on the left and you can see easier than when backing up to the right.
Assess the RV parking site – G.O.A.L.
Many professional drivers follow an acronym called G.O.A.L., an acronym for Get Out And Look. When you reach a campground, pull over near your site and use your triangle blinkers to alert other drivers that you are stopped.
Walk around the parking area or campsite to check for potential hazards. Look for low-hanging tree branches, rocks on the ground, and anything you could back into. If necessary, move potential obstacles like picnic tables in your way.
Know how many paces it takes to walk from the front of your RV to the back. Use this information to walk out your RV parking dimensions and understand how the rig will fit in the parking space. This quick step will also tell you how to aim your rig to back into the spot.
The right front corner of your RV is the most vulnerable to damage because it is a blind spot. Keep that in mind while envisioning how you will back into the space. Rely on your right convex mirror to watch for obstacles below your window sightline. Make sure your spotter pays special attention to this area.
With your spotter visible, pull your RV ahead of the parking spot at a ninety-degree angle to the spot so the closest edge of the parking spot is about three feet past the back wheels. The rear wheels are the pivot point for the rig, so getting the correct position with the back of the RV is critical.
Slowly drive backward while turning the steering wheel so the RV aims directly into the spot while slowly continuing backward. While moving, straighten the vehicle and come to a stop when your spotter indicates to do so. Don’t hesitate to pull forward and realign to ensure you have plenty of space to open your RV doors and engage slide-out sections.
Backing up a large RV may be intimidating but practice makes perfect. Take some orange traffic cones to a large parking lot to practice on a day when there’s minimal traffic. Set up the cones to imitate parallel parking and backing up to a campsite waste station. Practice regularly until you’re confident in your skills. Eventually, it’ll become second nature and you’ll be confident maneuvering your rig into even the tightest of sites.
It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.