Whether you’re new to RVing, or you’ve been on the road for years, mistakes happen. This is completely normal for anyone, and hopefully, you’ll be able to laugh at them later.
The best way to correct a mistake is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Fortunately, the RV community is full of people who won’t shy away from sharing their blunders— and I’m not afraid to say that I am one of those people.
Today I’ve gathered some of the weirdest, silliest mistakes I’ve ever made, and some that I found online. So please, no judgment. Hopefully, you’re able to avoid these same mistakes that I made with my RV this year.
1. Forgot To Gas Up The Tow Vehicle Before Travel
If you haven’t made this mistake yet, then take note.
This is rumored to be one of the most common newbie mistakes to make. Especially, when traveling with a large travel trailer.
Towing a long trailer is difficult. Maneuvering it around a small gas station is nearly impossible. Hence, you should always try to fill up your tow vehicle the night before you’re going.
Moreover, other motorists at the gas station may not be happy to wait for you to back up, turn, and maneuver your trailer. You’ll likely get some not-so-friendly stares, if not a five-second honk, for the inconvenience.
Fortunately, I’ve got a solution for you. If you forget to fill up the night before, find a truck stop where you can get fuel. Truck drivers tend to understand that you need space and time to move a larger vehicle.
That said, be mindful that these guys are working, so avoid blocking too much space for too long.
2. Not Knowing The Range Of Your Vehicle And Forgetting To Fuel Up In Time
Many RVers will likely travel for years without making this mistake since it’s so obvious.
We always take care and make sure that we’re fueled up and have enough gas to reach our destination.
In saying this, mistakes like these do happen. Your vehicle has a set range of how far it can go on one tank. Pulling a heavy trailer on the back will lower this number significantly.
For example, when you see that your tank is only half full, it’s time to find a gas station. I know this may seem early. However, if you’re traveling in a remote place where you can’t fuel up every 100 miles or so, it’s essential to get a full tank while you can.
One way to avoid this goof is to bring a jerrycan along, full of fuel. Then, in case you run low, you can just top it up so you can safely reach a gas station.
Another tip I have is to download a useful app, such as GasBuddy. These will map out the nearest gas stations and even show you where to get the best price.
3. Not Knowing The Height Of Your New RV
Aah, the old height issue.
How many times have you seen an RV owner being a bit too optimistic and trying to squeeze under a bridge that is too low?
This might not be an issue if you’ve driven your RV for years and are familiar with all of the measurements. But if you just bought a new one, or you’re renting, make sure that you know the height.
For example, driving under a low-clearance bridge can cause a lot of damage to your RV. Additionally, you may wreak havoc on the bridge and face a hefty fine.
Therefore, after I cut it too close at a gas station one time, I wrote down my trailer’s height and stuck it on the corner of the windscreen. It’s a constant reminder of one of my worst mistakes, but at least I won’t do it again.
You could, likewise, employ the help of technology. There are several apps out there that warn of low clearances so you can avoid them before it’s too late.
For some more information on the importance of your RV’s height, check out this video.
4. Failing To Check The Tire Pressure
RV and towing vehicle tires are susceptible to early wear and tear.
The simple reason for that is all of the extra weight you’re putting on them.
Failing tires are among one of the top reasons for road accidents. In fact, around 11,000 accidents a year have failing tires to blame. In 2017 alone, 738 of these were fatal.
Keeping your tires improperly inflated won’t only affect your safety. It can also wear on their durability, as well as increasing your vehicle’s fuel consumption.
You can always avoid this by buying high-quality tires for a right price. Nothing beats quality, and here’s one place where you shouldn’t economize.
Another tip is to never drive too fast. This will wear on your tires, especially if you’re driving on gravel roads.
It’s so important to never put too much weight in your RV or towing vehicle. It’s already a lot heavier than usual, so packing light is essential. Furthermore, remember to balance out the weight on the axles of your RV.
Pro tip—get your hands on a tire pressure monitor system. These generally consist of a screen in your vehicle that shows you the condition of your tires. You can also buy an air compressor so you can quickly fix your tire before it’s too late.
5. Not Knowing Your Total Weight
Being aware of how much everything weighs altogether is also vital.
Unfortunately, this mistake often happens when people buy a new trailer and assume their vehicle can tow it.
Merely checking the tow capacity on your truck and matching it with the weight of the trailer isn’t enough. It’s essential that you check your gross vehicle weight rating before heading out. It’s easy to underestimate how much all that extra gear weighs.
Underestimating this could compromise your safety while on the road. It could also damage your towing vehicle, which can cost you hundreds of dollars in repairs. You can go to a truck stop where there’s a truck scale and get your trailer weighed.
6. Placing Too Much Weight On The Bumper
Many RVs come with the option of placing extra cargo on the bumper.
This could be pretty much anything that you can’t put anywhere else, such as bicycles or sporting equipment.
That said, it’s important not to place too much weight at the back. Too much pressure can wear on your tires or cause trailer sway, which could result in a crash.
They are easy to attach to your RV, and will increase the weight capacity on the bumper. Then you can safely store more equipment in the back.
7. Not Checking Your Clearance
When towing a trailer, especially a long one, it’s vital that you check your clearance when backing up and turning.
I’m sure this has happened to many RVers before—they backed up and couldn’t see or didn’t check behind beforehand, and backed right into a pole or a curb, scratching their RV.
To prevent this mistake, it’s always a good idea to enlist the help of your passenger. Get them to guide you around tight areas, such as gas stations or parking lots.
Many RVers will likely recommend that you get a walkie-talkie, so you can easily communicate, although cell phones are just as useful nowadays.
8. Not Buying A Backup Camera
While on the subject of backing up, I thought I’d mention backup cameras are essential when you have a large trailer.
At first, I was reluctant to get one since it seemed to be challenging to get used to, and I thought perhaps it wouldn’t be for me. However, I finally gave in and bought one, and I have to say that I’m never going on a trip without it again.
Backing up is one of the toughest tasks to do with a trailer. You turn one way, and it goes another. You turn too much and you jackknife.
Not to mention the damage you can cause if you back into other vehicles or poles. Paying for the damage or repairing a hole in your RV due to a preventable reversing mistake is never fun—or cheap.
9. Turning Too Fast
This is a mistake that can cost you dearly.
Fortunately, I haven’t done this yet, but during RV season, you’ll see plenty of folks committing this blunder.
When you’re driving on the road, and you see the sharp curve sign, usually you would just ignore it. Your car is more than capable of making these sharp turns without slowing down. But your RV, not so much.
The reason behind this is that the center of gravity is much higher in an RV than in a car or truck. You also have a longer wheel base. So when you’re driving too fast into a tight curve, your trailer or Rv could clip a curve or roll over .
So in saying this, when you see the sign warning you of a sharp turn, make sure you slow down. It’s better to hold back a few cars then flipping over and putting your life, and that of your passengers or other road users, in danger.
Another piece of advice about turning is that you should always turn wider. In fact, a rule of thumb states that the longer your trailer or vehicle is, the wider the turn should be.
This helpful video offers some tips on turning.
10. Forgetting To Close All Windows And Doors Properly
Watch out for this mistake on at least two occasions—before hitting the road, and when placing your RV in storage.
Trust me, it’s not fun driving down the road, and looking in the rear view mirror, only to see your trailer door flapping in the wind. Before heading out, always make sure that you close and lock the doors and windows securely.
When you’re driving, there’s going to be a lot of wind flowing into your trailer or RV if a window is open. This can cause havoc inside as objects fly around and fall to the floor.
Furthermore, it could also compromise your driving abilities. Your trailer may begin to sway and cause you to lose control.
Another occasion where you want the doors and windows closed adequately is when you’re about to place your RV in storage.
This is for obvious reasons—you don’t want any unwanted guests snooping around, either human or 4-legged furry ones.
For RVs stored outdoors, rain or snow could seep in through the windows and create damp and mold. Once mold starts to develop, it can spread rapidly through your RV, causing severe damage.
11. Not Checking The Hitch Lock Before Hitching
This is one of those mishaps that can quickly happen if you’re tired or otherwise distracted.
Nevertheless, always check that your hitch isn’t locked when hooking your trailer up.
The lock is there to secure it, but it’s important to open it when lowering your jack. Otherwise, your trailer is not hooked on correctly and is likely only secured with the safety chains.
Then, as you begin to drive off, you’ll feel some bouncing or pulling at the back. Maybe you’ll even hear a sound or two that will alert you.
So, to check that it’s locked and safe, lower your hitch onto the ball. Then, use the jack to raise it again. If it picks up the back, you know it’s ready to go, but if the back of your car stays put, double check it.
12. Trusting The Built-In Carbon Monoxide Detector
In nearly all RVs, there’s a built-in carbon monoxide detector.
Now, although this is for your own safety since carbon monoxide poisoning does happen, these are often inefficient.
These detectors run on the same battery as your other appliances, such as the heater. So, unfortunately, when you’re low on power, these alarms tend to go off without reason. If this happens during the night when you’re fast asleep, it could cause panic.
Carbon monoxide can seep into the air and pose a real threat to your health, especially in enclosed spaces. As it gets into your bloodstream, it will readily substitute the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. If continued, it can cause tissue damage and maybe even death.
Of course, when the alarm suddenly goes off, it should be for a good reason. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a boy-who-cried-wolf situation.
To avoid this, I highly recommend that you invest in a separate carbon monoxide detector. You can get those that have a sealed battery, which runs for up to 10 years.
13. Not Turning Your Stove Completely Off
This is another mistake that is crucial to avoid.
This also has to do with poisoning, but this time propane poisoning.
Sometimes it does occur that your stove burner simply goes out as opposed to being turned off.
When cooking, your burner may be blown out by a gust of wind as a door or window is opened, giving you the impression that it’s switched off. If you fail to double check this, propane is continually being pumped into your RV.
Prolonged exposure to propane gas can lead to convulsions, rapid or irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, and general weakness.
Eventually, you may lose consciousness and become unresponsive. This is grave, I know, but it’s important to be aware of.
So, it’s vital to double check the burners when you’re done using your stove.
14. Forgetting To Check Roof Seals
Water intrusion can cause significant damage to the interior of your RV and, unfortunately, cracks in the roof are generally to blame.
Water can trickle in through the smallest of cracks and tears. Believe me, even a crack as thin as a hairline can be the cause of a costly disaster.
That is why it’s essential to get your roof checked at least twice a year. Now, you can easily do this yourself. However, for a more thorough inspection, you might want to contact your dealer.
The dealer can check if there’s a potential trouble area anywhere in your roof that may need fixing soon.
15. Trusting A Regular GPS
Now, this is a mistake many first-time RVers have made.
You see, when driving an RV or trailer, you can’t go down every road that you otherwise would with your car or truck.
Bridges with height or weight restrictions are rarely indicated. You need more space if you have to turn around, or if there are any steep inclines, you could be in trouble.
Sometimes, normal GPS devices that you have on your phone or built in to your vehicle may not show you the best or correct route. Therefore, I will recommend getting a special RV GPS, or one with an RV option
These will generally show you routes to campgrounds, truck stops, and gas stations. They may even warn you of low-clearance bridges and provide you with an alternative route.
16. Cranking Up The Stabilizers Too High
This is, unfortunately, a mistake that’s become the reason for the most avoidable repairs.
We all know the stabilizer legs underneath our trailer. Now, these are not here to raise the trailer; they should merely touch the ground to prevent it from tilting back and forth.
But if you continue to crank them, they will likely break as they aren’t made to carry that much weight.
Additionally, if you think you can use them as jacks when changing a wheel, please don’t. Again, they will break, and you could be badly injured.
Another mistake to look out for is not checking the clearance under your stabilizers before taking off. Make sure that you have retracted them properly so they won’t make contact with the ground once you’re on the road.
In case they do, they will break. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix, but might not be a cheap one, and it’s just one of the mistakes that are so easy to avoid.
This video has some great tips on stabilizing your RV properly.
17. Going Unprepared
Whenever you venture out in your RV, it’s essential to prepare yourself. This means stocking up on supplies—everything from quick snacks to a basic toolkit in case something needs repairing.
First of all, it’s never fun going hungry, and not all campgrounds have a store onsite. Therefore, I’ll always stock up on light food items that can stay good for a while and are easy to prepare.
And secondly, it’s important to keep a toolkit with you. This doesn’t have to be big, but a few basic tools to help with any quick repairs is handy to have.
Moreover, consider including a first aid kit. When camping, small accidents tend to occur, such as knife cuts and minor burns. Hence, a first aid kit should be on your packing checklist.
Here, you can include anything from different gauzes to antiseptic wipes and non-prescription medication.
18. Leaving The Awning Out
Now, this is one of those silly mistakes that I’m guilty of making.
Don’t like repairing the awning too often? When at the campground and it’s a little windy out, make sure you take the awning down.
Leaving it extended while you’re away from the site, or during rough weather, could cause the wind to get a hold of it and rip it to shreds. The poles may bend, and it will be a costly mistake.
From now on, when I’m at a campground, and no one else has their awning out, I’ll do the same. Strong wind gusts can come rather quickly without warning. Unfortunately, the awning is the most vulnerable.
19. Leaving The Black Tank Open
When you find a spot at a campground, it’s normal to hook your RV up and start relaxing.
However, one mistake many RVers tend to make is that they will open up all of their tanks, including the black tank.
The black tank is where all the waste from the onboard toilet goes. If you were to leave it open, there wouldn’t be enough fluids to keep it running smoothly and you’ll likely end up with a build-up.
Leave it closed until it’s time to empty it, or else your RV will quickly start reeking of a toilet. Another tip on this topic is to make sure you empty the tank in a timely manner, too!
Now you’ve seen some of the mistakes that I and other RVers have made this year.
It’s important to keep these in mind.
Mistakes happen to everyone, and there’s no need to beat yourself up. We all run out of fuel, leave the awning out, or forget to close a window properly.
Hopefully, you can learn from other people’s mistakes and avoid them in the future. Please leave us a comment below sharing your biggest RV mistakes, and share the article if you found it helpful.