rv environment impacts mpg

RV FlippedMost owners of motor homes and large trailers have probably experienced the challenge of driving in high gusty winds.  Add some passing semi’s and it can soon turn into what could only be described as a “White Knuckle” drive.

So, how much wind is too much?  There is no correct answer for this question as there are many rig designs and specific configurations.  Factors such as vehicle weight, departure angle (distance from the rear axle center to the rear bumper), weight distribution, body height, presence of any steering aids, correct alignment specifications and even tire pressures can all effect vehicle handling in high winds.  Driver skill and experience also come into play when assessing a safe speed, or if it is even wise to travel in any given conditions.

Generally, if you start to feel uncomfortable while operating in strong winds, slowdown to the minimum legal speed, providing you will not impede other traffic.  The most common reaction during heavy gusts is the tendency to over steer.  This may actually increase the instability of your vehicle causing a possible dangerous situation.  Time and experience will help form the skills that can reduce this.

If, however, you still feel uncomfortable with the wind affect at the lower speed, consider stopping at the next suitable place and sit it out.  Your RV is for relaxing enjoyment, not stress.  Being an RV owner that is late to the next destination is far better than being the “Late RV Owner.”

So let’s talk numbers, actual wind speeds.  Your RV can be effected by as little as a 10 mile an hour breeze.  At wind speeds of 15 to 20 MPH the effect increases dramatically.  Winds near 30 MPH and higher may not be safe for some RV’s to travel at highway speeds, and this is especially true if the conditions include imbedded gusts.

Fortunately, sustained high gusty winds are not all that common, but more associated with short term weather patterns, such as fronts moving through, and squalls.  Therefore, these are better waited out in the comfort of your RV in camp or at a rest stop.

Another smart way to deal with an otherwise “White Knuckle” day, is to re-route your trip via a slower secondary highway or service road.  Driving at speeds of 30 to 40 MPH are not subjected to the same wind effect as found on the higher speed freeways and like highways.  While it may take a little longer, you will probably enjoy the trip much more and even have time and focus to enjoy the sights and scenery.

So, check the weather and drive safe.

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  1. Garth Mailman

    I try to do my driving early in the day. Winds don’t usually pick up until later in the afternoon. If high winds persist overnight or heavy weather is predicted it’s a sign that the prudent RVer should spend an extra day in Camp.

  2. R V Lebkowsky

    Good article, except no mention of crosswind component (wind direction relative to direction of travel). A high crosswind component (at high angles to direction of travel) is more important than wind velocity.15 – 20 MPH of direct crosswind is more dangerous than 50 MPH on the nose or tail. A large Class A machine is a real handful in a high velocity crosswind.

  3. Dave Jones

    I relate it to carrying a sheet of plywood when it is windy.

  4. Susie Smeal

    Thank you for an enlightening article. I just finished my first trip to the East coast and back. Some days it wasn’t worth it to travel. I use to have one rule, I would not drive in rain in my motorhome. I now have a second rule, I will not drive in windy conditions, not worth it.

  5. Carroll Lovig

    We have stayed over several nights due to winds. We just don’t take the chance. My husband was blown over by wind while in a semi so he doesn’t take chances.

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  7. Patsie Guittar

    Just drove East for Cape Hatterus, NC had paid in advance, took two days from Oaklahoma. Hit a bad rain with winds and tractor trailers along with us, only one bad wind did hit us and I think we were lucky. But thanks for this info on what else we could do again.

  8. Peter Mercer

    R V Lebkowsky, Yes, a headwind does not necessarily pose the same issue as a cross-wind, however, roads don’t stay straight forever. Additionally, heavy winds are often associated with approaching weather fronts. Immediate sudden wind direction changes are certain and rapid with the passing of any weather front.

  9. Anonymous

    This is a good article. I looked it up for today, April 23, 2017. This should be updated on Good Sam’s site. It is dangerous high winds today in Greybull,Wyoming. Can’t make it to Yellowstone Park! 26 mile winds

  10. Anonymous

    Could someone please tell me how much wind the Broadside of a Fifth Wheel can take. We have bad storms in Florida and really need to know.

  11. Anonymous

    In regards to the maximum wind a fifth wheel trailer can endure, there is no easy answer. Much depends on the trailer profile, weight. center of gravity, stabilizer positions, etc. The best answer could probably be found by contacting the engineering department of the trailer manufacturer.

    Even knowing the predicted wind speed, periotic wind gusts can exceed local weather wind speed forecasts. I hope this helps. Drive and camp safe.

  12. Anonymous

    I tow a17 ft coachman clipper –9ft tall using anti sway brake and wt. distrib bars also.when large trucks pass me my steering gets a jolt.i go about 50mph,am I forced to use smaller roads for safety?and go a lot slower?—jim

  13. Peter Mercer

    Jim, You are not alone with feeling nervous about the turbulence created by some passing trucks. There are many with similar feelings. With the ideal tow vehicle and trailer set up this should be no issue. However, the jolt may still exist. Taking slower routes not only can reduce such events it can also offer a more relaxed driving experience. After all, RV travel is about enjoyment. Thanks for your comment.