By Good Sam Club Member Ursula Jourdan

A few years ago, when I was relatively new to RVing, I owned a 23-foot Class C motorhome and I learned some lessons I will always remember.

I must have thought there were not going to be any grocery stores along the way because I stocked all my cabinets to capacity with canned goods and bottles of drinking water. Normally, I don’t eat canned food at all, but I was afraid that I would have to resort to eating canned goods out there on the road. I also had filled the freshwater holding tank completely full, although I never would drink the water straight from the tap. I didn’t do much cooking because my stove had a cover on the top, and it had become a very good place to store things that I most likely didn’t even need to take with me, so I didn’t need water for cooking. Some of the canned food came in handy, even though I ate it cold, right out of the can.

I was towing my 4×4 truck, which was another mistake, because a 4×4 weighs more than a regular truck, and this vehicle should never have been towed with a 23-foot RV. I guess I thought there might not be gas stations close by wherever I would eventually unhook the tow vehicle, so I filled the gas tank to capacity … another HUGE mistake, because that made the truck even heavier. The truck had a camper shell, and I loaded the entire bed of the truck with things, plus the passenger seat and behind the driver and passenger seats was even more “stuff.”

I had no auxiliary tow brakes (which I now have on my large RV), so the 4×4 truck would push the RV on downhill grades. Nobody warned me that one does not pump the brakes on steep downhill grades, so I was pumping the brakes constantly. I started smelling burning brakes but thought it was the 18-wheelers going down that same 8% grade. I kept pumping the brakes. Finally, there were no more 18-wheelers and the brake smell was still there. The next time I pumped the brakes, my foot hit the floor.

I was a little more than halfway down the grade. Fortunately, I had driven that highway before and knew there was a large gravel parking lot at the bottom, just off to the side of the highway. I geared down as much as possible and thought that if I could just get to that gravel lot, I would pull the emergency brake and shift the RV into “Park.” I made it to that lot, and when I pulled the emergency brake and put the RV into “Park,” the RV slid about halfway across the gravel lot and came to a stop.

Two 18-wheelers were parked there, and they both asked what happened, and then told me to not get back into the RV, as it could catch fire. There was no way I was going to let my cats be in that RV if it were to catch fire, so I went back inside, and it never did burn. The next morning someone from the repair garage came to remove the wheels and the calipers, which were the old type and had completely melted and fell out in pieces.

After that learning experience, I always gear down before I start down a steep grade, and if the RV picks up too much speed, I lightly hold my foot on the brake until the RV slows way down again, and then I take my foot off the brake again. I’ve never had one of those hair-raising experiences again, thank heavens. My present 35-foot Class A has auxiliary tow vehicle brakes.

Share your RV travel story with the community. If we feature your story in CyberSam eNews, you’ll receive $100 just for sharing.

Leave a Reply


  1. Carol Bradley

    A speaker cover was missing from the ceiling of our travel trailer. Since we are new to this trailer, we started looking on the floor for the cover. My husband finally took a look at our slide out, and found it on top of it. Used a new hotdog/marshmellow fork to retreive it. New things to learn all the time with a new product. Carol

  2. The story about the overloaded motorhome reminded me of our first RV trip. This was in 1970 and we were traveling in a truck camper mounted on a new Ford F-250. We were towing a VW bug, and in those days tow bars were hard to come by. So we had a local welder fabricate one for us. I figured out how to wire the lights so that the truck’s tail lights, brake lights and directional signals all worked on the car when it was in tow. I didn’t think about brakes for the car.

    We live on the east coast and had never been west of the Mississippi. I had never seen a real mountain, much less driven on one. So, there we were in Wyoming, going down the side of a mountain on the steepest, longest downgrade I had ever seen. About halfway down I realized that we had no brakes. I also realized that at the bottom of the hill was a cross road and a traffic light. My final realization was that, regardless of the color of that traffic light, there was no way I was going to be able to stop.

    Fortunately, this was rural Wyoming and there was very little traffic. I turned on my headlights, laid on the horn, and blew through that intersection (the light was red in my direction) at about 60mph. I eventually rolled to a stop, and needed to find a bathroom. Urgently.