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Home sweet home.
To say that driving your motorhome is like driving your family car is a huge understatement. Everything about it is bigger, slower to react, and harder to manage. You will fully understand that once you get to the campground and try to park the thing. This will, most likely, be the most stressful part of your day. But with a quick read of this guide, you’ll be better suited to zip in, set up, and get down to some serious relaxation.
Pulling In and Parking
Slow roll it.
After a long day of driving you may be in a hurry to get settled in for the night, but try to slow it down a notch. There are a few key things you should do before you even begin parking.
KEEP YOUR SITE IN SIGHT
Before pulling in, make sure your RV can make it to your campsite. While you might expect that roads in your campground are easy to navigate, that’s not always the case. Some sites are difficult to access with tight turns and narrow squeezes between boulders and trees. Some camping websites post cautions warning owners of longer rigs that they might want to consider another campground. If you don’t see these warnings on your campground’s website, reach out directly.
Once it looks like getting there won’t be a problem, make sure your rig will fit the site you selected. Most reservation websites provide details such as length and width for each campsite. You’ll want to be sure that your RV fits the space without sticking out into the road. Some websites also indicate obstructions like low-hanging tree branches.
Parking Your RV
Let’s park this thing.
Obviously, the easiest way to park your RV is to simply pull into what’s called a pull-through site. Enter through one end, exit through another. However, not all sites offer this option. That means, get ready to back in.
NO, YOUR OTHER LEFT!
When you’re backing in, you’ll first need to decide who’s going to drive and who’s going to spot. The spotter serves as the driver’s eyes and ears, and they’re responsible for getting the rig positioned.
TOGO RV TIP - If you don’t like taking directions, you might want to be the spotter.
While some RVers buy walkie-talkies to communicate with the spotter, we prefer hand signals. Why? Because showing the driver he has three feet to go is clearer than telling him he has three feet left.
Before using hand signals, agree on what they mean. And never move your rig unless your spotter is in plain view at the left rear of your vehicle.
Here are five basic hand signals you should know before you learn how to park.
STOP: Two options: 1. Cross your forearms above your head to form an X, or 2. raise your arm and make a closed fist.
GO LEFT, GO RIGHT: Hold your arm straight out to the side you want the driver to move. Bend your arm at the elbow with fingers pointing to the sky. Make a pumping motion to indicate the direction to go. Increase the intensity of the motion to signal a sharper turn.
STRAIGHT BACK: Place your arms straight out in front of you, bend them at the elbow, and turn palms inward. Use a back and forth motion to signal to the driver to move toward you slowly.
DISTANCE TO GO: Bend your arms at the elbow so your palms are facing each other. Arms can be shoulder-high or above your head for a clearer view. Close the distance between your palms to match the distance remaining.
GO SLOWER: Hold your arms straight in front of you with palms downward. Make a motion like you are patting a dog.
Parking Tips and Tricks
8 parking tips and tricks.
Tip #1 — Radio off. Kids out. Before you start backing up, turn off your radio and roll the windows down so you can hear your spotter. And eliminate any other distractions. If you’ve got kids, tell them to quiet down until you’re done. Or better yet, have them watch from a safe distance.
Tip #2 — Check your hand position. Keep your hands on the lower part of the steering wheel. This way when you’re told to go left, you simply turn the wheel to the left. If your hands are on top and you’re told to go left, you’ll have to move your hands to the right. If putting your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel feel too unnatural to you, then you may want to use “passenger side” and “driver side” instead of “left” and “right.”
Tip #3 — GOAL!!! When you arrive at your campsite, do what truckers do: GOAL. Not the soccer kind, but the Get Out And Look kind in which you stop, walk around the site and vehicle, and familiarize yourself with the situation – especially before backing up.
Tip #4 — Give yourself an easy visual reference. If you find it helps, you can place bright cones along the path to help with visibility and determining when and where to start making turns. It’s better to run over a rubber cone than your neighbor’s grill.
Tip #5 — Look up. When surveying the campsite and looking for possible obstacles before parking your RV, be sure to also look up. Tree branches can do a number on your rig just as well as a tree trunk can.
Tip #6 — Parking lot makes perfect. Practice your parking in a large parking lot – like a Sam’s Club or Costco – before you leave home. It’s still going to take a few times to get your unit parked once you get there, but that extra practice can make a big difference.
Tip #7 — Easy does it. The two most common mistakes people make when backing in are: 1) turning the steering wheel too much, and then 2) holding it in the turn position for too long.
Tip #8 — Hook-ups and slide outs. Don’t forget to check the distance between the campsite’s hook-up and your rig to make sure there’s enough room to extend your slide out. The last thing you want to do is park, level, stabilize, and then discover you have to do it all again!
So, don’t rush things. And remember, this isn’t a beauty contest; you can start the backing maneuver over again. Go slow and give yourself time to make corrections. With time you’ll make it work.
Get on the level.
Okay, you’ve parked your RV. The hard part is over! Now it’s time to level. Leveling your RV is important for a few reasons: your fridge might not work if it isn’t level, doors might swing open, and objects could roll or slide off surfaces.
To begin the process of leveling, you’ll first need a bubble level. You can grab the small one you use around the house, buy a specially made level that can be attached to the outside of your RV, or splurge on an electronic leveler. Most likely, though, your RV came with one built in. Whatever you decide, use your level to determine which side or end needs to be raised. Unlike a towable, you will need to level the sides and the ends at the same time.
One thing to note: Some manufacturers recommend that you extend your slide out before leveling. An extended slide out will add weight to the side it’s on, which will affect leveling. But not all manufacturers recommend you take this step. So consult your owner’s manual.
Once you’ve determined which side needs attention and how much, follow these easy steps to leveling:
STEP 1: Draw or mark a line on the ground at the center of your tires.
STEP 2: Back up a few feet, park, then place the required number of leveling blocks where the tires were. Align the center of the blocks with the line on the ground.
STEP 3: Drive forward until the tires rest squarely on the blocks.
STEP 4: Check the bubble level to make sure you are where you want to be.
STEP 5: Place your wheel chocks on the opposite side of your leveling blocks to keep your trailer from rolling away.
Determining how many blocks you need is a trial and error process. In time, though, you’ll get the hang of it. Buy your blocks in packages, because you never know how many you might need. There are a few types of blocks, but the most popular is similar to Lego blocks that can be snapped together and then stacked. Other block levelers look and function like ramps that raise the side of the RV the farther you pull up on the block.
THE EASY BUTTON
The easiest way to level your RV is with a hydraulic automatic RV leveling system. Simply push a button and presto your RV levels itself. However, you won’t find automatic levelers on all units. So, if you’re like the rest of us, grab those leveling blocks.
Stabilizing your RV.
Most modern RVs come with stabilizing jacks already attached. If yours didn’t, you can pick them up at your local RV dealer or online. Prices vary based on quality and how much weight the jacks can support. If you need to buy jacks separately from your RV, know the weight of your RV and an estimated weight of your gear. Expect to pay anywhere from $90 for a set of four or up to $70 for individual jacks.
JACKS BE NIMBLE
Although your RV may have come with its own stabilizing jacks, you may want to pick up a few extra to get that rock-solid feel. For example, some jacks are designed to be placed right by the side door of the unit to limit movement when someone steps in or out of the rig. Another good spot is next to the bumper to limit sway when someone is in the bedroom.
After your stabilizing jack is in place, turn the winch handle to raise or lower it to the preferred height. For jacks that are attached to the RV, turn the winch until the jack reaches the ground and stabilizes the RV. Once the jack reaches the ground and makes solid contact, stop lowering it.
If you put too much weight on the jack, you could damage it, as well as unlevel your RV.
Some RVers place a leveling block under the foot of the jack for it to rest on rather the ground, but it’s not necessary. You can save time by using a power drill with the proper socket to raise and lower the jack in the blink of an eye.
Hooking Up Your RV
Talkin’ ‘bout your generator.
Before plugging in your RV, be sure your circuit breaker is in the off position. Then simply attach the power supply cord to the plug on the side of your RV and turn the circuit breaker on.
If you’re using a generator, keep in mind that the bigger the generator the more electrical appliances you can use at once. The air conditioner on your RV is going to be using most of your generator’s electricity; unless you buy a bigger unit you may not be able to use both your microwave and AC at the same time.
Of course, if you’re plugging into a power hookup at an RV park, you’ll have all the electricity you need and won’t have to worry about limiting your use of appliances.
Be sure to place the generator as far away from your RV as possible so you don’t have to hear it running.
Why does this water taste funny?
Make sure you are using a white, drinking water safe water hose to hook up to your campground’s water supply. You’re also going to want to spray your campground’s water hook up faucet with some anti-bacterial spray (such as Lysol) before screwing on your hose. Why? Well, because in all likelihood the last person to use the campground’s faucet was probably rinsing off their sewer hose before they moved on.
Now, once the faucet has been cleaned, you’ll probably want to install a Y valve to the faucet. This way you can have a hose to use for outdoor water supply as well as the water supply that goes directly to your RV.
Then, simply attach your hoses, turn the water on, and then double check that there are no leaks at either end.
That’s why it’s called the black tank!
The sewer hose is a flexible plastic pipe that you will connect both to the RV and to the in-ground discharge tank. Make sure both ends are secure before opening the valve to empty your sewer tank. Be sure to empty your sewer tank, and then discharge your gray water (shower and sink water) through the sewer hose, to help clean out the pipe. Wear gloves while doing this, just in case there are a few drips.
It’s five o’clock somewhere.
Well, that’s it. Sure, there are unanticipated things that you’ll encounter on every trip you take, but now you know the basics. And if you’ve arrived at the campground early enough, that means you’ve still got time to break out the lawn chairs and settle in around the campfire.
Remember, you’re on vacation. No need to rush anything. Just take it easy and remember that RVs are homes on wheels; if you take the time to properly get yours set up, you’ll be ready for an evening under the stars.
Be sure to check out our How to Park Your Motorhome video to see how it’s done by a couple of pros.
Feb 25, 2020
Togo RV • 13 min. read