15 RV Mountain Driving Tips You Must Know

RV driving
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Whether you live in your recreational vehicle or just use it during the holidays, you’ll have to move it around a lot. In fact, it’s built to be moved around.

You could call it a house on wheels. But when you move your RV from one place to another, you will encounter different kinds of weather, people, cultures, and roads different from what you’re used to.

One of these types of experiences is driving your RV through the mountains. The mountains offer a different challenge to you while driving your RV than what you encounter on normal roads.

Most ‘normal’ roads could be at an angle of 6 degrees or 7. But on a mountain pass, you could have angles as steep as 18 degrees. This is part of the fun and experience of using an RV.

While it is fun, having an accident or putting your life at risk is no fun. Dead people never have fun.

When you encounter the mountains on your journey, there are things you need to take note of to give you better control of your RV. And to give your RV the best chance of navigating these difficult terrains.

Types of RVs

The type of RV you drive will have an effect on how you control it during a journey through these steep areas.

Common types of RVs people use today, which give as much comfort as possible, are:

1. Motorhomes: the motorhome combines both the recreational vehicle and the towing vehicle. You don’t need a vehicle to tow this RV as that is already built with it.

There are usually two variations with regards to their engines. Some motorhomes use gasoline engines while some use diesel engines. In most cases, diesel engines are usually more powerful than gasoline engines.

This makes the diesel engines more capable of mountain driving than the gasoline engine. But this doesn’t mean you can’t travel fine with your gasoline engine-powered motorhome. It just needs a bit more technique.

2. Travel trailers: these are usually connected to the back of your pickup or van and can be detached easily whenever you get to an RV campground. It can be a cheaper option than a motorhome and you don’t need to buy another vehicle if you already have one.

You can just attach your RV to your vehicle and you’re good to go. The main issue you might have with a travel trailer is height. If you’re very tall, you may find it uncomfortable having to bend your head while walking around.

A travel trailer may also be more difficult to control while driving in the mountains as it is affected more by the influence of wind. This can be pronounced especially when a large truck race past you on the road.

3. Fifth-wheel trailers: this is a bigger version of the travel trailer. It is taller and usually provides more space than a travel trailer of similar length.

However, it may be more expensive to own as you need a truck used mainly for this. The fifth wheel is attached to the bed of the truck and may limit the use of the truck for other purposes.

Fifth wheel trailers are easier to control than the travel trailer but this may also depend on the size of your fifth wheel and the performance of your truck.

There are more types of recreational vehicles, but these usually provide many amenities and much space for people during their travels.

What are the tips to take note of while driving your RV in the mountains?

Have a knowledge of the pass

When you’re traveling to a state, you should be aware of the locations that have mountain passes or steep roads. If you’re going through a road for the first time and with your RV, you should have important information about the road.

You can easily do this by searching the internet or getting in touch with travel guides who have a knowledge of what you can expect during your journey.

It can be more difficult if you have no previous knowledge of a mountain pass and you suddenly encounter it. Without a knowledge of what to do in this kind of situation, you might just be playing trial-and-error which is no fun.

Even if you’ve driven through other mountain passes before, they’ll probably be different from this one.

One other thing you need to know is the road condition. Is it narrow or wide? Will you need to pass through roads that are unpaved?

Have knowledge of your vehicle

When you know the type and condition of the road you’re passing through, you also need to know your vehicle’s capability. If you’re using a motorhome, you need to know if the engines of your vehicle are capable of such conditions.

If you’re using a pickup to tow your RV, you need to know if your pickup is powerful enough to tow your RV uphill and downhill. In most cases, the RV will exert more force on the truck while going downhill due to its weight.

Make sure your brakes are in good condition

Driving without good brakes is dangerous for any vehicle on the road. It is even more so if you’re driving in the mountains. Without good brakes, you can easily lose control of your RV while navigating these roads.

Before you embark on a journey through the mountains, you must check the brake fluid, the brake drum and other components of your brake system to confirm that they are in their best condition.

Check to see your tires are in good condition and properly inflated

The tires of your vehicle help it to have a proper grip on the road. Tires with good threads give better control on the road. It can even be more critical when you have heavy rain while driving through these roads.

Rain usually reduces the friction between your tires and the road. This makes driving difficult even with a tire that has proper threads. A worn-off tire could increase the risk of getting your vehicle skid off the road. This could easily lead to an accident.

It is also important to check if your tires are properly inflated. Due to the weight of the load in your RV, you can get a flat tire at the wrong moment.

A flat tire while on the motion can make you lose control while on the road. And you want to avoid this while driving through a mountain pass.

Check local weather

Weather affects your journey on the road, especially in the mountain. This is why you should be aware of the local weather of the area you’re passing through. If there is heavy rain, it’s better to stop your RV at the roadside before you get to the steep road.

In some cases, there could be heavy snow which could make the roads almost impossible to pass through until they’re cleared. Heavy winds could also move stones onto the road which can damage the tires.

This information is important and could save you a lot of stress during your journey. You can easily get this information through weather reports of that particular location.

Use a low gear while going downhill

A low gear while going downhill helps to prepare your RV for moving uphill. This low gear helps your vehicle engine to produce more power in preparation for moving uphill.

Using a high gear while going downhill and then having to change that to a low gear when you’re about to go uphill is not advisable. This can put a lot of unnecessary stress on your vehicle’s engine. It can even lead to overheating in some cases.

This is something you should avoid. While going downhill on a free, you should use the gear level you’ll use to climb the hill. If your vehicle’s engine uses an automatic transmission, one way to get it to a low gear is to apply a brake as you go downhill.

Check the RPM

While going downhill, you need to check your engine’s revolution per minute. This will show you whether it’s producing enough power to take your vehicle uphill.

This value can be different depending on the RV but most fall between 2000 and 4000 RPM. Driving at your engine’s power band allows it to produce its highest horsepower and reduce the possibility of your engine overheating.

Move at a low speed

If you’re moving through a mountain pass, you should move at a low speed whether you’re going down the steep road or climbing up. One of the reasons you should move at a low speed is because low speeds afford you better control of your RV.

As the speed of your vehicle increases, you lose more control. This is bad news if you’re driving through the mountains. Cars could probably afford to move at a high speed.

But due to the weight of an RV, it’s much more difficult to control at a high speed because it has a higher momentum than the car. Moving at a low speed is also beneficial as you move uphill.

Use brakes in short bursts

While going down a steep road, you need to apply your brakes in short bursts. This prevents overheating of your brake system.

If you press your brakes continually while going downhill, it can get too hot and lose its function. This is a danger you want to avoid as you’ll be unable to control your vehicle properly without the brakes.

This is one of the reasons you should move your RV at a slow speed. So that you don’t have to use your brakes frequently. Using it in short bursts allows it to cool off before you need to use the brakes again.

If your motorhome uses a diesel engine, you have access to the jake brake which can make your braking more effective.

Use hazard lights

If you’re moving at a much lower speed relative to other vehicles on the road, you can put on the hazard lights. This notifies vehicles coming behind that you’re moving at a slow speed.

Don’t stay at the center of the road

When going through a narrow road, it’s advisable to stay in your lane rather than at the center of the road. This is because you can encounter another vehicle at a corner also coming in the center of the road.

Trying to adjust abruptly may cause you to lose control of your RV as the immediate swerve will be exaggerated with the load of your RV. This can lead to accidents on the road.

Check the temperature of your engine

While driving through the mountain, it is important to check the temperature of your engines. You don’t want your engines to overheat while on the road.

When you notice that the temperature of your engine is going up, you can put off the AC to lower the temperature. You can also get off the road so that the engine can cool off before you continue.

Have extra drinking water

At high altitudes, dehydration can lead to altitude sickness. This can affect your alertness on the road. Have enough water with you and take it to replenish lost fluid while driving your RV.

Maintain road courtesy and be observant during bad weather

This is especially important if you’re driving at night. I’ll discourage driving at the night in the mountains if you’re driving an RV. But sometimes, it can be necessary. In some other cases, it could be bad weather like fog, rain, or snow.

It is important to stay in your lane and when you see the light of a car approaching on the opposite side, you should dim your lights so that you don’t cause problems for the other driver.

When you experience bad weather, you should move as slowly as possible and watch out for any new development ahead.

Have fun

Even while driving through a mountain pass, this should never deny you the fun you expect on a journey with your RV. Moving at a slow speed on these roads could be an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the mountains.


Driving in the mountains with your RV could be a new experience for you. If you’re prepared for it, you should be able to do it without much risk to you or damage to your vehicle.

It may require another style of driving different from driving on a flat road. But these steps can be carried out easily by anybody who has been driving their RV without issues.

And if you feel driving through a mountain pass may be too dangerous for you and your RV, you can always find an alternative route. Happy driving!

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