Learning to Drive

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SeilerBird

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The differences between driving a car is that it accelerates slower, stops slower and turns slower. The rest of the time it is identical to driving a car. All you need to learn is the difference in stopping, accelerating and turning. The secret is that you just have to adjust to the slow speed. When I drive an RV around town I discovered that to make a right had turn, like at a stop sign or an intersection, I keep one eye on the outside rear view mirror. Then pull into the intersection and when the rear tire goes past the corner make your turn. That will make it impossible to hit anything on that side like a curb or a center divider. You can try it out while driving a car to see how it works. Accelerating and stopping slower will be easy to adjust to. It really isn't rocket science, it is just a case of mind over matter. You have it all built up to be some kind of wild experience and once you start driving it will be hard to get you out of the drivers seat. As far as parking is concerned go to a Walmart and find a nice big empty section and park it a few times. You don't really need cones, it isn't that difficult. Just think about the thousands of big rig drivers you see on the highway. They look at a 40 foot motorhome as a sports car.
 

HappyWanderer

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People thinking that driving a 40 foot motorhome is the same as driving a car is why there are so many posts by folks who have banged into something.
 

SeilerBird

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People thinking that driving a 40 foot motorhome is the same as driving a car is why there are so many posts by folks who have banged into something.
I never said it was exactly the same. However since I have been driving my rice burner the last few years I have had my first two accidents. Neither one amounted to anything other than ruining a perfect record. But I did explain a few posts ago the stopping, accelerating and turning are different. Look for reply #21.
 

Isaac-1

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To chime in here, I had never driven a class A motorhome before I bought my current coach in 2016, and it did take some getting used to even though it is a small sub 30 ft class A, even though I had thousands of miles of experience driving my 21 ft long Ford F250 crew cab pickup, and helped an old friend drive a u-haul truck 2,000+ miles from Louisiana to Montana in 2013. I bought the coach a thousand miles away from home in Florida, flew down to pick it up and started home the same day, which involved getting up at 3 am driving to the airport 70 miles away, getting on a 5 am flight, changing planes in Atlanta, getting into Orlando a bit after noon where the seller picked me up for the hour drive to his house where the coach was parked, doing the paperwork, then getting in the coach to start the drive home at 4 pm. I drove it 3 miles with the seller onboard to a nearby Wal-Mart, where I went in to buy initial travel supplies, then I was on I-95 at afternoon rush hour, in a construction zone with concrete K rail barriers on both sides at every interchange. The first hundred miles was stressful to say the least, though I did make it, though I will admit I pulled off and took a breather a few times along the way. The second hundred miles were much easier, and by the time I was a hundred miles from home I was actually starting to relax a little while driving the beast.
 

Skipper

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Watch Lazydays RV new drivers confidence video on YouTube. It is for class A motorhome operators but will give you great information that should work with a super C.
 

HappyWanderer

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Unlike a car where you just put it in Drive and aim it down the road, a large vehicle needs the driver to pay constant attention and anticipate what’s ahead. That means much longer stopping distances, downshifting before going downhill and not smoking the brakes.

Careful consideration must be given towards low clearances and maneuvering though fuel stations and parking lots. Knowing blind spots and pivot points are critical, along with such things as properly adjusting and using mirrors.

These skills can be leaned with reasonable effort. Anyone who thinks it can be done in 5 or 10 minutes is a fool.
 

Isaac-1

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You left out a big one, WIND, and compensating for it, anticipating the blast of passing trucks, or when one drives through and underpass on a day with strong cross winds.
 

Larry N.

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The differences between driving a car is that it accelerates slower, stops slower and turns slower.
Tom, it's great that you are trying to allay people's fears of getting started in a motorhome, but I think you tend to oversimplify things for beginners.

So, the other differences that matter are things such as HappyWanderer says above and keeping track of size (length, width, and height) all the time. Granted that what you say is true for the actual control manipulation (except, sometimes, the air brakes/engine brakes), but the mental aspect is very different, and it DOES take a while to become accustomed to keeping constant awareness of the space you occupy in all three dimensions.

And because of that conscious attention that must be developed and the unfamiliar systems that many coaches have that claim additional attention from you, it takes time to get most of that attention to become almost automatic, though it certainly does come in time -- HOWEVER, even when it's almost automatic, driving a big rig (or even a class C) is still more tiring than driving a car.

I had plenty of truck driving experience (semis, small, medium, etc.) before I ever set foot in a class A, and had no trouble driving it except that I had to devote my FULL attention to it the first few times, though it quickly got better as time went on. Those without such a background will take longer to accommodate, and will likely have to add the "intimidation factor" into the additional mental awareness, which hinders progress.

You're so accustomed to it that it does, indeed, seem to you almost like driving a car, but the differences are VERY real, and are exacerbated for those without big rig experience.

The last piece of this is that, as I learned long ago in flight instructing (as well as teaching other things), different people have different perceptions of the same thing and different people require different ways to learn/be taught most anything, depending on their individual personalities and backgrounds, so I feel it is a disservice to make it sound not much different than a car, though it can eventually seem almost that way to many people (not to all, unfortunately).
 

SeilerBird

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All I am trying to do is comfort them. Sure there are a lot of small items that he needs to know but I see no advantage to overloading them with information.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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My wife was never a confident driver of anything and very afraid of driving the coach. But she realized she might have to drive if I was incapacitated somewhere, so she took the familiarization course at Lazydays RV and quickly realized that it wasn't difficult at all. She could manage it ok, turns and stops and driving thru a campground. She still avoided driving it, but wasn't afraid any more.
 

Joenew61

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Tom, it's great that you are trying to allay people's fears of getting started in a motorhome, but I think you tend to oversimplify things for beginners.

So, the other differences that matter are things such as HappyWanderer says above and keeping track of size (length, width, and height) all the time. Granted that what you say is true for the actual control manipulation (except, sometimes, the air brakes/engine brakes), but the mental aspect is very different, and it DOES take a while to become accustomed to keeping constant awareness of the space you occupy in all three dimensions.

And because of that conscious attention that must be developed and the unfamiliar systems that many coaches have that claim additional attention from you, it takes time to get most of that attention to become almost automatic, though it certainly does come in time -- HOWEVER, even when it's almost automatic, driving a big rig (or even a class C) is still more tiring than driving a car.

I had plenty of truck driving experience (semis, small, medium, etc.) before I ever set foot in a class A, and had no trouble driving it except that I had to devote my FULL attention to it the first few times, though it quickly got better as time went on. Those without such a background will take longer to accommodate, and will likely have to add the "intimidation factor" into the additional mental awareness, which hinders progress.

You're so accustomed to it that it does, indeed, seem to you almost like driving a car, but the differences are VERY real, and are exacerbated for those without big rig experience.

The last piece of this is that, as I learned long ago in flight instructing (as well as teaching other things), different people have different perceptions of the same thing and different people require different ways to learn/be taught most anything, depending on their individual personalities and backgrounds, so I feel it is a disservice to make it sound not much different than a car, though it can eventually seem almost that way to many people (not to all, unfortunately).
You have articulated the learning dynamic that I have assumed and visualized perfectly - thanks for putting it into words. Flight instruction probably takes this to a whole other level.

Not to over-think it, but I think there will be three levels to this. First there is the understanding of driving technique where there are differences to driving a car - how to visually center the coach, when is the right time to turn a corner, understanding distances and angles with the mirrors, stopping and starting distances etc. I do think that this needs to be understood "clinically" - i.e. how to think about what to do.

Past that there will be a time when the how-to is understood, but the execution is mechanical and very actively managed. Then at some point I imagine that muscle memory, feel, and instinct will take over. But even at that point, I do believe that the focus required and the things to be aware of will always be a little more than driving a car. It is the same with docking a boat - my concentration level goes up orders of magnitude as compared to parking a car or piloting on the open sea. The variables and risks will always be greater.

I actually welcome Tom's "eazy peazy" perspective. Encouragement has always been a big part of learning a new skill. I definitely won't assume I can just jump in with no preparation and everything will be just fine, but hearing the positive spin is a good thing.
 
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Larry N.

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All I am trying to do is comfort them. Sure there are a lot of small items that he needs to know but I see no advantage to overloading them with information.
I understand this, Tom, and I appreciate the intent, but IMO (for what it may be worth) the oversimplification will set expectations a bit wrong, but Joe's comment in his final paragraph indicates that it may not be quite as far off (at least in some cases) as I feared.

And I DO agree that we shouldn't make it sound difficult, because it certainly isn't tough for those who don't allow intimidation to discourage them and who will approach it as just a few more things to learn.

She still avoided driving it, but wasn't afraid any more.
Wish my wife would take that attitude, Gary. I can't get her to even try. Thankfully FMCA's FMCassist will help her deal with things if something happens to me.
 

SeilerBird

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I actually welcome Tom's "eazy peazy" perspective. Encouragement has always been a big part of learning a new skill. I definitely won't assume I can just jump in with no preparation and everything will be just fine, but hearing the positive spin is a good thing.

I was driving home from LA after a sports card show and I drove past a dealership with a 1989 Jamboree Rally was parked in their lot. It immediately came to me that it would be easier to go to these shows with a motorhome rather than the class B I was driving. I did a U turn and looked it over, didn't drive it but l loved the way it looked. So I bought it. It was 26 feet and I had never driven anything larger than a van. My first drive was from Thousand Oaks CA to Ventura CA, about 35 miles. My first ever drive in a big RV. I loved driving it immediately even driving down the Conejo Grade.

A month later I had a week end show in LA and I drove down Saturday morning. I drove back to Ventura Saturday night. For a weekend show we didn't bother to breakdown the booth, just put everything back into crates and stored it under the table. Sunday morning I woke up to 40 mph winds. I had no choice, I had to drive back to LA to work the show and pickup all my inventory. I got on the off ramp to go back to LA on 101. I was scared poopless. I drove all the way to LA with my stomach in knots at about 30 mph. I made it all right but I sure learned a lot that day. Such as absolutely necessary would be the only time I would ever drive in wind. It felt to me like the top of the RV was swaying a few feet in each direction. I found out later that the top only moved a few inches, but it sure felt like it was going to be blown over.
 

Kirk

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I definitely won't assume I can just jump in with no preparation and everything will just be fine, but hearing the positive spin is a good thing.
Absolutely. I sometimes think that people have forgotten what it was like when they first started to learn how to drive a car. I'll never forget the very first time I drove in my father's car on a public highway with traffic! With time and practice it became very easy to do, but that first day................ This experience will have a lot in common with the first time driving something smaller.
 

JudyJB

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Also, keep distances short for the first few days as you will find it much more tiring at first than driving a car. I would try maybe 50 miles the first day, and maybe just under 100 the second.

Also, if you or your wife are short, as I am, take along a booster cushion unless your rig has auto seats.

And, one of the best things about driving a motorhome is that you can now see over the roofs of most pickup trucks! Gives you a great feeling.
 

Isaac-1

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At first?, I find driving our coach far more fatiguing than driving a car, I just drove our coach (28 ft class A towing a small car) 254 miles and the fatigue level feels about like driving a modern car 450 miles or so. With a modern car one is making minor adjustments to the steering wheel maybe once every couple of seconds, with our motorhome it is more like 3 times per second, and if you don't stay on top of it you will end up in the ditch, no looking away from the road to mess with the radio, etc. I even have to time when I can reach over to the cup holder and get a sip of water.
 

Skipper

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At first?, I find driving our coach far more fatiguing than driving a car, I just drove our coach (28 ft class A towing a small car) 254 miles and the fatigue level feels about like driving a modern car 450 miles or so. With a modern car one is making minor adjustments to the steering wheel maybe once every couple of seconds, with our motorhome it is more like 3 times per second, and if you don't stay on top of it you will end up in the ditch, no looking away from the road to mess with the radio, etc. I even have to time when I can reach over to the cup holder and get a sip of water.
Were you towing four down or using a car dolly? What speed were you trying to hold? Do you have a steering damper? What about anti sway bars? Did you have any strong winds, bad roads, too low or high tire pressure? All of the above and more can make white knuckle driving. I'm guessing you might need a high quality steering damper. Watch a few videos about them. See if they describe your condition. If you were using a car dolly, speed might have induced tail wag; 55-60 mph with a dolly is about the limit for most folks.
 

Isaac-1

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I would not describe any of today's drive as white knuckle though it did involve a lot of fair to poor roads, moderate 15-20 mph cross winds at time, and towing 4 down at speeds of around 60-65 mph on 2 lane highways (in New Mexico and Texas where the speed limit was 65-75 mph). My coach has just about all of the suspension upgrades available for a P32 chassis coach, most installed by the previous owner, and has tire pressures set based on weight. I am just saying that it requires constant attention, unlike driving a modern car.
 

Skipper

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I would not describe any of today's drive as white knuckle though it did involve a lot of fair to poor roads, moderate 15-20 mph cross winds at time, and towing 4 down at speeds of around 60-65 mph on 2 lane highways (in New Mexico and Texas where the speed limit was 65-75 mph). My coach has just about all of the suspension upgrades available for a P32 chassis coach, most installed by the previous owner, and has tire pressures set based on weight. I am just saying that it requires constant attention, unlike driving a modern car.
If you don't have a steering stabilizer you might get one. It should take a lot of Fighting the steering wheel out of the drIve. Regardless, your Drive should be more relaxed. Poor roads and wind will require more attention. Happy trails and stay safe.
 

Kirk

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I am just saying that it requires constant attention, unlike driving a modern car.
I hope we never share a road when you are in your car, with that attitude. All drivers should constantly pay attention to what they are doing. As to your problems with driving, you clearly have something wrong. Have you ever had it weighed by individual wheels? If in good condition and properly loaded and not overloaded, modern motorhomes are not difficult to drive physically and with a reasonably skilled driver of average abilities. I drove our first motorhome for 9 years and the second one for 14 years. Each one had a learning curve since the second was 11' longer than the first but neither of them were at all difficult once I overcame the mental issues and learned a few new skills and got a little bit of experience.
 
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