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Tips for Driving your RV in Winter Conditions

Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
December 28, 2020

TL;DR: Driving an RV in winter weather can be dangerous, but sometimes unavoidable. Prepare with essential supplies, check tires, battery, and handle drivable and towable RVs differently. Consider location and use caution, opting for major roads. Use judgment and have a backup plan ready.

Tips for Driving your RV in Winter Conditions

No matter how much preparation goes into planning a trip, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. This is oftentimes the case with inclement weather. The forecast might say rain, but Mother Nature could have other plans in the forms of ice, snow, sleet, or hail. Driving in winter weather can be challenging and dangerous, especially so in an RV. While Harvest Hosts would never recommend driving in inclement weather, but there may occasionally be times where RVers don’t have another choice. In that case, being informed on how to drive in winter weather can be life saving. Below, we’ve outlined some tips for driving an RV in the snow that should really help you if you find yourself in this situation. Icy and snowy roads can make for difficult driving conditions.

Supplies

Before leaving the comfort of your current location, it is imperative that you have the necessary materials needed for driving in winter weather. It’s better to err on the side of caution and prepare for the worst. Stock up on groceries, drinking water, fuel, propane, and anything else in case you become stranded at a rest area, for instance. Thankfully, most RV refrigerators run off of propane, and most cooking can be done with propane as well. It’s also important that your RV has an emergency roadside kit with flares and reflectors. This is helpful anytime you drive your RV, should you need to pull over on the side of the road for any amount of time. Driving in winter conditions is difficult, so it's helpful to be prepared just in case.

Tires

Similar to car tires, if RV tires are older or worn out, then your chances of sliding are more likely. If you’re unsure if your RV’s tires are up to snuff, check out our helpful blog article all about RV tires. The type of tire can also affect your RV’s handling in the snow. Most RV tires are made for heavy highway use or summer use, not for winter weather. If your tires are not made for driving in winter weather, then it may be safer to avoid the risk. Alternatively, you can increase your traction with tire chains, which are sometimes even required in certain areas. If you choose to use tire chains, it’s imperative that you practice installing them ahead of time. Another consideration is the type of RV you have. Motorhomes almost always have dual back wheels. This provides additional difficulty when installing tire chains. If you own a Class C or towable RV, then tire chains can easily be installed using a rapid jackChains may be required in some places, so it's important to keep them on hand.

Battery

Auto batteries of any kind are more likely to suffer performance in cold weather, and this includes your RV’s main and auxiliary batteries. Before attempting to drive in cold weather, you should first check that your batteries are in good working condition. You can check your battery levels with multimeter or by taking your RV to a nearby service shop. If your RV has auxiliary batteries, check that they are also in good working condition as well. As time goes on, batteries begin to lose their ability to hold a strong charge, which means less power for the driver. If this is the case with your RV, consider replacing them or upgrading to lithium batteries.

Handling your Drivable RV

Your RV drives much differently than a car, especially in winter weather. Drivable RVs operate off of rear-wheel drive, which differs from most cars that operate off of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. This means that the back wheels propel your RV forward and the front wheels are used for steering only. Unfortunately, rear-wheel drive vehicles are much more difficult to handle in snowy or icy conditions. Thee back tirs are more likely to skid, causing your vehicle to fishtail. Keep in mind that losing control of a tall motorhome can have much more drastic consequences than losing control of a small car.Be sure to drive at much slower speed to reduce the chances of losing control, especially over bridges because they freeze before the road. If you own a diesel pusher motorhome, turn off the exhaust brake to reduce your chances of sliding. If it’s actively snowing, be sure to only use your low beams. Similar to fog, high beams can reflect more light, causing lower visibility. Driving in winter conditions is difficult, so it's helpful to be prepared just in case.

Handling your Towable RV

If you have a towable RV, it may be easier to drive in winter weather if you have a four-wheel drive tow vehicle. Be sure to drive much slower than in normal conditions, and give yourself extra time for slowing down or stopping. If you brake too hard or too quickly, your RV can cause you to lose control of your vehicle due to the extra weight. Just like with a motorhome, use your low beams when driving through a snowstorm. Driving in winter conditions is difficult, so it's helpful to be prepared just in case.

Location

The specific area that are expecting snow may also affect your decision of whether or not to attempt the journey. Most northern states and provinces are accustomed to receiving snow, and therefore have the materials and means to make the roads safe and drivable. However, if you happen to be passing through a southern state or an area that almost never receives winter weather, then consider staying put. They most likely do not have salt or snow plows capable of clearing roads, including interstates. Even if you’re in an area that is well-equipped for winter weather, sometimes the roads are just simply not safe to drive. Consult the local radio, weather, or news station to ensure there are no driving bans due to the inclement weather. If it is safe to drive, be sure to check your route to ensure you stick to major roads through the bad weather. Side roads and smaller streets are less likely to be plowed due to less driving traffic. Icy and snowy roads can make for difficult driving conditions.

Use Your Judgement

At the end of the day, you must use your best judgement when deciding whether or not to drive through winter weather. Your comfort level and experience can vary depending on the circumstances. It’s also important to have a backup plan in case driving your RV doesn’t pan out. It’s best to utilize your backup plan before something bad happens. Call the local campgrounds or Harvest Hosts locations to ensure you have a place to stay for the night, in the case the roads are not drivable. Driving in winter conditions is difficult, so it's helpful to be prepared just in case.Driving your RV (or even your car) is often not recommended in snowy or icy conditions, but once in awhile, a storm may take us by surprise. Keep these tips in mind when driving anywhere in the winter season to ensure you are best prepared.Do you have any other tips for driving an RV in winter weather? Have you ever been in your RV during a snowstorm? Tell us about in below!

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,612 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
Sam is a seasoned traveler and RVer of 4+ years. She loves adventures of all kinds and spends as much time on the road as she can. When not exploring in her RV or writing about her travels, you can find her reading a good book, cooking a delicious meal, caring for her plants, or hiking with her dogs.