I remember as a child going camping with my folks and my dad would take our RV down the steepest grades and the most narrow roads. I remember looking out the window and not seeing the road but a sheer cliff 100 feet down. My dad was an excellent driver! How did he know how to navigate those roads so well?
Many people who go camping like to do so in the mountains, and Washington has many great mountain camping destinations. Driving a motorhome over steep hills, especially through a mountainous pass, can be stressful. You may find gas powered motorhomes are a little more difficult to control on a steep grade.
A gas powered motorhome has considerably less power than diesel or truck motorhomes when driving on steep slopes. When taking a gas motorhome on a steep grade, you will need to keep a “slow and steady pace wins the race” mindset. You will want to use a lot of care and caution on descending a steep grade with a gas motorhome, as the braking system is not as robust.
Below are some great tips for driving a motorhome on a steep grade:
- Patience is a Virtue- and one that really comes in handy driving a motorhome on a steep grade. Have a mindset that you will be going slow and many people will be passing you. They expect you to be driving slow, so just stay calm and patient.
- Hazard Lights are Helpful- Be safe and also courteous to other drivers by turning your hazard lights on. You may end up needed to drive 20 or 30 miles under the speed limit, and this will let other drivers know you are doing so intentionally and give them time to get around you.
- Downshift Before Climbing-At the very bottom before you start up the hill, shift to a lower gear to give a little more power.
- Tow Haul Mode- Putting the RV into tow haul mode will use different gear shifting and keep the engine in an optimal range.
- Descend Slowly- As you know you are approaching the downward slope of the pass, bring your speed down quite a bit lower, even as much as 30 miles per hour. Your speed can, of course, be adjusted depending on the length and steepness of the grade. Make sure to be going slow before you hit the descent and stay in tow haul mode. Starting slow gives you room to brake and to increase your speed more safely. It is harder on the brakes to start fast and try to slow quickly in the middle of the hill.
- Downshift Before Heading Down- Usually the RV will automatically downshift before going down a hill, but if it doesn’t, you will need to shift down by firmly pressing the brake to force the transmission to downshift. This gets the engine to do some of the braking and relieves some of the pressure on the actual brakes.
- Short Breaking- When using the brakes try to only push the pedal for 15 to 20 seconds at a time with plenty of time in between to prevent your brakes from overheating and becoming ineffective.
- Don’t Overwork and Rush- It may get you down the hill faster, but your RV will be in poor shape. An overworked engine and screaming brakes are not good for the longevity or health of the RV.
- Use the Time to Enjoy the Journey- Look at this time as a gift to be able to take in the beauty all around you. Some of the best views can be taken in this way. Use it as a time to relax and enjoy everything around you, but don’t relax so much that you forget to pay attention to the road!
Mountain passes and steep hills are nothing to be nervous about, just take it slow and steady and go have some fun!