No driver likes to battle high winds and gusty days on the highway because it can make the drive from point-A to point-B a real challenge and chore—particularly high profile vehicles like RVs, motorhomes and campervans that seemingly catch the wind like a sail.
Many people who regularly tow travel trailers or drive motorhomes and RVs will tell you that some of the most exhausting trips have been during high winds because they have to fight with the rig to stay in the lane and keep from being blown all over the roadway.
Unfortunately, many experienced towers have even been pushed into a ditch or flipped over from a powerful gust from Mother Nature.
Take the case of the EF-3 tornado that tore through a community in Brunswick County, North Carolina on the night of February 15, 2021 (President’s Day). The fast-moving tornado with 160 mph wind speeds not only led to 3 deaths, but also caused substantial damage—including blowing over several RVs.
While tragic, it doesn’t take a tornado or another major storm event to pose a risk to RVs, campervans and motorhomes. In fact, wind speeds of as little as 15 to 20 mph can affect your travel vehicle on the highway, and gusts at or above 30 mpg may not be safe to drive.
But before we get blown too far into the weeds, it’s important to say:
If at any time you feel uncomfortable towing in a high-wind situation (no matter the wind speeds), please pull over immediately and wait until you are comfortable with the wind conditions.
This might mean pulling into a rest area or pulling off the highway to wait it out at a small town. Or if the winds are really bad, it could mean using the emergency shoulder on the highway. Either decision is okay because a safe and uneventful journey without incident is better than a near-miss situation due to high winds—or worse, a tragedy at the mercy of Mother Nature’s big mouth.
Tips for driving your RV, motorhome or campervan in high winds
One of the scary things about driving in high wind is that you can’t see it coming. Yes, you might be able to see the trees or grass sway back and forth, but it’s hard to tell when the next big gust is coming. This unpredictability makes the driving experience dangerous and risky.
And that sick feeling can also happen to RV and motorhome owners who worry that their rig may flip over in a windstorm while parked—and for good reason. It’s true that a certain amount of wind force is capable of toppling your rig, and there’s often little an owner can do about it except hope their insurance is paid up.
When it comes to high winds and your rig, the best tip of all is to avoid traveling on gusty days. But if you must travel, following these tips if you’re out towing or driving a motorhome on a windy day can help keep your rig upright:
Tip #1: Slow down
This is the easiest thing to do. If you are having trouble maintaining 70 mph (or even 60 mph) on the interstate or highway, drop down to the minimum limit and stay in the slow lane. You may notice other big vehicles around you (like semi-trucks) also slowing down—and for good reason. Maintaining a slower speed will help you better weather those major gusts.
Tip #2: Find an overpass
If high winds are too extreme to safely drive, we suggest pulling over under an overpass. This can shield your rig from the brunt of the wind until things calm down.
Tip #3: Take a break
Seriously, we mean it—stop driving in windy conditions if you don’t feel safe. Don’t push it. Your nerves will thank you.
Tip #4: Watch traffic around you
Keep a close eye on the traffic around you. If you’re being blown around, imagine how that trucker who’s trying to pass you feels! Make sure the gust hitting you doesn’t cause him to brush up against you (or vice versa). If you or the trucker overcorrect, it could spell disaster.
Tip #5: Keep your cool
What happens if you lose control due to a high gust of wind?
First, if you are towing a trailer, don’t tap your brakes as this can lead to even worse wobbling and uncontrolled swerving. You have 2 options:
- Floor it and the rig should straighten out, or
- Take your foot off the gas and engage your brake controller. (This action will trigger the trailer brakes, which will slow you down and bring the rig back under control.)
The takeaway: securing your rig in high winds
Sometimes you get lucky and you find yourself driving into a big wind, which, though it can kill your gas mileage, is better than being blown sideways all the way from Miami to Detroit on I-75. Other times, you might get a tailwind (the best case scenario), which helps push you along and improves your gas mileage.
If you are doing any driving, even at slow speeds, some rigs may be able to manage wind gusts up to 80 miles-per-hour. Above that, however, you run the risk of your rig being upended or difficult to control. But even towing a travel trailer or driving a motorhome in conditions where gusts hit just 40 to 50 mph can be extremely challenging. Even 30 mph gusts at highway speeds have been known to cause drivers to crash.
For those who are towing a travel trailer, it’s a good idea to leave your trailer attached to your tow vehicle when parked if you’re expecting high winds as the extra weight can help keep the trailer more stable.
For all RV, campervan and motorhome owners, keep any slide-outs tucked in, stabilizer jacks fully deployed, retract all awnings and, if possible, point your trailer or rig into the wind. Lastly, look around your rig. Do you notice any large trees or trees with low-hanging branches—or a tree that doesn’t look healthy? Move your motorhome or trailer out of the destruction path if that tree were to fall. This will help you avoid RV wind damage.
Be safe out there! And always remember to closely monitor the weather conditions before hitting the road in your travel vehicle.
As always, we invite you to browse Classic Vans’ wide selection of new and used class B motorhomes, RVs and campervans for sale in Haywood, California.
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