Driving a motorhome 101
So, you’ve purchased your motorhome or signed the rental agreement on the dotted line and you’re raring to go! There’s nothing quite like the sensation of having a home on wheels and the freedom to go wherever you please. But, for first timers, there are a few basics worth noting.
In Australia, the law requires all passengers and the driver must wear seatbelts at all times while travelling. This includes when sitting in a back cab seat, or lounger cab seat. If you have only ever driven a car before, the motorhome can feel a little more ‘chunky’, and that’s totally normal. Motorhomes by their nature are longer and higher than a standard vehicle, so you do need to be aware of the bigger dimensions and weight while you are driving.
TIME TO TURN IT ON
In diesel vehicles, turn the key slowly to the right until all the lights on the dash appear. Before you turn the key any further, wait until the glow light turns off - this will be on the left-hand side of your dash panel and will be a fluorescent green colour. This means the engine is ready to roll.
Then, turn the key further right and start the engine. Put the gear into drive and begin to move from your parking spot. If an alarm sounds when you start to drive, stop immediately. You’ll need to check what is making the alarm sound, and it could be one of a few things. Firstly, ensure your handbrake is fully released. If that’s all in order, check that your side step has been stowed correctly (this could be a flick of a switch if it is an electric version). The other reason than an alarm will sound is if your power cord has not been disconnected from the campsite’s power supply.
TAKE A (HAND) BRAKE
Knowing how to operate your handbrake is obviously key to parking your vehicle safely. Some vehicles have a collapsible handbrake. To engage the handbrake, lift the handle upwards and listen for a ratchet sound - like a quite fast clicking noise. To release the handbrake, pull the handle firmly upwards and with the button fully depressed, push the handbrake down to the floor. If the handle can be lifted without the ratchet sound, the handbrake is already engaged and you can see this on your dash - the P symbol in the middle of your speedometer will be circled by a bright green light.
WATCH YOUR EVERY MOVE
Many regular cars now come with reversing cameras, and motorhomes are no different. They are super-useful for reversing out of tight spots and if parked on busy roads, and are a great tool to help you command your motorhome safely.However, it doesn’t assist you with blind spots, which are inevitable in motorhomes, so make sure when you’re driving you are mindful of cars trying to overtake you. It’s best to stay in the left lane wherever possible and if necessary, pull over and allow other vehicles to pass.
For vehicles with swivel seats on the driver’s cab, you can easily set these up to face the interior of the motorhome when entertaining, or for meals. Simply push the engaged handbrake down and slide the driver’s seat forward. Pull the lever at the back of the seat down the bottom - this will allow you to rotate the seat towards the centre of the vehicle and slide it back to give you extra legroom. When driving the seats can sometimes feel like they are moving, so ensure they are firmly back in position before you head off again!