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Any experienced RVer will tell you that driving an RV in windy conditions can be very dangerous. We all know how dangerous it is to drive in the rain and some of us have also experienced driving in the snow! But all too often we underestimate windy conditions. Why? Because you can’t see the wind like you can see snow and rain but it can be just as dangerous if you aren’t prepared. And we are used to driving our cars during very windy conditions with no problems at all. So, we are lulled into a false sense of security.
So, when is it too windy to drive an RV? A good rule thumb is to avoid driving an RV in winds that exceed 50 mph. Wind speeds approaching 60 mph are enough to overturn an RV. The larger the RV the more surface area. And the more surface area the more likely it is that the wind can tip you over.
Below we discuss many factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions, tips for driving in the wind and safety concerns, as well.
How Does the Wind Affect Driving an RV or Travel Trailer?
The wind is not something to disregard when driving your RV. One common problem with driving an RV in high winds, especially if it’s a travel trailer being towed or an RV with a tow car behind is the trailer or tow vehicle can swerve into other lanes uncontrollably. I’ve been driving down the highway behind another truck towing a travel trailer and saw the wind catch the travel trailer. It began to shake and swerve back and forth uncontrollably.
Not only does this present a problem for the RV driver but also for the other drivers on the road. The swerving is caused by a side wind, or crosswind, that is wind blowing on either side of your RV. And that swerving can add to the force of the wind and cause the travel trailer to tip over.
A straight on wind poses a different issue. Head on wind will make your RV feel bumpy. This is called bucking. While safer than side winds it is still not to be taken lightly.
It’s also important to understand how your particular vehicle behaves on the road because every RV is different in terms of balance and weight. Therefore it can take different levels of wind before it becomes a problem. However, If you experience either of these situations pull over and wait for the wind to calm down. It’s not worth risking your life, or others, due to wind-related issues.
Can Wind Actually Tip An RV Over?
Yes, the wind can actually tip an RV over. Especially while driving. The force of the wind combined with the wind force generated by a moving RV or travel camper can create enough force to tip an RV over. If the wind exceeds 50 mph, it is a good idea to pull over and get off the road. An RV tipping over is not something you or anyone else on the road would like to see.
The likelihood of wind knocking over a parked RV is slim to none, but it will create a somewhat rocking feeling if you don’t have leveling jacks. The last thing you want on your vacation is your living space to feel like a turbulent airplane.
Leveling jacks can help to stabilize your RV in addition to keeping your RV level. One way to try to prevent the full strength of wind hitting the side of your RV when parked is to park it so the front or rear is facing into the wind.
Driving Tips for Windy Conditions
The best tip for driving in windy conditions is to know your limitations. Driving limitations are all about what you are comfortable with. Some owners don’t drive in winds over 20 mph while others are comfortable driving in winds up to 40 mph. Understanding your limitations is essential when determining your comfort zone so you know when it’s time to pull over for a bit. Besides that, one of the things that can help immensely is investing in a sound suspension system. This includes things like installing anti-sway bars in the front and back of the vehicle as well as making sure you have good shocks installed.
Quite often, it is also raining when there is excessive wind. So good tires with deep tread can help reduce how much you might slide on the road. When dealing with high winds, it is vital to be more attentive to your surroundings when driving. For example, if you are driving in a heavily wooded area, the wind will not affect your vehicle as much as when you are driving in an open area. Just be aware of this and don’t let the open area catch you by surprise.
Some other great tips for driving in wind are:
Be on the Lookout for Wind Restriction Warnings on the Highway Signs – very often the state highway signs on bridges or overpasses wind restrictions.
The Lighter Your RV the Greater the Risk of Tipping Over – Be aware of your RV weight. If you are traveling without supplies on board your RV will be lighter and at higher risk for tipping over.
Driver Slower – Remember that the faster you drive the more friction your RV creates with the air. Add that to the wind friction in high winds and enough energy can be created to tip you over.
Pull Over and Park – If it’s too windy just wait it out. No destination is so important that it can’t wait a day.
Check the Weather When Planning Your Trip – If you check the weather before you hit the road you may be able to drive around storms rather than straight into them.
Factors to Consider When Driving Your RV in Windy Conditions
The two biggest factors to consider when driving in the wind are RV weight and wind direction.
What is your RV weight when loaded? In other words, did you pack heavy for a long trip or light for a weekend getaway? Obviously, the heavier the RV, the less likely wind is to become a factor. On the other hand, if the RV is lighter, you will have to pay closer attention to wind as it can become a factor with a smaller vehicle.
The factors to consider when driving your RV is the direction of the wind. Is the wind blowing toward your RV or against the side? And is the wind causing you to leave your lane while driving? Swerving our of your lane can be just as dangerous as tipping over. Especially if there are other drivers on the road.
Safe Driving Speeds for Windy Conditions
Because of the different shapes, sizes, and weights of RVs, there is no “one speed fits all” answer. The more susceptible your vehicle is to the wind, the slower you will need to go. It is also suggested that you try to stay about 10-20 mph below the posted speed limit. As for heavier vehicles, it can’t hurt to knock 5-10 MPH off your normal speed just to be safe and not take any unnecessary risks.
Examples of RVs more likely to be affected by wind are fifth wheels, travel trailers, pop-ups, and in some cases, even class Bs. Vehicles that are large enough that they typically won’t be heavily affected by a small amount wind include large, heavy fifth wheels, class A and Class C RVs. However, that doesn’t mean wind can’t affect your vehicle, and it is still beneficial to be safe and take the precautions.
RELATED READING: Check out our article called 10 Most Googled Travel Trailer Camping Questions to see what most people want to know about travel trailers.
How Much Wind is Too Much?
Generally speaking, wind over 50 mph is too much wind to safely drive your RV. But, if the wind is causing you to lose control of your RV then you should pull over and wait out the wind. It simply isn’t worth continuing on if you know you are not in control of the RV. If you know ahead of time that wind is in the forecast for your trip, it may not be a bad idea to attempt to postpone your trip or drive around a storm.
What are Wind Restrictions?
In some areas, the local government implements wind restrictions, which substantially limit the traffic allowed on the roads while the wind is heavy. They typically restrict big trucks and RVs. This information is essential to check before departing for your trip. Otherwise, you could be in for an unfriendly surprise. Wind restrictions are usually implemented when there are winds of 50 mph or more for 10 minutes or more. Certain bridges also utilize wind restrictions, especially if they span over water because wind gusts are more likely in open areas. Please make sure you are doing your research before departing for your trip to ensure you won’t run into any issues.
The wind is not something you should take lightly, and while the impact is different for different vehicles, it still affects everyone. It is best to use common sense while driving in heavy winds. If your RV feels out of control at all, it’s time to pull over. It’s also important to keep an eye on road signs for wind restrictions too. Hopefully, this article acted as a guide for how to handle windy conditions as an RV owner, be safe and happy traveling.
Do you have any tips or advice for driving an RV in high winds? Please share your comments below!
Check out some of our other articles about driving an RV below.