5 Tips on Driving an RV in heavy winds

 5 Tips on Driving an RV in heavy winds

Driving an RV in heavy winds can be quite a challenge. Here's a first-hand story and some advice for all RVwers encountering windy road conditions.

I've never been one to worry much about the weather.

If I have something planned and the blow-dried weather guys on TV are breathlessly warning us that a snowstorm or some weather situation is about to cause the sky to fall, I usually scoff and just go on with my plans.

Weather forecasters like to scare us and keep us tuned in for ratings.

I know this from first-hand experience back in my local TV reporting days when they'd scramble “storm teams” and bombard the public with 24 by 7 weather alerts and constant promos about the big storm coming.

Usually, it was much less than what was predicted.

I should have listened to the heavy wind warnings

So when we set off on one of our RV trips a while back with weather forecasters talking about a wind advisory and breezy conditions coming in hard with a cold front, I barely paid attention.

The RV was packed, we had places to go and so …. we did, heading straight down I-75 from our Michigan home.

I could tell it was windy as soon as I pulled out of my subdivision. But as we negotiated the heavy traffic through Detroit, the “concrete canyons” nulled the effect and it wasn't until, just north of the Ohio border near Monroe, MI, that it became apparent that the weather guys had this one right.

The heavy winds were hitting our RV

This was more than breezy. This was howling.

windadvisoryThey said on the radio that the west wind was gusting to 50 miles an hour. I can't confirm that, except to say that the trip through Ohio, with all that empty farmland bordering the interstate, was a virtual tug of war.

And hopes of being spelled from my driving duties by Jennifer went by the wayside as soon as the first gust slammed into the RV.

The wind blew and buffeted and the drive was two-handed all the way, made worse by wind shear from the occasional semi–tractor-trailers that passed me.

Most of the truckers, though, seemed to have even more trouble than we did and it was me that did most of the truck passing.

These were the worst wind conditions we have experienced in our RV

Truth told it may have been the worst wind conditions I have ever driven in.

Weather reports said the winds were responsible for lots of power outages. My RV at the time – ten feet high on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis -was like a sail.

But I also found myself – I know, this sounds weird – actually enjoying the challenge.

When in heavy winds in an RV, adjust your driving

It was “doable,” once I adapted my driving to the conditions. The dual rear wheels on the RV also helped provide the stability that never caused me any serious worries.

5 Tips on How to drive an RV in heavy winds

Here are five tips I learned about driving an RV in heavy winds that you may want to keep in mind if you find yourself in similar conditions:

  1. Keep both hands on the wheel. The wind really does want to push you to the next lane. A firm, not too tight grip, lets you easily overcome that.
  2. Keep the speed low. I usually tool down the interstate a little over 70. Much of the way yesterday, I kept it between 55 and 60. That seemed to be the sweet spot of speed for keeping it under maximum control.
  3. Reduce your speed and correct your steering, especially when moving from a protected area to an unprotected area, like overpasses, or when treelines along the wide of the road vanish, or when meeting large vehicles.
  4. Be very aware of traffic and the vehicles around you. Sudden gusts can blow any vehicle off course. Keep your distance from all other vehicles.
  5. Take breaks sooner than normal. We stopped about every other rest area. There's a lot of stress in driving while fighting the wheel. Spelling yourself for 10 to 15 minutes every hour or so really helps.

The winds won't blow forever

By the time we crossed into Kentucky and began heading directly west along US-71, the winds began to diminish. When we hit Louisville, they were no longer a factor.

I think we just drove out of the weather pattern that hit the upper Midwest.

We spent the night in a  neat and clean place called Grandmas RV Resort, right along i-65 in Shepherdsville, KY.

The spaces are all pull-throughs, 50 feet wide and 70 feet long, with full hookups except for cable.

To the east is a pasture where curious alpacas chew the lush green Kentucky grass and hang out by the fence to watch all the people in their tin can homes.

There's a huge flea market right next door that draws thousands of people on the weekends and many of the spots seemed to be taken up by vendors for that. 

While there, we took in the Bourbon Trail, a meandering route that takes in a collection of  Kentucky distilleries that celebrate the rich tradition and proud history of “America's Official Native Spirit.”

CLICK HERE to read our RV travel article on the Bourbon Trail

Another windy RV trip – with VIDEO

This is not the first time we have had an RV trip challenged by heavy winds.

This one actually did some damage to my RV when the roof of a gas station I pulled into to escape an approaching storm actually started coming apart.

CLICK HERE to read that story, with more tips about driving an RV in heavy winds.

Or watch the video below:

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5 Tips on Driving an RV in heavy winds 1

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There are detailed maps and lots of travel suggestions. You can purchase individually or in bundles. And they are instantly downloadable.

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Happy Trails and stay safe!

5 Tips on Driving an RV in heavy winds

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

13 Comments

  • Mike, Sounds like quite the adventure! I give you credit for pushing on as I probably wouldn’t have even left the driveway! My wife and I know first-hand about the havoc strong cross winds can create and yes, it is quite scary! Last fall, on our trip home from Tennessee in our 28′ Class A, we were hit by a cross wind on US 23 near Dundee, MI. As you mentioned in your “driving tips” section, it was near an overpass that opened up the trees along the side of the road allowing the wind to blow across the highway. When the wind hit the side of our RV it felt as if we were sliding on ice. Our RV was being pushed from the right-hand slow lane across the left passing lane toward the median. Luckily it only lasted for a brief moment and we were able to keep the RV on the road. Thankfully there were ho vehicles next to us when it happened or we surely would’ve side-swiped them. I actually stopped on the side of the freeway to check the tires, steering and suspension because I thought that we had some kind of mechanical problem but it turned out that it was just the wind. Definitely a scary moment that gave me a whole new respect for Mother Nature. I now check various weather reports and look for wind gust readings before heading out to try to avoid another scare like that. Thanks for the great article and the tips!

  • Mike,
    My RoadTrek lacks one thing I had on my previous Class B – airbags on the rear suspension. I was advised at the factory – and it really worked – to “put your shoulder to the wind” in a cross-wind; i.e., increase the pressure in the downwind airbag to raise that rear corner and, in effect, lower the opposite front corner.
    The other advice I have – keep a light touch on the steering wheel, with both hands, of course. A heavy-handed “death grip” on the steering wheel is more likely to result in an over-correction, setting you up for another over-correction in the other direction….

  • i have the luxury of staying put in windy weather – with nowhere to go and all year to get there, i usually just wait until a better day with no rain or wind to get on the highway. the sprinter vans do have a larger cross-section than the chevys and dodges, but they also have fancier suspension geometry which helps handle crosswinds. one thing i noticed on my chevy was that the rear sway bar i installed helped a WHOLE bunch. i also have airbags and will definitely try gary’s trick of pumping up the downwind side the next time i’m traveling in a crosswind.

  • Here in Wyoming wind is a way of life. It is not unusual to see or hear of tractor trailers and even trains (empty) upset due to high winds. WYDOT issues warnings and when they say “no high profile vehicles” they mean it. That is not to say I have not ventured out during these warnings—as I have learned it is not a good idea. Last time we saw vehicles and trailers lifted from the ground and flipped over. Anyway, if you got to travel decreasing speed is the key. Also, watch out for the other guys.

  • Suggest that you check out the Windy app…

  • Question. How is the new ford RV in the wind? And, just driving in general??

  • I second use of the Windy app. It also has a predictive feature that allows you to see wind speeds in the future. We use it to make stay put or go now decisions when we’re crossing the front range of the Rockies.

    Also, every regional National Weather Service office has a Twitter account. I follow each regional office on my trip route for timely weather reports that come out twice a day. Here is a link to the regional offices:
    https://www.weather.gov/images/otx/content/pages/cwa.png.

    Also, state police/patrols and state DOTs usually have a Twitter account. Subscribing to state police and DOT Twitter account of those states you’re traveling through provides an abundance of timely travel information.

    And some cautious advice…Twitter is great for getting timely information, but it can also be a dark hole of drama and politics. Use it wisely.

  • Forecsting the weather and batting clean-up are the only two jobs where you get top pay for doing your job 40% of the time.

  • Not mentioned in the list is to plan your route ahead of time and arrange to drive with a tail wind, hopefully in areas where the wind is most ferocius.

  • I had planned to give up camping because of the winds here in Florida, It was too tiring to hold my big Gulfstream on the road with my arthritis paining me from gripping the wheel for hours. So I sold my favorite RV and just sat around until Mike bought his new small RV. I went looking to see if there was something easier to drive and park and found it at General RV in Brandon, Fl.
    I guess I will be camping and traveling for a few more years, I am 87 this month and I found a Thor 2021 20L Sequence that is about three feet lower than the Gulfstream and about eight feet shorter. Drives so easily that my arthritis doesn’t bother me now and I don’t need a tow car.
    Thanks, Mike & Jennifer

    • Hello, Mr. Hurst! 🙂
      I thought your post was very sweet!
      HAPPY BIRTH DAY and 3 cheers to you!
      XXXOOO

  • Another resourse for driving in heavey winds and forecasting is http://www.windy.com

  • Any chance this was early November last year? Sounds like we were on the same road as you and vowed never to do that again. The Kentucky Horse Park was a great experience, but not worth that white knuckle ride from Toledo. You would think we would have learned our lesson after a previous ride west on I-80. We second your recommendations and would encourage people to stay put if at all possible until the winds are more manageable. You want to enjoy the ride.

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