Winds Is It Too Much

Things to consider before driving in high winds.

This time of year as autumn provides us with vivid colors, seasonal winds pick up and remind us that winter is coming. For many of us RVers this is the time of year we begin the journey to our ‘wintering grounds’ and that means we could find ourselves dealing with these seasonal breezes.

A gentle breeze is a wonderful thing while sitting around your RV; it helps to keep you cool and the bugs away. But when it’s more than a breeze, wind is something you need to be keenly aware of, whether your RV is parked or you’re driving it down the road.

Driving in High Winds

Let’s talk about wind as it applies to driving. Driving in high winds has greater impact on the driveability of your rig than you may be aware of.  It affects you as the driver, as well as the RV itself, and the tow vehicle if you pull your ‘home away from home’ behind you.

RV’s typically have large, flat-sided surfaces that act like a sail. The larger the surface (size of the RV) the more surface, the more influence the wind imposes on it. Side or quartering winds are the most fatiguing on the driver because you must constantly correct the steering wheel to keep the vehicle on track. It doesn’t take long and you start to feel it in your shoulders, arms and neck. STRESS = FATIGUE.

Have you ever thought about how driving in high winds affects your RV and tow vehicle? Well they feel it too…through the tires and suspension. The contact area of the tires (where the rubber meets the road) pushes back against the wind, guided by your input through the steering wheel. Equipment failures occur at the weakest link.

Let’s also not forget the potential damage wind (even that of the vehicle’s forward speed) can have on such things as vent covers, antenna, awnings and windows. An open window or vent cover does help with ventilation, but it also can cause damage to the vent or window and objects inside the RV. On more than one occasion we have seen open windows and vent covers flapping, the wind slowly trying to rip them away from their mounts.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

This is often when tire and/or suspension failures occur, far too often with catastrophic results. The added stress on the tires and the additional weight from the wind pushing against the RV can cause a tire that is within its load range sitting still to suddenly exceed that range. Remember how when you were a kid, you jumped onto a scale to see how high you could make the dial spin? (It must be a boy thing.) Well, that’s what happens to your tires too. Add to that the force of repeated impacts from potholes, expansion joints, bridge approaches/departures and foreign objects on the road surface. The weight the tire is carrying can spike beyond its design limits in a millisecond.

Wind Shear

When driving with an RV you have to be constantly vigilant to the wind and unexpected wind shear. A blast of air from an oncoming vehicle can draw you across the centerline and into the path of oncoming traffic or cause you to veer over onto the shoulder. Driving an RV isn’t like driving a family sedan…so don’t become complacent while driving. It responds slower and when it does it moves in a big way. You can easily over-correct and risk losing control of your rig.

Setting Your Wind Limit

Part of setting your limit depends on the type of road you’re on. A two-lane road with narrow or no shoulders is not an ideal road to be on during high winds; You or the person coming toward you could drift across the centerline. An Interstate highway has its issues as well…the guy passing you on your left could drift or be suddenly pushed into your lane by gusty winds. Thank Murphy: This seems to happen when you’re on a stretch of road that’s narrow, with barricades on either side of the road, or crossing over a bridge.

How do I set my wind limitations? Easy. Pay attention to the wind conditions each time you drive. Have your passenger bring up one of the weather apps on a smartphone. It should show what your local weather conditions are.  Or you can listen to a local radio station; they usually give the weather several times during the hour. At the end of the trip review what the weather (winds) were and how you feel. Was it  windy and are you more tired than usual? Probably due to wrestling that steering wheel to counter the wind. Or was it just plain scary and you never want to do that again? You now know at what wind speed you are comfortable driving.

One last thing, back in the day truckers were a great barometer of when to keep on going or to stop. That isn’t so much the case today…drivers today are forced to meet imposed deadlines and most will go beyond their own and their equipment’s limits to keep their jobs.  YOU have to set your own barometer of what’s safe and what’s not, for you and those traveling with you.

An RV Crash to Remember

In this video I found on YouTube, the travel trailer is lifted from the right rear corner as the vehicle approaches the crest of a hill. The same thing can happen to a motorhome or a fifth wheel too! If wind can carve some of the great rock formations RVers flock to see, it can do whatever it wants to your rig.

 

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Gerald Voigt

Gerald’s interests are wide and varied. His work career started in the United States Air Force and since then has worked in logistics management, retail & service management as well as manufacturing. He’s an author, photographer, pilot, radio show host and marketing consultant who enjoys RVing which allows him greater freedom to explore, meet new acquaintances and serve his clients.