Common Mistakes RVers Make (That Can Have Serious Consequences) More Blunders

By Jack Huber

In a previous post I described pure blunders, whether performed knowingly or not and here I continue this discussion. I would imagine any experienced RVer would have either made some of these mistakes or heard of someone who has. I didn’t prioritize the list in any particular order. 

Use stabilizers as jacks

Another cringe-worthy view is when a trailer or fifth wheel owner decides to use its stabilizers as a jack. This can and often does damage the trailer’s frame, which isn’t manufactured to take that kind weight on the far ends of the rig. Worse, the frame can go while someone is underneath, making the situation dire.

Tow too heavy a trailer for your truck

In the best-case scenario, this may create ultra-slow-motion damage to the towing vehicle, and worst-case might entail a complete breakdown. My Ford F250 gas pickup was undersized and underpowered for our fifth wheel, even though it was within the manufacturer’s towing guidelines. In effect, it told me with a series of breakdowns, including the complete meltdown of the radiator ($1,200) and the failure of the oil cooling system ($4,500). I finally got the hint and traded it in for an F350 diesel, the much heavier-duty 1-ton version in the Ford line. I haven’t had a pickup problem since then, which was over two years ago.

Share the sewer supply and freshwater hoses or store them together

It seems amazing to me that the same people who diligently use gloves when emptying the sewer tank will then store the hoses with the freshwater hose, but I’ve seen it. I’ve also seen RVers clean out their sewer hose with their freshwater hose.  In both cases, the risk of contamination is not worth the cost. Buy separate hoses and store them apart. Let’s be safe out there!

Leave awnings out in high winds (this includes slide-out covers)

No matter the direction, awnings have limited wind speed and volume they can resist. Awning tie-downs can help, but can actually make things worse at certain wind speeds. Awnings can cost hundreds of dollars to repair and over $1,000 to replace. Those slide cover awnings can resist side winds and from the front or back, wind can rip them off the slides. These are also expensive repairs. I check the weather often and when we are leaving the rig for an extended period of time or going to bed, I’ll bring in the awning if winds expect to be over 15mph.

Wear a baseball cap when setting up or tearing down

A baseball cap has one huge disadvantage. The brim in front limits your view of what is immediately above you. In the case of slides or a fifth wheel overhang, not seeing the obstacle will result in a blow to your head, sooner or later.  At this point, I would recommend you research the symptoms and treatment of concussions since you can absolutely receive one when hitting your head.  At the very least, turn your cap around to the brim is behind you.

Step out of the rig to check for intruders

Most RVers are not armed and those who are may not be trained to handle an intruder. But even a handgun won’t stop a bear and you’ll be very sorry if you meet up with a skunk. I have bear spray for critters but will only go outside when I’m fairly certain the intruder is gone. In the event of a human intruder, you may want to go over possible scenarios ahead of time and decide for yourself how to react. In my experience, you should only go outside if forced to or you decide you can get to the driver’s seat and drive away from an unpleasant confrontation. That’s one of the benefits of being mobile.

Leave roof vents open on the road

Despite that many vents have covers now and don’t blow off in the wind, if the weather turns ugly on the road, you won’t want your vents open. Pouring rain can be driven inside the opening from any direction and wind can actually pull at the open flap and eventually cause roof damage.   

Ignore weather warnings

Speaking of inclement weather, I can’t help thinking about the video I saw of an RV being flipped by a tornado they drove by. This particular couple had just picked up their trailer and was driving it home. It was astounding that they were okay – many people in vehicles do not survive a tornado encounter – but the truck and trailer were totaled. More common mistakes are driving in heavy crosswinds, risking a turnover accident, or large hail, which also can total the RV.

Pulling in without investigating

This is particularly concerning to boondockers, since once you are on a rural road, be it paved, gravel or dirt, you can’t always turn around or avoid other hazards in time. Soils can vary from thick mud to lose silt, and unless you have a dependable 4-wheel-drive to help get you out of a bad situation, it’s better to avoid it. Always investigate an area, if possible, before pulling into an unknown space. This can save a lot of frustration, even in a resort, but far away from tow trucks and mechanics, it’s imperative to keep off ground you shouldn’t drive on.

I’m sure there are things you can think of that I didn’t include in these posts. Common sense isn’t all that common and even experienced RVers can make a mistake that can cost them. I wanted to start the conversation and will keep adding to the list as new equipment makes for new opportunities for travel to be safe and cost-effective.


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  1. RobAndSheila
    12th May, 2019

    Hi there!
    I just finished all three parts. Thank you very much, it was very informative. I can relate to most all of your points! A lot of us get a little too relaxed behind the wheel when we should be vigilant! A refresher from time to time is a good idea!

    Rob Long

  2. navigator
    6th August, 2019

    Another mistake is to pack up your rig and drive away. I always pull out of the site and get out to make sure I didn’t leave any garbage, hoses, racks and such I may have stored under my unit, hung on a tree or under the picnic table. I might need it at my next stop.

  3. jchrise
    8th August, 2019

    After an attempted break-in (which I foolishly went outside the rig and confronted the intruder), I decided to purchase an inexpensive four camera system that came complete with a small hi-definition monitor that splits the screen into four camera views. The cameras automatically convert to infrared at night and work perfectly. The entire setup was only $150 on Amazon. I also decided to purchase an air horn from Harbor Freight ($15) and mounted the horns under the front door with an activation button beside the video monitor. It wasn’t long after the installation that one night, I felt the trailer shake and I simply rolled over in bed, flipped on the monitor to discover a large black bear at my door. I then hit the air horn and watched him take off like a rocket!

    1. Chisholm_Trail
      25th August, 2020

      Air Horn! A wonderful idea! I’ll look for one today. Mustn’t forget to take off the wrapping and any secure ties so it will be usable, like my bear spray.

  4. Country Space
    8th September, 2020

    My son suggests that I just carry a can of Wasp/Hornet spray. It will shoot 20′.