Driving Trivia

Towing a Toad—With or Without Overdrive? You probably have heard many RVers say that you should never use Overdrive while towing a toad. And, for many RVers, that may be a valid statement. However, let me suggest an alternative way to not fry your transmission while pulling a toad, while still getting the best possible fuel economy.

Like almost everything related to enjoying the RV experience, common sense is a vital ingredient. When towing a toad, it is quite OK to use Overdrive, but only when you are on flat terrain and are up to normal driving speeds (above 50 mph). When you encounter even a slight grade, push the button and take your transmission out of Overdrive. The engine RPMs will rise, but the load (and especially the heat buildup in the transmission) will decrease. Today’s engines are powerful enough to pull your RV up a grade without seeming to become overheated, but your tranny is a different story. Your transmission is building up heat every time you are climbing even a seemingly shallow grade.

So, when pulling a toad, it is suggested that you shift out of Overdrive whenever you are climbing a grade, however slight it may be, and then shift back into Overdrive when you are once again on level ground or going down a gentle incline.

Driving through the desert can easily fool you—climbing or descending a gradual grade that to you seems perfectly level. Here is a tip on how to let your rig tell you when you are climbing even a slight grade. Let’s say, for example, that you have your cruise control set at 60 mph (which is about as fast as you should be towing a toad). On level terrain, the speedometer will be indicating 60 mph. But when you start to climb even a slight grade, the speedometer usually will start dropping down to 58 or 59 mph.

I use my speedometer to tell me when my rig is climbing a grade—and I shift out of Overdrive.

Generator Use While on the Road. This is not a driving tip per se, but some RVers think that the only time to use a generator is while they are boondocking away from electric power. However, many seasoned RVers regularly use their generators while they are driving down the road.

After driving your motorhome on the road during very warm temperatures, you will soon discover that your dash air does very little to keep the front interior area of your motorhome very cool. To remedy this shortcoming, experienced RVers turn on their generator while on the road, and turn on one or both air conditioners. Even the older motorhomes without ducted air in the ceiling can be kept comfortably cool with the generator powering the front air conditioner.

One features of my motorhome that I especially like is a generator On/Off switch right on the dashboard. When we are traveling in hot weather, we set the air conditioner thermostat to be around 68 degrees or so, and then we can turn the A/c on or off at our pleasure by simply turning on the generator while we are rolling down the road.

An added bonus for most RVers using their generator on the road, is that their refrigerator is now running on electricity and not using up propane.

Interestingly, it is more economical, fuel-wise, to run your generator for air conditioning than it is to use the dash air.

Towing Double. Let me take a minute and briefly touch on the subject of towing double—something that not very many RVers do, but that can have some serious ramifications. Towing double is when a tow vehicle is towing more than one “trailer”—like you often see with 18-wheelers. However, in the RV world, towing double usually means towing a 5er and then towing a boat or a toad behind the 5er.

Some states have strict regulations on the requirements for double towing, but many states seem to not really care—but you certainly should. California is one of the more strict states, so let me acquaint you with the basic requirements.

First, the total length of your tow combination cannot be longer than 65 feet—the same length limit placed on 18-wheeler combinations in California. Secondly, you must also possess a commercial driving license that requires a physical examination, a written test, and also an over-the-road driving test before your license is granted.

Some states are now getting a little more finicky about tow vehicles and their appropriateness for the trailer being towed. Please, don’t expect to go out and buy a 39-foot 5er that weighs 21,000 lbs., and think you are safe (or legal) pulling it with a ¾-ton pickup.

You are urged to carefully consider your options if you decide to double tow.

Driving With or Without Propane On? The question of whether it is better (safer) to travel down the road with the propane On or Off has the same polarizing effect as arguing whether Ford or Chevy is better or whether a fiberglass roof is better than a rubber roof. Most RVers have firm opinions about many controversial subjects including propane.

Some people are concerned about the safety aspects of having the propane On if they are in a major accident. What are most folks doing?

Most RVers travel with the propane On, so that their refrigerator stays cold (since most RV refrigerators can work on propane or electricity, but not too many of them can also work on 12 volts). The rationale of these folks is that there is a safety valve on the propane tank that will shut off the flow of propane whenever there is a sudden rush of gas (as would happen if the lines were to rupture in an accident).

The choice is yours—travel with the propane On or Off—whichever way makes you feel more comfortable.

Fueling Your Rig. Fueling your rig is a commonplace and frequent occurrence, but there are a couple of things that an RVer should do that is different from fueling the family car.

First, remember that there are lots of volatile fuel vapors in and about a gas station. Always go back and shut off your propane refrigerator before you start to fuel your rig. And also remember to turn off your generator, if you have been using it on the road to keep your coach cooled down. Also, be sure that your furnace thermostat is set to Off, so that the furnace won’t try to fire up while you are in a gas station.

Since diesel fuel is much less volatile than gasoline, it really doesn’t matter if your refrigerator and generator are turned off. However, be aware that some fueling stops require that all propane devices be turned off during the fueling process.

And, please, don’t set the filler nozzle to automatic and then go into the store to take a potty break or to browse the shelves. Stay with your rig until the fueling process is completed—and then move your rig to a parking space if your business inside the store is not complete. Never make another driver wait to use your pump because you are too inconsiderate to move your vehicle after it is fueled up.

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