It happens to everyone. You’re driving along the road when someone cuts in front of you or something darts out in your line of sight. What do you do? You stomp on the brakes, hear the tires squeal and hope you slammed on the brakes in time to stop your vehicle from plowing into someone or something. Most of the time, you’ve stopped in time. When RVing, that might not be quick enough.
Why RV Brakes Are Different Than Car Brakes
When you’re driving a car, SUV or truck, you’re typically carrying only a ton or two at most of the overall weight. When towing a trailer or driving a motorhome, you may have several tons more behind you. This means that braking suddenly isn’t as sudden as you’d like when the situation arises. When you’re carrying more weight, braking is harder as your vehicle tries to stop the forward momentum of a significant amount of weight that’s not mean to stop when you want it.
RV Braking Safety Tips
The first rule of RV braking is the first rule of car braking: Slow down first. While this isn’t always possible, the quicker you’re able to decelerate before hitting the brakes, the easier it’ll be to come to a complete stop. When towing a trailer or driving a motorhome, you have to keep a larger distance between you and the cars in front of you to accomplish that.
Being alert is another braking tip that all drivers need to remember. Whether you’re towing or driving, being aware of your surroundings, what other cars on the road are doing and what other factors might force a sudden stop are key to preventing you from slamming on the brakes when you least expect it.
Tip: If your towing vehicle or motorhome has a manual transmission, you can downshift before hitting the brakes to avoid overheating them. However, you still need the right amount of space to do this type of brake trick properly.
What is RV Brake Fade?
Brake fading is a common issue for RVers. Brake fading occurs when brakes are overheating and overextended. If the brakes are misaligned, it can happen, too. To prevent brake fade, you need to get used to using your RV brakes to come to a stop and keep them in good condition every trip.
RV brakes should be checked at least once a quarter by a professional and certified. If you notice any issues when braking, you should have them checked out. Waiting to have your brakes checked is asking for trouble on your next trip. If your brakes need replacing, get them replaced, even if you’re in the middle of a vacation; you never know when it’ll make a difference between saving your life and saving the life of someone you share the road with.
RV Braking Systems
There are several types of RV braking systems out there that are designed to help make RVers lives easier and safer when on the road. However, they aren’t always necessary. It depends on the type of travel you do, the age of your towing vehicle, the type of trailer you have and the type of brakes you’re using. If you’re towing a trailer that doesn’t utilize its brake system, installing a system may help you on the road.
Remember: The easiest way to ensure the safest brake in an RV is to slow down before braking. While this isn’t always possible, it’s the safest way to come to a stop when towing or driving.