By Gary Bunzer, The RV Doctor
Tech Talk E-Newsletter — June 2019
During times of rising fuel prices, RV owners may be quick to ponder whether such scenic travel continues to be affordable. RVing is indeed a lifestyle choice, and not typically driven by fuel prices, but visiting a fuel pump regularly remains one of my RV Facts of Life.
We’ve all felt the impact of the higher costs of driving any type of motorized vehicle, let alone a large motorhome or some type of RV towing configuration. But it’s hard to negate the fact that no matter how much fuel prices rise, the majority of RVers simply are not willing to give up on RV travel.
It’s not all negative news, by the way. There are a number of things owners of all types of RVs (gas or diesel, motorized or towable) can do to combat higher fuel prices. This is especially important during the summer months, a period of historically inflated fuel prices amid many travel opportunities. Seasoned RVers likely already are aware of some of the ways to improve fuel economy, but these four bear repeating.
Simply Slow Down
When oil prices rise, it prompts discussion among governmental and special-interest groups about reducing the speed limit on all highways to 55 mph. Although this may seem extreme, especially for interstates and freeways, the physics actually makes sense. Increased speed uses more energy and therefore more fuel to overcome greater air resistance. The relationship is approximately a 3:1 ratio. So, for every 5 mph over 60, fuel economy drops roughly 8 percent for an average passenger vehicle, and even more for a motorhome or a tow vehicle pulling a large travel trailer or fifth-wheel, because of substantially increased wind resistance.
Many believe that 55 mph is the appropriate speed to maximize fuel efficiency across the board. This, of course, depends on the specific vehicle, but slowing down is one sure way to improve fuel economy. RVers are encouraged to slow down anyway, if just to enjoy the scenic beauty!
Drive Shorter Distances
Another way to get the most bang out of each tankful is to drive shorter distances and spend more time at a single location. Why not experience the lifestyle closer to home rather than head out of state? Search for a comfortable RV campground nearer to home and spend time there. In fact, many RVers reserve a seasonal site at a campground during the summer and visit it on weekends.
Inflate Tires To The Proper Pressure
A lesser-known means of saving fuel, as well as maintenance costs, is to be sure all RV tires are inflated to at least the minimum air pressure required. This is achievable only by knowing exactly how much weight each tire position is supporting. Tire manufacturers publish charts with the minimum inflation required for every tire size by for the load each will be carrying. It is important to note that the pressure indicated on the sidewall is the minimum psi to carry the stated maximum load and should not be viewed as a recommended pressure. It is highly encouraged that owners have each individual wheel position of their RV weighed (using individual scales) by an RV-industry-recognized entity such as the RV Safety & Education Foundation . RVSEF conducts these weighing sessions at FMCA conventions. For more information on tire inflation, you can read the posts on FMCA Forums web site.
When a combustion engine idles, the end result of the fuel consumed is 0 mpg, purely wasted fuel. Plus, it’s not beneficial to the environment. Turn off the engine when stopped or parked for any lengthy period. I got into this habit here in Seattle where we have a few drawbridges; official signs remind motorists to shut off the engine while waiting. Of course, when driving a diesel-powered vehicle, allow a few minutes of idle time to cool down the turbo.
While rising fuel prices certainly are on the minds of all who utilize motorized transportation, RVing continues to be one of the most cost-effective forms of travel, and certainly the most enjoyable. According to survey results collected by RV Industry Association (RVIA), depending on a number of variables, traveling in an RV saves a family of four from 26 percent to 71 percent versus the cost of any other form of travel. The determining factors include the size and type of RV. Also, more than 80 percent of RV owners report that their RV vacations still cost less than other types.
Survey results further indicate that fuel prices would have to more than double to make RV travel more expensive than other methods of travel. Again citing the RVIA report, approximately 63 percent of us plan to spend five or more weekends in a recreation vehicle during the spring and summer months.
So, don’t let higher fuel prices temper the excitement of traveling the scenic highways of North America. Just remember, RVing is more than a hobby; it’s a lifestyle!