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 Bob (Ram) Muessig 

            One of our astute readers pointed out to me that he had been unable to find anything anywhere on the subject of mirrors.  So, to fill that gap, here’s some help.

            Folks coming into their first RV are probably not aware of the importance of mirrors.  “Mirrors?  Yeah, there are a couple of ‘em on my car . . . I mostly just turn my head and look.”   Well, that’s not going to work if you are driving a coach or towing.  So I’m going to talk about what you need to know about using your mirrors, and go on the record as saying that most of the mirrors commonly found on recreational vehicles and tow vehicles

are as useless to you as a bicycle is to a fish. 

            Most motorhomes have a mirror on each side.  That’s good…as far as it goes.  Trouble is, it doesn’t go far enough.  Trust me on this.  Over two million miles of line-haul experience as a professional driver has taught me a great deal about mirrors and one of the most important things I’ve learned is that, contrary to popular belief, size does matter!

            Since I haven’t gone around measuring everyone’s’ mirrors, the sizes I’ll be mentioning are nothing more than “guess-timates”.  It looks like a large percentage of motorhome mirrors are about 6 inches wide and 10 inches tall (with the possible exception of the “high-end” coaches like Prevost and others in that class).  The bottom 3 inches of these mirrors is of the “convex” type.  This is to allow a greater view, most generally from side-to-side.  On a motorhome of over 30 feet, these mirrors are woefully inadequate.  The driver can’t see what he needs to, and what he sees in the convex mirror is probably too small to notice.  This becomes critically important, especially if the RV is operating in heavy traffic on multi-lane streets or highways where there may be vehicles on both sides.

            What can you do in order to see more of what’s in your vicinity?


1)       Get larger mirrors.

2)       Add spot mirrors of the appropriate size.  Bigger is better!

3)       Learn to use them effectively.


What about the mirrors on your standard pickup?  Are they any better?  Not as far as I’m concerned.  Again, too small, and frequently not extended out far enough to allow you to see down the sides of your towed trailer.  I’ve seen folks who stick those little 2-inch convex spots to the lower outside corners of their stock mirrors, hoping they’ll be enough.  But, in reality, all they do is cut down on the actual viewing area of their regular mirrors.  So save your money.

            Then there are those who buy the clamp-ons, clip-ons, strap-ons, and/or extensions to add to their stock mirrors.  Once again, don’t waste your cash.  Most of these things don’t do a thing to enhance your “field of vision” and may vibrate so much that they become totally useless except when parked with the engine off.  An exception to this are the McKesh Mirrors by Hensley Mfg.

            So what to do?  Our mantra at RV Safety is “If you’re driving an RV, you’re driving a truck, and there’s a whole new set of rules.”   So REPLACE your mirrors with the type the truckers use...larger mirrors (See # 1 above) of approximately 6+ inches wide by about 14 inches tall.  It might cost a few sheckles for some body work, but the expense may very well prevent an accident.  You can use your “truck mirrors” to see down the side of your rig and about 200 feet beyond.  This includes a good portion of the adjacent lane. 

Once you’ve replaced those little mirrors, then add the “convex spot-mirrors”.  The rule-of-thumb is one inch in diameter for each ten feet of total vehicle length…minimum.  What this means to you is that, if you have a 34-foot motorhome, you’ll need a 3 1/2 inch spot mirror.  Since they don’t make that size, the minimum required would be 4 inches.  In my professional opinion, a 6-inch spot mirror would be better (See #2 above).  Place your spot mirrors below your truck mirrors. Be sure not to obstruct any portion of your field of vision in the flat mirrors.  You can then see traffic approaching almost directly beside your RV on each side.  When you adjust these spots, try to do so in order to see the hindmost wheel of your rig.  On the right (passenger side), you may elect to place a 4 to 6-inch spot just above the door or passenger’s window, adjusted so that you may look below to see if there is anything directly below your normal field of vision.

            Now:  LEARN TO USE THEM!  If you usually drive a car, you are used to many more options for seeing what is around you.  You don’t have those options in an RV, and on the road, in traffic, is not the time to find this out.  So, pick out a parking lot; take a friend along in a car, and PRACTICE! 

            See and be seen.  Use your driving lights, even in the daylight hours.  This will enable others to see you more readily.  Use those mirrors…constantly.  Be very aware of what is ahead, behind, and beside you at all times.  And remember this:  Driving is a full-time job.  That means no cell phones, hamburgers, makeup, or reading material.

            When changing lanes, check your mirrors first.  Signal your intentions and check your mirrors again.  When it’s safe to move into another lane, do so, then check your mirrors again.  When you learn to use your mirrors properly, you will be a much safer driver.

            With all that said…happy travelin’, and I’ll see ya down the road.

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