Tips for using your RV mirrors most effectively. photo by chrisleishman on Flickr

Using Your RV Mirrors: Advice For Backing Up + How To Use RV Hand Signals

by Curtis

Backing Up, Motorhomes, Towing, Travel Trailers

Tips for using your RV mirrors most effectively. photo by chrisleishman on FlickrWhen you have a rearview mirror mounted in the middle of the windshield, all that’s visible (in most cases) is the bed in the back bedroom.

That’s why some RVs — especially large Class A motorhomes — don’t even have an rearview mirror mounted inside the RV.

You get a wider view of what’s behind you from a backup camera mounted inside. But even those don’t make backing up an RV a cinch!

The following tips will show you how to best use your RV mirrors when backing up, plus how to use RV hand signals from a spotter outside the vehicle…


RV Mirrors & Backing Up

There’s no doubt about it, backing up an RV can be scary — especially for those not accustomed to maneuvering large, boxy vehicles in close quarters.

So if this is your first time driving an RV, it’s time to learn some new driving habits.

As soon as you get behind the wheel of any class or size of RV, you’ll quickly realize that looking over your shoulder (or in the rearview mirror) will do you no good.  This is where you learn the skills of a truck driver!

  • Even if you could see down the middle of your RV and out the back window, relying on that view alone to back up would be asking for an accident.
  • If your RV is equipped with a rearview camera, the range of vision is still very limited and doesn’t give you a full picture of what’s going on around you.

Every motorhome comes equipped with large side mirrors that, when adjusted properly, will show you the side of your RV all the way to the back bumper and the space alongside and to the rear. This view gives you the information needed to avoid striking anything with the side of your RV.

Most RVs also have a set of convex mirrors — either as a separate added mirror, or as a portion of the main mirror.  These need to be adjusted to widen your view alongside the RV, minimizing any blind spots.  They also expand your view to the rear on both sides to include most of the next lane of traffic.

All of this amounts to one heck of a lot of information!  However, the safe RV driver makes a point to use of all these items, because the only true good picture is the one you take at this instant.

As you know, driving consists of much more than simply looking straight ahead and considering what the traffic in front of you is doing. You need to observe a safe zone completely around your vehicle.

With something as big and boxy as an RV, obtaining that complete picture takes all these devices.  Therefore, by constantly glimpsing from one to another, you’ll be able to keep that current picture accurate and up-to-date.

It’s only by knowing what’s going on around you at all times that you’ll be able to avoid accidents.

Must read: Do You Need ‘Towing’ Mirrors?


How To Use RV Hand Signals

Even with all of this wonderful technology, there will be times when you still don’t have enough information to maneuver your RV safely.

That’s when you need the assistance of someone standing outside and to the rear to make sure that your course is correct and that the low hanging branch you can’t see isn’t going to take off your air conditioner.

If you’re going to rely on hand signals from this observer, then they need to be positioned where you can see them at all times.  If you ever happen to lose sight of your assistant, stop immediately until you regain visual indication from them that you’re clear of all obstacles.

Here are the best RV hand signals to use when backing up.

These videos demonstrate the proper use of those RV hand signals:


Another option is to use walkie talkies in order to maintain communications with your assistant.

With practice, in a short time you will become very proficient at backing your RV into tight places!

Oh, and that rearview mirror that may seem useless on the center of the windshield, but it actually does have a purpose beyond providing a place to hang a set of fuzzy dice.  The next time you take a corner and a cabinet flies open and sends something crashing to the floor, a quick glance into that rearview mirror to confirm what’s going on is a whole lot safer than turning around in your seat to check it out while you’re cruising down the highway!

The whole point of mirrors is to keep you looking forward while providing a view to the rear.  Knowing what’s going on inside behind you is just as important as what’s going on outside.

Are you towing a trailer behind your RV? If so, then don’t miss the best tips for RV trailer parking & backing up.