Driving an RV in Winter in British Columbia
Obey the Rules
When it comes to driving an RV from mid-fall to early spring in British Columbia there are winter tire and chain requirements (see web link for provincial laws) to abide by when wintry weather can occur, particularly in the mountains. The province’s main roads and highways are kept plowed and salted during the winter so are drivable; however, when extreme weather conditions occur in the high mountains, chains are required.
According to the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure “drivers of recreational vehicles must obey winter tire and chain signs throughout the province from October 1 to April 30. For select highways not located through mountain passes and/or high snowfall areas, tire and chain requirements end March 31.”
Click HERE for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s webpage on designated winter tire and chain routes throughout the province.
An RV does not handle the same as a car — most motorhomes have rear-wheel drive (thus less traction in wet or snowy road conditions) and if towing a unit there is added weight behind the vehicle. It’s important to be mindful of this in the winter with slush, snow and/or icy conditions on roads and highway shoulders. Be aware of braking distance and exercise even more caution when the weather is poor. Note that while tires marked with an M+S (mud and snow) are legally accepted in British Columbia they do not provide the same degree of performance as a winter tire which will provide better grip and traction.
It is important to check for tire wear and to frequently check the air pressure. Bald tires or tires not designed for harsh weather can easily lead to loss of control of the unit or vehicle and trailer. If you do purchase snow tires for your RV, make sure that the minimum tread depth is 3.5 mm (5/32”).
Other checklist items include:
- Battery/batteries and jumper cables (cold weather decreases battery performance)
- Lights and fuses
- Electrical and exhaust
- Belts and hoses
- Wiper blade condition and window washer fluid/antifreeze
- Windshield ice scraper and snow brush
- Spare tire, wheel wrench and jack
Go over all of these before the winter camping season and prior to each trip. Change any wiper blades if they are worn or upgrade to a heavy-duty blade for winter weather.
Before You Drive
- Charge any cell phones
- Check the gas tank level
- Clear slush/snow/ice from the roof and hood and all lights, mirrors, and windows; verify that all windows are defrosted before driving
- Turn vehicle lights on, including the taillights. (Automatic settings operate daytime running lights which are dimmer than if you turn the lights on and won’t turn on the taillights which are crucial to being seen from behind when weather can be foggy or snowy.)
Should you get caught in a snowstorm remain in the vehicle or unit. (If in a motorhome open the window wide enough to get fresh air.) If you feel unsure about the drive, find a safe spot to pull over while the bad weather passes. If you must alter your travel plans, do so. Your safety is more important than your itinerary!
It is recommended to pack a survival kit for winter driving trips. This includes:
- Shovel and traction mat or sand/kitty litter or even a sandbag
- Reflective vest and safety gloves
- Highway warning triangle
- Flare or flashlight with extra batteries
- Access to non-perishable food and some water, blankets and first aid supplies as well as suitable footwear and warm clothing
Also, read our article on RV Winter Camping Trip Prep.