Five RV tips before your next road trip
The sun is shining, the RV is washed, and its tank is full. If you have an RV or camper, the open road and possibility of adventure is tempting. What may not be as enticing is carbon monoxide exposure, usually from improper use of portable gas equipment, operation of someone else’s vehicle or generator when camping in close quarters, or inadequate maintenance.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, tasteless, and odorless gas known as the “silent killer.” It’s produced when a fuel like gasoline, oil, kerosene, natural gas, wood, or propane burns incompletely. Carbon monoxide incidents occur all too often, even though they can be prevented with proper preparation and attention. Review the following tips to ensure your RV season is a safe one.
1) Test Your Carbon Monoxide Detector
Newer models of RV are usually hardwired with a carbon monoxide detector. Since most RVs have two batteries, the best alarm is a dual battery 12-volt hookup and a 9-volt battery backup. If you don’t have a built-in carbon monoxide detector, simply purchase a portable, battery-operated variety. No matter what kind you have, test and replace the carbon monoxide as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s a good practice to remember to replace the batteries when you change the clocks for daylight savings time or on a specific date you will remember, such as your birthday.
2) Watch Your Generators
Exhaust leaks from a generator are a common cause of carbon monoxide incidents. Inspect the generator exhaust system each time before using it. Do not operate your generator if the exhaust system is damaged in any way or making an unusual noise. If you are camping in close quarters and other vehicles that are running their generators, keep your windows and roof vents closed to prevent exhaust from entering your vehicle. If you use a portable generator, place the generator downwind of the RV with the exhaust pointed away from the camping area. Don’t sleep while the generator is operating and leave a roof vent open while its running, even during the winter. Not feeling well? Shut off the generator and step outside for some fresh air just to be sure you aren’t being exposed to carbon monoxide.
3) Stay Warm, Safely
Fuel-burning appliances such as portable heaters, portable stoves, barbeques, or kerosene lamps should remain outside when in use – never bring them into your RV. Inside, never use range burners or the oven to heat an RV. When using the stove, keep the range fan on and always leave a window cracked open for fresh air and ventilation. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning while using appliances attached to your RV, immediately turn them off and open the doors and windows so the gas can escape and leave the RV. While the area is being ventilated, seek medical assistance.
4) Have your camper, trailer, or RV serviced by a Certified Recreational Vehicle technician
Inspect your RV's chassis and generator exhaust system regularly, at least before each outing and after bottoming out or any other incident that could cause damage. Inspect your RV for openings in the floor or sidewalls. If you locate a hole, seal it with a silicone adhesive or have it repaired before using your generator again. Inspect windows, door seals, and weather strips to ensure that they are sealing properly. Do you see yellow flames in propane-burning appliances such as coach heaters, stoves, ovens, and water heaters? This usually indicates incomplete combustion which may indicate servicing is required.
5) Keep Exhaust Away
Park your RV so that exhaust dissipates away from the vehicle. Parking next to high grasses, snowbanks, fences, walls, or buildings can keep exhaust gases from dissipating as they should. To avoid this, be sure there is ample clear space around you when you park. When stopping for long periods of time, be aware of other vehicles around you, such as tractor-trailers at rest stops, that may have their engines and refrigerators running, and take the necessary precautions.
These simple tips can go a long way toward keep you and your family safe on the road. Always be sure to have work on your RV and any related gas-fired appliances performed by an individual with the appropriate qualifications in your region.
This article was originally prepared by Technical Safety BC for RV West magazine.