By Mark Polk
“Are RV’s dangerous to own and operate?” After giving this question some thought I realized that this one short question covered a very large spectrum. There is no quick or easy response to this question. In most cases it’s not the RV that is dangerous, but the individual that is operating the RV that is dangerous. Some examples of unsafe acts that I have witnessed are carrying a full spare LP gas bottle inside the RV, sleeping in the RV with the generator running and never weighing the RV or checking the inflation pressure in the tires.
When you begin your search for an RV, the first thing to verify is that the RV manufacturer is a member of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). If they are, the RV will have an oval shaped RVIA seal displayed on the exterior, usually by the entrance door. This seal means that the RV manufacturer is in compliance with more than 500 safety requirements regarding electrical, plumbing, heating, and fire and life safety. These safety requirements are established under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.2 Standard for Recreation Vehicles. This should put to rest any concerns you may have about the RV itself being safe when it is manufactured.
The next step is to educate yourself on the systems of an RV and what is required to operate the RV safely and properly. If you’re going to be towing a three or four ton travel trailer, or driving a six ton plus motor home you need to understand the importance of proper hitch work, weights and driving techniques. I also explained that anytime you are dealing with petroleum products like LP gas and gasoline generators there is cause for concern, but if handled properly there is nothing to worry about. A good place to start is with our RV video and DVD library.
In no particular order, I offer the following advice concerning RV safety:
•Take care of your RV’s tires and they will take care of you. When you’re not using your RV keep the tires covered to protect them from the damaging affects of ozone in the air and UV rays from the sun. Invest in a quality inflation pressure gauge and check the tire pressure in all tires every time you use the RV. Check and adjust the pressure when the tires are cold, before you move it. Maintain the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. Consult the owner’s manual for proper tire inflation and never exceed the maximum pressure located on the tire sidewalls.
•Weigh your RV and tow vehicle. The only way to know if the weight is properly distributed and that you are within the allowable weight ratings for the RV and tow vehicle is to have them weighed. Look for certified platform scales in your yellow pages under moving companies or truck stops. When you weigh your RV and tow vehicle have them fully loaded for travel to include passengers, cargo, fuel, personal belongings, and full fresh water and propane tanks. Verify that you do not exceed any manufacturer weight ratings such as, the Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings (GVWR), Gross Combined Weight Ratings (GCWR), and Gross Axle Weight Ratings (GAWR). NEVER exceed any manufacturer weight ratings. It is quite possible to be within the weight ratings, but still exceed a tire rating. This is why you must weigh each axle end separately to insure that the load is within the capacity of the axles, wheels and tires and to see if the load is properly distributed.
•Have the LP gas system inspected every spring before using the RV. Take your RV to a qualified service center and let them check the LP gas system for proper appliance operating pressure and to check the system for leaks. Familiarize yourself with the odorant added to LP gas to assist you in detecting a leak, and what to do if there is a gas leak.
If you smell LP gas or the leak detector alarm goes off:
1) Extinguish any open flames and pilot lights.
It is not recommended that you travel with the LP gas turned on. If you do have the gas on while traveling turn off each individual pilot light, appliance, and the main gas supply before refueling.
•The onboard generator makes your RV fully self-contained. It allows you access to 120 volts when there is no shore power available, but keep in mind that carbon monoxide is deadly! NEVER sleep in the RV with the generator running! Before you start and use the generator inspect the exhaust system. Do not use it if the exhaust system is damaged. Test the carbon monoxide detector every time you use the RV. Know what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:
4) Muscular twitching
5) Intense headache
6) Throbbing in the temples
7) Weakness and sleepiness
8) Inability to think coherently
If you or anyone else experiences any of these symptoms get to fresh air immediately. If the symptoms persist seek medical attention. Shut the generator down and do not operate it until it has been inspected and repaired by a professional.
In my opinion, these are some very real concerns that all RVers need to be aware of. I also want to mention that this is a very short list. There are many other safety issues involved in owning and operating an RV, but by practicing common sense, and through education, RV ownership is not only safe, it’s lots of fun.
Copyright 2006 by Mark J. Polk owner of RV Education 101
RV Expert Mark Polk, seen on TV, is the producer & host of America’s most highly regarded series of DVD’s, videos, books, and e-books. www.rveducation101.com/
Mark Polk is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Three, specializing in wheeled and track vehicle fleet maintenance operations. In addition to owning and operating RV Education 101, (based in North Carolina) since 1999, Polk also has a very extensive RV background working in RV service, sales and management. Polk has a degree in Industrial Management Technology and his 30 plus years of experience in maintenance includes working as an RV technician, a wheeled vehicle and power generation mechanic, an automotive maintenance technician, Battalion and Brigade level Maintenance Officer, an RV sales manager and also in the RV financing department as the Finance & Insurance manager. www.rveducation101.com/