The 2020 summer camping season is well under way. Though it looks different than previous years. COVID -19 has changed the way we interact with other people. One interesting aspect is the increased sales of recreational vehicles. I recently talked with a RV salesman I know. He reports seeing a large increase in sales of RVs. Camping World recently ran an ad that they are looking to buy your RV. RV industry magazines have indicated most all dealers across the United States have experienced similar increases in RV sales, both new and used. I believe this speaks to the fact that people are ready to get out and travel. Though, they may be seeking an alternative to hotels and airplanes.
So, before you hit the road with your family and friends please take some time to look at your RV from a safety perspective. If you have recently purchased a new or used RV, or if you are getting the RV that you have owned for some time take time to familiarize yourself with it and some of the important safety features of your RV. I want to provide you with five tips that can help you look at your RV and make sure it is road worthy before you head out. While these tips don’t encompass all aspects of what you should be looking at, they are provided to get you thinking about RV safety before you head out.
Tip Number One: Check Your Tires
It is tempting to look at your RVs tires and not give them another thought. The truth is there is nothing between you and the road except for you tires. Your tires handle a lot of abuse and have an important part in getting you safely to your destination. At best a blown tire is an inconvenience on the side of the road. More often though, a blown tire can cause significant damage to your RV either underneath the RV or on the side of the RV, leading to costly repairs and lost time camping. Sometimes, a blown tire can cause loss of control, resulting in a crash.
So, do more than just look at your tires. Tires can appear to be in good condition even when they should be replaced. When looking at your RV tires look at the tread, noting any unusual wear patterns and the condition of the tread. If you see anything unusual, it may be time to have them replaces, or at least have them looked at by a professional. Additionally, take time to locate and note the DOT date on the tire. All tires have a DOT date code stamped into their sidewall. Think of the DOT date code as a “born on date.” The DOT date code indicates the week and year the tire was manufactured. Most tire manufactures recommend your tires be replaced anywhere from six to ten years. Knowing when your tires were manufactured will tell you if they should be replaced regardless of how what condition they appear to be in. Again, if you re in doubt about whether to replace your tires or not, it is best to have a tire professional look at them and advise you.
Finally, check the air pressure of you tires before your trip. Your RV manufacture is going to list the recommended maximum air pressure. Pay attention to this and do not exceed the recommended maximum air pressure. Further, if the air pressure is to low your cargo carrying capacity can be affected, resulting in an inability of the tires to safely handle the weight of the RV and any cargo.
Tip Number Two: Check your Smoke Detector and LP/CO Detector
Smoke detectors, LP detectors and CO detectors are important life-safety items in you RV. They sit passively in your RV and most people never give them another thought. Sure, we might change out the batteries once or twice a year in the smoke detector. However, these detectors do expire and should be replaced. Take a minute, look at your detectors and find the date they were manufactured. This date will be stamped on the back of the device. Usually, you will have to remove the detector from the ceiling or wall in order to find the manufactured date. If you find these detectors are older than five years it is time to have them replaced. As the detectors age the internal sensors start to lose their effectiveness. It’s not worth the risk to take a camping trip and not know if your smoke detector of LP detector is going to operate properly, should you have a fire or LP leak. If you are not comfortable doing this or have any doubts about whether or not your detectors should be replaced have a qualified RV technician handle the job for you.
Tip Number Three: Check Your Fire Extinguisher
The humble fire extinguisher sits by the entrance door. If you look at it, there is probably a thick layer of dust and dirt covering the fire extinguisher. Have you ever taken the time and looked at the little red or white fire extinguisher that came with your RV when you purchased it? Do you know if it would work if there was a fire in your RV?
Before you take your next trip take time and look at the gauge on the fire extinguisher. Is the fire extinguisher fully charged? If you have never taken the opportunity to use a fire extinguisher go buy one and practice. If you have kids let them practice discharging a fire extinguisher. It can be a fun fire safety lesson for them. Our kids learned a lot from getting the opportunity to use the fire extinguisher. I am confident now that if there ever was a fire in our RV, they would know how to use the fire extinguisher.
Tip Number Four: Know Your Towing Capacity
While this one really applies to towable RVs or fifth wheels, it is important to discuss. All to often people choose to tow a travel trailer of fifth wheel that really is to heavy for the vehicle they are using. To illustrate this point let’s look at a recent example of a pre-purchase inspection, though I am not using the real numbers from my inspection. The point is the same, if the travel trailer was loaded with its maximum allowed cargo weight, the total combined weight of the trailer and cargo was going to be more than the tow vehicle could safely tow. In this case, the travel trailer weighed 7,500 Lbs. and had a cargo capacity of 1,000 Lbs. for a combined weight of 8,500 Lbs. The chosen tow vehicle had a maximum weight it could tow of 8,000 Lbs. Do you see the problem?
All to often I talk to people who really have no idea of just how little their vehicle can safely tow. Sometimes they simply rely on the RV salesman’s advice if they can safely tow their chosen trailer or fifth wheel. Do your own research. Verify for yourself that your vehicle can safely tow your chosen trailer and cargo.
Tip Number Five: Remember, Your are Driving/Towing a Large Vehicle
Many large RVs can easily be almost the height of a semi-truck trailer. My own fifth wheel is forty-three feet long and almost 14 feet high. It is big and knowing those numbers is important for me. It doesn’t take long to find pictures on the internet of what happens when people don’t know how tall their RV is. When driving an RV remember your stopping distance is going to be much greater than a normal daily driver. Along with knowing your weight, height, and stopping distance remember to keep your speed down. Keeping your speed down is going to assist with stopping, especially if there is an emergency in front of you.