RV Safety, and having a good camping experience in your trailer or motor-home go hand in hand and can be a little unnerving for someone going out on their first trip. There is so much to remember as a beginner. You wonder, “Are there some safety tips or tricks I should know that would help a beginner like me.” Or maybe there is some extra piece of equipment or an accessory that might come in handy.
And it’s not just the safety of trailer or motor home we need to be concerned about. In the case of a Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer, we need to ask a couple of safety questions about the vehicle I’m using: Is it safe and is it powerful enough?
So, before you take off on that first trip, let’s look at a few things, some RV safety tips that will help us feel better about hitting the road.
FIRST THINGS FIRST – BEFORE YOU LEAVE
- Whether it’s your Motor Home, Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer it’s always a good idea to check out the engine and other systems that are pulling your particular RV down the road.
- First, make sure that your tow vehicle is rated to tow your particular trailer. This isn’t an issue if you own a motorhome. That said, RV Motor Homes are, quite often, used to tow another vehicle to get around in when you reach your campsite. So, paying attention to the size of the vehicle you will be using/towing is also important, Midsize or smaller is usually the way to go because bigger will just put more stress on the engine and consume more fuel as well.
- Check all your fluid levels: oil, brake, power steering, radiator, transmission and windshield washer fluid and battery. Check your belts and hoses for any cracks and replace if necessary, especially the radiator hoses
- A decent set of jumper cables. You never know when you or someone else might need help in that area.
- Check and make sure that all the lights are working: headlights, brake lights, 4-way flashers, etc. Check the trailer connection plug is clean as well.
- Check tire pressure: The correct pressure can be found on the tire. On my tires, it’s near the rim edge, opposite the tire brand name. Check the tire tread as well and make sure the tire lug nuts are properly tightened to the right torque level
- Also, check the hitch equipment
- Check to make sure that your truck AND trailer insurance are up to date. It’s a really good idea to have adequate coverage on the Trailer or Motor Home and it’s contents
CONCERNING THE TRAILER
There are some things in and around the trailer that should be checked as well.
- Check the trailer’s hitch receptacle, equalizer bars and anti-sway bars if you have them
- Check the tire pressure and make sure the lug nuts are tight. About 50 lbs. torque on the nuts is good to go.
- After the trailer is connected to the tow vehicle, (and it’s running), check all the lights: tail lights, running lights and make sure the brake lights and turn signals are working as well.
- Check the fire extinguisher, (has it expired, is it full, do you even have one?). For safety purposes, you should have at least two extinguishers, one for the kitchen area and one in the sleeping area.
- If you have a smoke alarm in your trailer, push that little test button to make sure it actually works and replace the battery is necessary. If your trailer doesn’t have a smoke alarm, buy one and install it before you leave.
- A carbon monoxide detector is also a wise addition. Most trailers are equipped with these but if there isn’t one, install one at approximately shoulder height. The batteries will need to be replaced once a year to ensure safety.
- Check your battery(s) to make sure they are fully charged. There is nothing worse than getting to your campsite and finding that you can’t put your slider or awning out because you have a dead battery, and the first expense is having to buy a new one, (been there and done that), or worse yet, two. If you live in a place where it gets cold in the winter, make sure that you keep them OFF the cold surface of your garage or concrete floor, doing so will kill your battery(s) At least put them on top of a piece of 2 X 6 and attach a trickle charger just to keep them warm and the charge topped up. Check fluid levels here as well.
- Make sure you have all your manuals and other info you received from the dealer you purchased your RV from. They WILL come in handy from time to time.
It’s also a really good idea to leave someone an emergency contact number as well as where you will be, just in case. Speaking of which, Most people have cell phones these days and with the variety of packages available, purchase a “Roaming” plan for the time you are away. It will be worth it when that first problem hits you on the road.
And one last side note, this is about security for you trailer. We had to learn some of this the hard way. We actually bought a small wireless alarm for our trailer, the sensor was in the trailer and the alarm part was in our garage which was right next to our bedroom. So, here are a few tips to help stop the bad guys.
- If you are storing your RV on your property buy yourself a hitch lock and a wheel-lock. Some of them can be a bit pricey but paying a little more to make your trailer safe AND SECURE will save you a lot of anxiety and money later on.
- It may sound extreme, but putting locks on all your sliding windows and double locking your entrance doors will give you an extra sense of security.
- for personal security, don’t travel alone and stay in campgrounds with other campers. I think that doing otherwise just gives one a false sense of security.
It may seem a bit much, but, with these tips in place, everyone will sleep better at night.
WHAT’S IN YOUR TOOL BOX
- A small set of sockets
- Open and Box End wrenches
- A medium sized vice grip
- A hammer
- A small saw
- A torque wrench, for tire lug nuts
- Crescent wrench and/or a pair of adjustable pliers
- An emergency road kit and flares
- A can of flat repair spray
HITTING THE ROAD
Before you leave, make sure all your connections are attached properly. One thing we learned, about a year ago was, that hitching your trailer to your tow vehicle and using the trailer jack to raise up the trailer a bit can make it easier to attach the equalizer bars to the trailer and you don’t have to use as much muscle to leverage up that chain and set the safety pins. Make sure that the valves on the propane tanks are shut off.
And again, make sure you check all the running lights, brake lights and turn signals before you leave. It never hurts to check more than once.
On the Road
Speaking of “On the road”. Here’s a little history. Did you know that the first traffic light , in the world, was installed in London, England in 1868 and was operated by a policeman who alternately lit RED and GREEN gas-lamps after dark. At first, the light was met with enthusiasm but that enthusiasm soon declined when a gas leak caused one of the lights to explode. It would take another 40 years before it made a comeback and arrived in the US. (DEC/2015 Woman’s World)
It’s very important to remember that you are not going to be able to drive the same way you do when you don’t have that extra weight to pull around. Give yourself lots of time to get where you’re going and enjoy the ride. Do the posted speed limits and only pass when absolutely necessary. This is especially important when traveling in less that optimal conditions: ie. snow storm or downpour. If you encounter windy conditions don’t be afraid to slow down a bit, the idea is to get there in one piece with as little stress as possible
And the best driving tip? Always, always use turn signals when changing lanes. It’s not just a good habit, but the driver behind you, or in the lane next to you, will appreciate knowing what you are going to do before you do it, regardless of how much space there is between you.
BEING SAFE AT THE CAMPGROUND
Anyone who has had the experience of camping with family and/or friends, or even on their own, knows how much fun it can be. Getting away from the hustle and bustle and troubles of a busy life and reconnecting with each other or just vegging out with your better half and the mutts can refresh in ways we never thought possible when we were part of the rat race. It’s just good to get away now and then and enjoy the campfires, singing along with each other, reading a good book and even roasting marshmallows, all these can create memories that last a lifetime. That’s why is so important to make the campsite you choose a safe place for all.
So, you’ve managed to get to your destination safely and into your campsite without too much effort, what should you do next. Well, before you put down the stabilizers, put the slider out or even unhitch the trailer the first thing to do is make sure you have leveled the trailer from side to side and then put chock blocks under the wheel'(s) on the opposite side of the trailer, (if you put leveling blocks under the tires on the right side then chock block the left side). This will ensure that the trailer will NOT move forward or back when you lift the hitch off the tow vehicle. We forgot to do this on our last trip and the trailer rolled back about a foot. Luckily, the Jack was strong enough to bear the weight and dug into the ground before anything serious happened. Lesson learned.
When that is done then you can lower or raise the front end of the trailer to level it front to back. Then lower the stabilizer jacks, giving a little extra turn for a solid footing but not so much as to raise the wheels off the ground. The stabilizers are not strong enough to hold that much weight and should never be used to level a trailer or fifth wheel. Nowadays motor homes, (and a few Fifth wheels), for the most part, have hydraulic or air stabilizers that are capable of doing both jobs at the same time with the push of a button.
The next job is to attach the sewer hose, the water, and the power. Then extend slides and the awning and do anything else to make your stay comfortable and safe. Then sit down and enjoy.
Here’s a little trick for lowering and raising the stabilizer jacks. Most trailers come with a crank to lower these jacks but I’m a little lazy so I went to the local hardware store and bought a nice cordless drill and, because we had an extra crank, I cut the part that had the socket off of the rest, filed some flat spots on the end to make it look like a hex key, and now it fits in the drill and the stabilizers are up and down in a flash.
The RV industry has come a long way over the years when it comes to ensuring high standards for propane safety. This fuel has been known to cause disaster and tragedy when mishandled or used improperly; the propane leaks into the trailer from a pipe or a pilot light goes out unknowingly. The gas builds up and eventually reaches an ignition point and causes it to explode.
I did some research and found out that only 1% of trailer fires are the direct cause of trailer fires, so it’s very rare. However, choosing to travel with your propane on is a huge gamble, especially if you are involved in an accident or have a tire blowout. Your vehicle and/or yourself will suffer a lot of damage. So, how do we avoid this happening to us?
Here are a few things that we can do to avoid having issues with propane.
- Have your RV, trailer or fifth-wheel propane system checked by an RV dealer or qualified inspector. They will check for leaks, proper regulator settings, inspect the valves and their fittings as well as certify that the tanks are free from rust and dents. If there is any problem with the equipment it should be replaced right away.
- inspect all the appliances that use propane: refrigerator, stove, water heater, outdoor BBQ, artificial fireplace, gas lamp and anything else that uses propane. And make sure all the fittings are connecting properly and the hoses are the right length.
For added safety, install a Propane Leak Detector. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions and be sure to check it each time you use the trailer. If it’s not working properly, or if you suspect there may be something wrong with the unit, replace it right away.