How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in your RV?

CO poisoning is entirely preventable. Protect yourself and your family by learning the symptoms of CO poisoning and how to prevent it.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that you don’t expect to encounter when traveling the great outdoors. However, some of your RV appliances emit carbon monoxide which can be dangerous to your health. It’s important to be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to reduce your exposure while enjoying your RV.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Be aware of your neighbor’s exhaust especially at an RV rally © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carbon monoxide is created when any fuel is burned such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, wood, and coal. It is extremely serious when combustion by-products are not vented outside. Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States each year in homes and RVs. It is important to identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and to know how you can prevent it from leaking in your RV.

Some of these risks are located inside your RV but many surround your RV at camp. Be mindful of things that emit carbon monoxide not only in your RV but around it. Including your neighbors’ equipment! The first rule in how to detect carbon monoxide in your RV is to be aware of the sources of carbon dioxide.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In RVs, carbon monoxide gas usually results from:

  • Exhaust leaks from either a vehicle engine or a generator
  • Improper use of portable gas-powered heaters
  • Someone else’s vehicle or generator when camping in close quarters
Be aware of your neighbor’s exhaust © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to detect carbon monoxide in your RV? You can’t. Humans cannot detect carbon monoxide. It is odorless and colorless, which is why it’s called the quiet killer. We must rely on sensors to detect carbon monoxide.

If your RV is not already outfitted with a carbon monoxide detector, you must install one right away. It can save your life. These are as essential as smoke detectors. You can purchase a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector designed for use in RVs.

Be aware of your neighbor’s exhaust especially when boondocking © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure you test the detector every time you use the RV and replace the carbon monoxide detector batteries at least once a year. A good time to do this is when you change clocks for daylight savings time or at the beginning of a new camping season.

Related: The Ultimate Guide for Winter Camping

If the detector senses an unsafe amount of carbon monoxide, it will sound the alarm. The alarm is much louder than the beep that warns of a low battery.

Don’t forget about your pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though humans can’t detect carbon monoxide, we certainly show symptoms of it. If you are aware of these symptoms, you can realize there’s a serious problem more quickly.  Besides the detector, the symptoms are another way to detect carbon monoxide in your RV. These symptoms progress fast—Do not try to “shake them off”!

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include:

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Muscular twitching
  • Intense headache
  • Throbbing in the temples
  • Weakness and sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
Be aware of your neighbor’s exhaust especially at an RV rally © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And don’t forget about your pets! Despite their superior sense of smell, dogs and other pets cannot detect carbon monoxide either. They will be affected much more quickly than humans due to their smaller size.

Related: The 10 Essentials Every RV Owner Should Buy Before Their First Road Trip

If you or anyone else experiences any of these, get to fresh air immediately. If the symptoms persist you need to seek medical attention. Shut off the vehicle or power the generator down and do not operate it until it has been inspected and repaired by a professional.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exposure to carbon monoxide is a huge health hazard and can cause death. It is important to stay vigilant and to be aware of the risk at all times. Take precautions and follow these prevention tips to reduce exposure and keep you and your family safe:

  • Inspect your RV’s chassis and generator exhaust system regularly
  • Yellow flames in propane-burning appliances usually indicate a lack of oxygen and should be checked by a qualified technician
  • Park your RV so that the exhaust may easily dissipate away from the vehicle
  • Never sleep with a generator running
  • Always have a window open when operating a gas-burning appliance or generator
  • Keep any windows and vents closed if in close proximity to a running vehicle or generator
  • Never use range burners or ovens to heat your RV
  • When cooking with the range, use the range fan and keep a nearby window cracked open
  • Be aware of your neighbor’s setup and make sure they are not directing any exhaust your way
Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Follow all directions and warnings if using gas-powered heaters.

Related: 12 Simple RV Maintenance Tips

Don’t take safety for granted while RVing.

Since we’re talking safety…

Read Next: RV Emergency Kit Essentials

Worth Pondering…

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Is Your RV Road Ready?

Are you and your RV ready for a brand new camping season?

There’s something magical about a summer road trip. And it’s a standby in literature and movies—from John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley to Smokey and the Bandit.

Much has changed in RVs over the years © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Times have certainly changed since Steinbeck and his dog Charley made their way across the country 54 years ago. But one thing hasn’t changed: A summer road trip is still the best way to see America, see its natural wonders, national parks, historic sites, and big-name tourist attractions.

But RVers still travel with and pamper their pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hitting the open road can be the highlight of any spring or summer camping expedition but don’t let preventable maintenance issues put a damper on your vacation.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance includes inspection of the entire unit from top to bottom on a regular basis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Preventive maintenance is designed to prevent or identify potential problems that could lead to mechanical breakdown, malfunction, or failure of a component or system. Don’t confuse this with regularly scheduled maintenance (SEE below).

Inspect all the roof and window seals of your RV and reseal any that are showing signs of damage or aging.

Washing and waxing your rig on a regular basis is an important part of preventive maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check awnings for damage, mildew, and insects.

Examine the hitch system for wear, loose bolts, and cracks.

Check for cracks in hoses and fan belts and replace if necessary.

Check all lights. Make sure headlights, fog lights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals are all functioning properly.

Preventive maintenance includes the interior of the rig © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Preventive maintenance applies to the RV interior as well as the exterior. Stains become more difficult to remove when vinyl or leather is allowed to become dry.

Scheduled Maintenance

Schedule maintenance as required by the owner’s manuals © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Scheduled or routine maintenance is performed in intervals normally based on time, mileage, or hours.

Note: It is absolutely essential that you read your owner’s manual and warranty information in regards to who is responsible for what when it comes to scheduled maintenance. Adhere to the service schedule outlined in the manual. Scheduled maintenance that is required by the manufacturer and not performed can void your warranty.

Safety Alarms

Maintenance includes ensuring that all safety features are operational at all times © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check Smoke, LPG, and Carbon Monoxide alarms for proper operation and replace batteries as needed.

Battery Care

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check the water level in your batteries monthly. Remove the vent caps and look inside the fill wells. Check the electrolyte levels. The minimum level required for charging the battery is at the top of the plates. When you add water, use only distilled water and fill the cell to 1/8 inch below the fill well. Also remove any corrosion on the connections with a wire brush and baking soda/water solution.

Tire Maintenance

Not the way to care for your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tire manufacturers stress that there are four main considerations concerning tire care:

  • Proper air pressure should be maintained
  • Under-inflated tires can cause handling problems, increased tire wear, and even sudden tire failure
  • And don’t just check the pressure at the start of the season, but every time you are heading out
  • Age of the tires: RV tires usually age out before they wear out; tires should be inspected annually, especially after the first five to six years, regardless of the mileage

Emergency Road Service

A quality road service plan provides peace of mind for problems that occur down the road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Even with the best preparation, issues can still arise with your RV, so it’s a good idea to sign up for a roadside assistance plan.

Like any insurance plan, Emergency Road Service is an investment that you hope you’ll never need. But if you spend much time on the road, sooner or later you’ll have a breakdown.

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Excellent plans are available from CoachNet and AAA.

Your plan should provide coverage for emergency gas/fuel, lockout service, tire changes, and jump-starts. These services should be available no matter where you travel. Think about your needs and ensure that your emergency assistance plan will meet them. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my plan cover all vehicles that we normally travel with: motorhome, toad, trailer?
  • Does my plan include a lodging allowance if we aren’t able to stay in our RV?
  • Am I covered in the U.S. and Canada?
  • Does my plan have an upper limit? A deductible?
  • What hoops do I have to jump through to get reimbursed if I have to pay cash for service?
See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Shop around. Match your plan to your needs and your budget—and you’ll drive with peace of mind this spring and summer.

See you down the road and Happy and Safe RVing!

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.

—Fitzhugh Mullan

Five RV Tips BEFORE Your First 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.

Palm Campground in Anza-Borrego State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, 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 five tips to ensure your RV season is a safe one.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort, Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Test Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

Newer models of RV are usually hardwired with a carbon monoxide detector. Test, and replace the carbon monoxide detector as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s a good practice to replace the batteries when you change the clocks for daylight savings time or on a specific date you will remember, such as your first camping trip of the season.

Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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 with other RVs that are running their generators, keep your windows and roof vents closed to prevent exhaust from entering your vehicle.

On-Ur-Wa RV Park, Onawa, Iowa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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 it is 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.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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, DO NOT 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.

Cajun Palms RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Have your RV serviced by a Certified RV 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.

New Green Acres RV Park, Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Keep Exhaust Away

Park your RV so that exhaust dissipates away from the vehicle. Parking next to tall grasses, fences, walls, or buildings can keep exhaust gases from dissipating as they normally would. 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 semis at rest areas, that may have their engines and refrigerators running, and take the necessary precautions. 

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

These simple tips can go a long way toward keeping 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.

Much of the above information is courtesy of Technical Safety BC.

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Remember, safety is no accident.

Handling Cold Weather While RVing

Sometimes you get caught in cold weather due to an early winter or unexpected circumstance

A major benefit of the RV lifestyle is the ability to follow good weather.

We hide out in the south during the winter and cool off up the north in the summer. We also enjoy spring and fall for several months as we move in between.

But sometimes we get caught in cold weather due to an early winter or an unexpected circumstance.

Our latest introduction to winter resulted from a delay in taking delivery of our new factory-ordered 2019 Dutch Star 3717 diesel pusher.

The typical recreational vehicle is not designed for use in the snowy, cold, and icy northern climates. Even with the cold weather limitations of most RVs, there are things we do to reduce heat loss and stay warm.

Upon arrival at our destination, we try to select a site that will receive sun exposure throughout the day, and also offer some type of wind break.

Since windows are a major heat loss in RVs, we lock our windows. That extra latch helps close the seals in the window. We close the blinds/curtains when we don’t need them open for the view or the warming sunshine.

A goose down duvet is an investment with high returns that’s realized every time you cozily cuddle in bed. A duvet cover is typically purchased separately.

Down is a great natural insulator. It is the very first undercoating of goose feathers. The clusters of down are made of plenty of soft fibers that directly radiate out from the central core of the feather. The structure of down is perfectly created to trap air. For this peculiar characteristic, goose down duvets keeps you suitably warm. It still allows the moisture to escape and is a great product to keep snug yet dry. Goose down duvets is amazingly soft and light.

The quality of down duvets is measured by its insulation abilities. The best quality down duvets have larger clusters of down. Best quality down is able to acclimatize according to warmer or cooler atmospheric temperatures. If the thick, fluffy and breathable down can keep the goose so cozy out in the cold, it definitely is a sure winner for you.

We don’t need spare blankets for the bed with our down duvet but they add another layer in insulation during our waking hours.

It’s best to use a combination of heating methods when dealing with extreme cold weather while RVing.

A word of caution: Be very aware of the dangers associated with each heating method and take proper safety precautions to avoid an RV fire, asphyxiation, carbon monoxide poisoning, or even death.

Make absolutely certain you have carbon monoxide, smoke, and LP gas detectors in good working condition. We change the batteries annually.

Never use your oven to heat the RV.

Space heaters are cheap and can help in reducing your heating costs if you’re NOT on a metered site. We use ours during the day while in our rig and the furnace at night on a low setting (between 50 and 55 degrees) and in the mornings to take off the chill.

Today’s portable heater models offer a variety of safety features that include tip-over and overheat protection Check for these safety features when purchasing a new heater.

As a safety precaution, shut off and unplug for the night and when you’re away from the RV.

Once we have our rig insulated and warm, the next consideration is how to get the moisture out so dreaded condensation inside the RV does not occur. Left unchecked the condensation can quickly build up on all the windows and some walls and lead to mold.

We use the stove vent and fan when cooking, especially when boiling vegetables on the burner top. The quicker you can get the moisture out the better.

We also use absorbent cloths for removing moisture. Wipe down the shower stall and any condensation that builds up on the windows.

There are numerous small portable, dehumidifiers on the market that are suitable for use in your RV. We place one near the shower and in various locations inside the RV and in basement compartments.

RVs aren’t designed for cold, but you can survive!

But the best advice of all is “The RV has wheels, Go South!

Worth Pondering…

I’ve never gotten used to winter and never will.

—Jamaica Kincaid