Propane Safety Tips
While they are definitely safe to travel with, RV propane tanks can present significant risks if you’re not careful with them. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to maintain the safety of your RV’s propane tank:
- Never paint your RV a dark color. Dark colors absorb more heat and energy from the sun, increasing the risk of the tank overheating and exploding.
- Don’t travel with the stove, oven or burners on.
- Never refuel any propane appliance while your engine is running.
- Make sure older propane tanks have an overfill protection device, and check the intake and exhaust vents for any blockages, including bird’s nests (seriously!).
- Stop by Beckley’s every now and again! We can inspect your propane tank and gas lines to make sure they’re in good shape and aren’t leaking.
Inspect Your Camper Before You Leave
9 times out of 10, RV accidents that occur on the highway are the result of simple forgetfulness – doors that come unlatched, awnings left up, steps still attached, etc. Create a list of all the pre-trip steps you need to take before you can head out. Refer to this list every time you leave to make sure your drive is safe. Some of the things you should put on the checklist are:
- Close and latch all bay doors.
- Double check the tow bar and safety cables.
- Disconnect the power, TV, phone, water and sewer lines
- Retract the jacks, steps and awnings.
- Look under your rig for fluid leaks.
- Check the oil, transmission and coolant levels.
- Check the air brakes, parking brake and tow brakes.
- Make sure your stove, oven and burners are turned off.
- Check the propane tank for leaks and the intake / exhaust lines for blockages.
- Inspect tire inflation pressure and tread wear.
- Make sure your smoke and propane detectors are working.
- Check your surroundings, including weather, overhangs and ground hazards.
Watch the Brakes
If you’ve never driven a motorhome before, the braking system can be confusing at first. Motorhomes use air brakes as opposed to the hydraulic breaks found in normal cars. They have a very different feel compared to car brakes, so don’t panic when it’s not what you’re used to. Air brakes have a slight delay, so don’t try to jam on the brakes to stop faster – all you’ll do is cause a potentially dangerous, abrupt stop. For towable RVs like travel trailers, fifth wheels and pop-ups be sure to test your wiring before leaving. Do a simple check of both brake lights and blinkers.
Be S.A.F.E. Around Corners
S.A.F.E. cornering is used to compensate for the extra weight, height and length of RV’s when driving around corners. The principles of S.A.F.E. cornering involve:
- S – Slowly approach the turn.
- A – Arc the turn.
- F – Finish the turn completely – don’t try to straighten out before the backend of your RV has cleared the pivot point.
- E – Experience is key. The more times you do it, the better you’ll be at it.
Use the 20% Rule
When piloting an RV, assume it takes 20% longer to do anything – longer to accelerate, longer to turn, longer to brake, etc. You can also apply this to your following distance, judging your clearance and merging into traffic.
Know Your Height
Write down your rig’s clearance and post it somewhere visible on your dashboard. It’s sort of hard to believe, but one of the most common causes of RV accidents relates to people not knowing how high their vehicles go – getting stuck on bridges and overhangs as a result! Also remember most RVs are about 8.5ft wide, with most highway lanes maxing out at 10ft – watch your drifting!
Get Out of Ruts Cleanly
The advantage of back roads is that they’re usually much prettier than highways. The disadvantage? They’re also much narrower, and the chances that you’ll end up slipping off the road are greatly increased. If you find yourself sneaking off the road, the most important thing is to keep calm. Instead of trying to overcompensate and jerking the wheel in the opposite direction, follow these steps:
- Take your foot off the gas and gently brake – jamming on the brakes can dig you deeper into the rut.
- Keep steering your RV forward.
- Once you’ve slowed down, gently turn the wheel until you pop out of the rut and slowly move back onto the road. Trying to overcorrect can cause you to jack-knife.
Assume You’re the Biggest Thing on the Road
But this doesn’t mean going around swallowing other cars. Remember since your RV is so big, you’re going to need to take extra care to make sure you can see other cars and they can see you. Use turn signals and make sure you start signaling 100ft before you turn. Also remember to always use headlights!
Avoid Tire Blowouts
Tire blowouts are always a big problem, no matter what. There are four causes of tire blowouts: over or under inflation, worn tread, overloaded vehicles and tire wear and tear caused by exposure to ozone and UV lighting. Follow these tips to maximize the lifespan of your tires:
- Keep an eye on your tire pressure, particularly when it gets cold outside. Remember to check your tire pressure once a month and before every trip.
- Put your RV on blocks every time you plan on keeping it in one place for a few days or more.
- Avoid tire products that contain petroleum-based substances as these can cause the rubber on your tires to deteriorate.
- Replace any tires that are seven years old or older.
Be Extra Careful Backing Up and Squeezing into Tight Spots
Overhangs, low branches and ground hazards present in campsites may not be visible from the driver’s seat. The best way to avoid these dangers is to have an assistant back you in, and follow these steps:
- Pull out of an area with the RV’s front facing forward. That makes it easier to see traffic conditions.
- If you can’t avoid a tight spot, backing in is generally recommended, as long as it is not prohibited by the parking lot.
- Develop a set of hand signals with your assistant or purchase inexpensive walkie-talkies so there’s no misunderstanding.