You have been planning and waiting for your RV rental vacation, now is the time to think about safety. What do you need to know about the RV while you are traveling? What about when you stop for the night? Where can you take the RV? All these are important questions that you will need to consider before you start out on your trip.
Pre-Trip RV Safety Inspection
Before you even start driving you will want to do a pre-trip inspection. Walk around your vehicle, check the tires, make sure that there is enough tread on the tires to drive safely. Have the person at the RV rental location show you how to check your fluids. Make sure that you top up the oil and that you know where to add the wiper fluid if you need to add more.
Take a minute to make sure that your lights work. Test the turn signals, make sure the brake lights come on, make sure that your high beams work. Adjust your mirrors. Make sure you set up your mirrors before you start driving. Make sure that you can see out the driver’s side and the passenger side. Remember that objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.
Double-check the insurance papers. Do you know where you can find the insurance papers if you needed them? Is the insurance on the vehicle valid? Test the brakes before you get going. Just do a little test in the parking lot so you know how sensitive the brakes are. Even though you may be renting the RV it is still your responsibility to make sure that the vehicle is safe and in good working order.
Get Familiar With Your RV
RVs are not off-road vehicles. They are not made to travel up gravel roads, through the bush, or over bumpy terrain. Many RV rental companies will tell you in the terms and conditions that you are not allowed to take the RV off-road. Even if you think you can safely take your RV off-road be advised you will be held responsible for any damage that occurs while you are off-road. Another place that you should be very careful taking your RV is into parking lots. Some parking lots will have signs telling you that you cannot park your RV there. If you are allowed to park in the parking lot, park at the far end of the lot where there are not many other vehicles. If you are at all unsure about going into a parking lot, don’t. Park on the street.
If possible, stop early for your first night in the RV. If you stop mid-afternoon, you will have time to get the RV set up before the RV rental location closes. Make sure the fridge, stove, toilet, and heat are all working. If you have a problem, check the manual. If you are still having a problem, call the RV rental location and they can walk you through the setup. Still having problems, the manual doesn’t help and you can’t call anyone? Check with your neighbors. A lot of people in the campground will be avid RVers, and most people are always willing to help.
Know the height of your vehicle. Most minor accidents that happen in RVs are overhead damage. Find out the height of your vehicle and put a note on your dashboard. Watch for low bridges and low branches at campsites, but especially watch out at gas stations when you stop to fill up.
Hopefully, you will get to see some wildlife on your trip. Make sure you have your camera handy, but always remember that these are wild animals. You need to keep your distance. Any wild animal will attack if it feels threatened. A bear will come through a car door to get to food, make sure that you do not leave trash lying around and secure your food. Even a deer is capable of attacking a person if it is protecting its young. Keep your distance and enjoy the view from the safety of your RV.
Safely Secure Your Belongings in the RV
Lock your vehicle when you are not there. While campgrounds do not tend to attract the criminal element, why take the chance? If you are going to go hike the trails, lock up the RV. Close and lock the windows, and shut the blinds. Closed blinds will not only keep someone was casing your RV, but it will also keep the temperature down inside.
Take your chairs and anything else sitting outside and put it in the undercarriage storage, and lock them. Most robberies occur at night, and most travel-related robberies occur at rest stops, gas stations, and bank machines. Always use extra precautions at these locations. It is best to stop at these places during the day.
Understanding Your Generator
We get questions every day about how the generator works, what it runs on, and what its limitations are. Let’s start with how the generator runs. The generator runs your overhead air conditioner, microwave, outlets, and TV when you are not hooked up to an external power source. A lot of private RVs don’t have generators, and some people consider it a luxury item. The fridge, stove, heat, and hot water work off of propane. The lights work off of an auxiliary battery.
If you are staying at a campsite that has electrical hookups, you will plug into their power and you will not use the generator. If you are staying somewhere where you do not have access to electrical hookups, you will turn on the generator when you need it. You don’t need to run the generator all the time. You will turn on the generator for a few minutes while you turn on your microwave or if you want to plug in an appliance like a hairdryer.
The two things that will use a lot of time on the generator are the overhead air conditioning and the TV. This is why some consider a generator a luxury item.
People often call wanting to know how many amps they need when they are going to a campsite. Most RVs will need a 30 amp hook up. Some of the larger RV’s with washer dryers will need a 50 amp hook up.
Some people rent an RV to stay outside a friend or relative’s house. In this case, you can plug your RV into the house. You can run some of the appliances (with limitations) off of a 15 or 20 amp household 3 prong receptacle. The setup is pretty straight forward; all you need is a 30 Amp Female to 15 Amp Male Adapter and plug that adapter into your home electrical. Just a reminder, you will not be able to run a lot of your appliances all at one time, due to being hooked up to 15 Amps. You cannot use the Microwave at the same time as the Air Conditioner, as you will trip the circuit breaker in the house. I also would not plug anything into the house electrical circuit that you are going to have your RV plugged into.
When you are renting an RV you will usually need to pay for the use of the generator. It varies by location but is around $3 per hour of use.
The generator runs off of the gas in your gas tank. When your gas tank gets down to one-quarter of a tank, the generator shuts off. This is a safety feature so that you are not left stranded somewhere on an empty tank. For safety, never leave the generator on while you are sleeping in the RV. Not only is this rude, other campers do not want to listen to it all night long, but also the carbon monoxide it releases can be extremely dangerous.
Follow the Rules of the Road
If you’re an international traveler, the rules of the road in the USA may be different than what you’re used to. Here are some standard rules to keep you safe while driving your RV.
- In North America, we drive on the right side of the road.
- The speed limit varies, so always follow the posted speed signs.
- Most states require you to wear a seatbelt while you are driving. The law on seatbelts in RVs also varies, so we require one seatbelt per person while traveling in an RV.
- HOV lanes are for “high occupancy vehicles”. HOV lanes will be labeled and you are only allowed to drive in these lanes if you have at least 2 people in your vehicle. Check the sign to make sure that 2 people is the minimum, as this may vary. There are large fines for driving in these lanes with fewer than the required number of people in the vehicle.
- Many gas stations require you to pay before you fill up your vehicle. In these cases, you can pay with a credit card or debit card right at the pump or you can go into the store and pay first and then fill your vehicle.
More RV Safety Tips
- Always utilize the factory-installed seat belt restraints while the vehicle is in motion.
- Beds, overhead bunks, sofas, dinettes, or chairs not equipped with seat belts or factory restraint systems, are not safe to occupy while the vehicle is in motion.
- Shut off the furnace, water heater, refrigerator, stove, and generator as well as any other open flame object while refueling gasoline, diesel, or propane.
- Secure any loose objects prior to movement of the vehicle.
- Always use a lookout when backing up an RV, even if equipped with a rear monitor.
- Be aware of the total height of your vehicle, including roof-mounted accessories, and verify for clearance of any low object before attempting to pass beneath.
- Lock all doors when the vehicle is in motion.
- Exhaust ports for furnace and water heaters are extremely hot when in use, contact with these ports can cause burn injury.
- Emergency window exits are not to be opened except for emergencies. The danger of falling from the vehicle exists with emergency exits open. Observe and warn children of danger.
- Showers are tubs are slippery when wet, and are not for use while the vehicle in motion.
- Rooftops are dangerous at all times, and extreme caution must be observed if accessing the roof for any reason. RV Rental companies do not allow persons onto the roof, or to store items on the roof.
- Never attempt to change vehicle tires. Always contact a professional tire facility qualified for this operation.
- Open stairwells and other objects are potential hazards during darkness. Be aware of their location and use night lighting if available.
- Discontinue travel during high wind conditions.
- Read all manufacturer information and safety tips.
- Follow local, state, and national speed laws.
- Refer to your RV Rental Agreement Terms and Conditions if you are considering driving secondary roads.
And Finally, Have Fun!
Renting an RV should be fun, but we do need to take some precautions, use a little common sense, and keep RV safety in mind to keep ourselves and our families safe.