10 Tips for RVs and Travel Trailers

1. Always use the correct type and strength light bulb in all fixtures. Using a bulb that’s higher in wattage than required generates heat, which in turn can melt the fixture and start fires with tragic results.

Check the previous bulb, your owner’s manual or if you’ve purchased a used model (or vintage model) without the manual, check the fixture itself. If necessary, remove it and take it to an RV supply store. Buy their recommended bulb or upgrade to LED lights, which give off no heat. Make certain that nothing flammable touches any light fixture, even in the basement areas.

2. When dumping the gray water and black water (sewage) tanks, dump the black water first, close the valve, and then dump the gray water tank. Having both ports open when initially dumping may allow sewage to get into the fresh water system – not something you want.

Sometimes folks will dump the black water, leave the port open and then dump the gray water. The water runs into the black water pipe, giving it a further flush. Accomplish this better by sending a bucket of water into the toilet while hooked up to the dump site.

3. Even if you’re leaving for the day, use a hitch lock to secure your trailer, whether it’s a towable or fifth wheel. A thief could simply pull up, hitch up your rig and take off.

Find hitch locks, wheel clamps and more at RV supply stores or online. The longer the thief has to spend trying to figure out how to get your rig, the better the chance of them being caught.

See also  What to Look For When Buying Firewood for Your Wood Burning Fireplace

4. If buying a used RV or travel trailer, change the locks on the doors and the storage compartments. Thieves carry master keys for different brands of trailers, and if you change the locks, they can’t get in. RV supply stores carry them, as well as online. Associates will gladly help you find replacements for your rig.

5. Never take propane safety for granted. Water heaters, stoves, refrigerators and furnaces all have the ability to use propane gas. Any gas connection can leak as a result of age, impact or manufacture defect. If any leak is suspected, do not use the item until the line and connectors are inspected and repaired/replaced by licensed RV professionals.

5. Use a security system with an alarm, or buy inexpensive window alarms from the dollar store. Nothing draws attention like a 110db alarm in the middle of an RV park. Even teardrop trailers aren’t immune to thieves. A hidden GPS device in will tell police where your rig is so you can recover it.

6. It doesn’t matter where you set up for the night – fairgrounds, boondocking or RV park – don’t leave valuables outside. Most theft in an RV park is crime of opportunity. Unlocked bicycles, barbecue grills, etc. can “walk away” when left unattended. Lock your doors when asleep for the night or away on a walk.

7. Before leaving a gas station if you’ve gone inside, or from a diner in an unfamiliar out of the way place, check your hitch pin, tires, etc. You could detect a low tire or something worse, such as a nail in one of the tires.

See also  Top 3 RV Clubs in the United States

8. Watch tire pressures like a hawk. Low tires are more likely to blow out, causing an accident. A low tire also pulls the trailer to one side, making the driver overcompensate and wasting fuel. To help RV drivers, tire monitoring systems are available that alert the driver to low tire pressure or blowouts, giving the driver time to maneuver the RV off the road as safely as possible. Choose the manufacturer and model that’s right for your vehicle.

9. Never overload your RV. Know how much you can carry, and only carry that much. Distribute the weight inside evenly so your rig isn’t pulled from one side of the road to the other. If you have heavy items stacked in the upper cabinets, a pothole in the road could cause the cabinet to crash to the floor, the RV could shift, causing the driver to lose control.

10. Always use the correct tow vehicle for the job. This YouTube video shows a car trying to pull a tow trailer (one that’s towed from the bumper hitch) that’s far too heavy for the job. The car’s engine is smoking, and ultimately the car is dragged downhill by the weight of the trailer. This may seem like a funny joke, but the fact is people have died in the past when overloaded or too heavy trailers pulled vehicles downhill or over the sides of mountain cliffs. If your tow vehicle’s GVWR- Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – the total amount the vehicle can tow and carry (including passenger weights) is within 2/3 of or less than the weight of the trailer, obtain or hire a larger vehicle for towing.

See also  Review of the Good Sam Club: 1 Million RV Good-Samaritans

Keep in mind as well, the size of the tow vehicle. Just because the Ford XLT 4×4 has a GVWR of 5,800 pounds, a 28-foot long trailer that weighs less than 5,000 is still far too big for the truck. The sheer size of the trailer will overtax the engine going uphill and overtax the braking system trying to go downhill. A strong wind will knock the trailer around on the road, and the truck just wouldn’t be big enough to pull it safely. Get a bigger truck.

Source: Staff Article, “RV Light Fixtures a Fire Hazard?”, RV Travel Website, no date given

Source: Staff Article, “Recreational RV Safety,” Geico Insurance Website, no date given

Source: Jim Twamley, “Are You Secure with Your RV Entry Locks?”,, RV Now With Jim Twamley website, 9 January, 2008