Nick’s Blog

Oct 202017

Note: This is a repeat of a blog post from a couple of years ago that I felt needed to be seen again, since I get the same questions about these items on a regular basis.

I am a big advocate for safety in the RV lifestyle and in everything we do. Sometimes I probably err on the side of caution, but so far I haven’t wrecked our motorhome and it hasn’t burned down with us in it, so I guess my method is working out.

In the course of a normal week I get a number of e-mail from RVers and wannabes asking me about a lot of things, including what options I think they should purchase. Among the things I always tell people they should invest in are good smoke alarms and CO detectors, the proper fire extinguishers, an Electrical Management System (EMS), a supplemental braking system for towed cars, and RV driving lessons. And I can’t tell you how many people think some or all of those items are a waste of money. I’ve always been baffled by that train of thought.

Among my other activities in life I was a firearms instructor in the military and also as a civilian. Over the years I’ve had many people ask me if a quality self-defense firearm is really worth the extra cost over a cheaper make and model. I always ask them, “I don’t know, how much is your life worth?” It’s kind of the same thing here. Is your life and the lives of your passengers worth the investment in a supplemental braking system, or quality fire extinguishers, or spending a day and a little bit of money learning how to be a good RV driver? Only you can answer that question. I don’t know you or your family. But I do know what mine is worth.

“My rig came with smoke detectors. Why would I want to replace them if they work?” Some, not all, RV manufacturers put top quality detectors in their products, and some cut corners anywhere they can. Yes, the detectors they install may meet minimum standards. Are you willing to bet your life on the guy who was the lowest bidder?

“My RV has a fire extinguisher mounted right by the front door. Isn’t that enough?” Yes, and that dinky little thing won’t have much more effect than spitting on an RV fire. We have a dozen quality foam fire extinguishers from Mac McCoy, the RV industry’s acknowledged fire safety expert. These include extinguishers in our bedroom, kitchen, by the door, in the front bay, in our Ford Explorer, as well as fire suppression units in our refrigerator and engine compartments. Is that overkill? Have you ever seen an RV fire? I have, and they are an ugly thing.

“Why do I need an EMS? Don’t campground power outlets have to be up to code?” I don’t know what the local codes may be, but judging by the number of bad power pedestals we encountered in our time on the road, I’m sure a lot don’t meet the standards. I have seen a lot of RVs damaged by both high and low voltage, and the cost of replacing things like TVs, microwave ovens, and air conditioners, plus the possibility of those appliances shorting out and starting a fire, is a lot more than the investment in an electrical management system.

“I don’t need an auxiliary braking system. That big heavy motorhome of mine will stop that little old car I tow behind me!” I used to think that too, until I had to make a panic stop one day after somebody ran a red light in front of us. We were in an MCI bus conversion and the Toyota pickup we were towing ended up sitting on top the motorcycle rack mounted on the back of the bus. We’ve also known at least two RVers whose tow cars became disconnected from their tow bars and went rolling down the highway and off the road all by themselves.

“I’ve been driving for 50 years. Why do I need RV driving lessons?” Even a Class C motorhome is a lot bigger and heavier than most passenger cars and pickup trucks. They take up more space in the road, and they need more room to turn, stop, and maneuver. It takes an entirely new skill set to safely drive one. Not only should the primary driver take a driving course, but also the spouse or partner should know how to get the rig to a safe place in case the regular driver becomes sick or is incapacitated.

Yes, an RV is a big investment, and it does cost even more money for the safety upgrades I’ve talked about here. Only you can decided is it’s a worthwhile investment. How much is your life worth?

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