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Truck Camper Repair and Maintenance

Replacing RV LP, CO, and Smoke Detectors

We found expired LP, CO, and smoke detectors in our used camper and replaced them.  Here’s how, and why it’s so important.  This is no joke folks, carbon monoxide kills way too many RVers. … …

replacing-rv-safety-detectors

For the readers who think my harping on properly matching a truck and camper is getting tired, this article will be a welcome reprieve.  Lucky for you, I’ve found another critical safety topic to harp on; checking and replacing your propane (LP), carbon monoxide (CO), and smoke detectors.  But don’t worry, I’ll get back to pounding the proverbial electron table on payload matching soon enough.

When we took delivery of our project camper late last Summer, we made a list of everything we needed to do with the camper.  At the top of the list was making sure the now eleven-year-old camper was safe.  That meant inspecting the camper from stem to stern, replacing the expired propane cylinders and clogged propane regulator, and replacing the expired CO, LP, and smoke detectors.

To advise us on our new detectors, I contacted Jeff Wisniewski, President of MTI Industries.  MTI Industries manufactures Safe-T-Alert brand CO, LP, and smoke alarms found in many modern truck campers.  Jeff was very pleased that we were taking on this subject and offered his team’s technical assistance.

David Buddingh, MTI’s Marketing Director, followed-up with me and explained that our detectors were both expired and discontinued.  To replace them, David recommended the Safe-T-Alert model 65-541-WT CO alarm, $89.95, Safe-T-Alert model 40-442-P-WT LP gas alarm, $87.95, and the Safe-T-Alert model SA-775 smoke alarm, $18.95.

Reader feedback on this article was astounding!  Click for Must Read LP and Co Detector feedback.

Here’s what those products look like:
Safe-T-Alert-CO-detector-65-541
Above: Safe-T-Alert model 65-541-WT CO alarm, $89.95
Safe-T-Alert-propane-detector-40-442
Above: Safe-T-Alert model 40-442-P-WT LP gas alarm, $87.95
Safe-T-Alert-smoke-detector
Above: Safe-T-Alert model SA-775 smoke alarm, $18.95

David also let us know that old LP alarms can be replaced with a combination LP Gas and CO alarm that detects both gases simultaneously.

propane-CO-dual-alarm

Above: Dual alarms detect both Carbon Monoxide and LP gas in a single alarm.  Many RVs were not required to have an CO alarm until January of 2005.  LP gas detectors were required starting October of 1996.  If your camper was built before 2005, it may not have a CO alarm.  This dual alarm fits the cutouts of older LP alarms, and provides both CO and LP detection.

As timing would have it, the detectors arrived shortly before we set out for Colorado in early October.  Once again we asked Bill Ward, President of Hallmark RV, for his advice and assistance in the installation.  After more than four decades in the RV manufacturing business, this is the kind of job Bill could do half asleep, blindfolded, with one arm tied behind his back, while being tickled with ostrich feathers.  Unfortunately, we were unable to test this hypotheses as there were no ostrich feathers on hand.  Next time we’ll be better prepared.

The Surprising Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

During my research for this article, I was appalled to discover multiple recent news stories about RVers who died in their RVs from carbon monoxide poisoning.  While carbon monoxide poisoning in RVs is very rare, it definitely happens.

What I found the most disturbing is how it happens.  In multiple news reports, it’s the generator or engine running in the RV next to the victims that causes the life-threatening problem.

Here’s the scenario: A generator or engine is left running over night and the resulting carbon monoxide gas gets drawn into the RVs and campers near them – through a running Fantastic Vent or air conditioner – and causes serious harm.  The sad thing is that this usually happens while the victims are sleeping, and they never wake up.

After reading a dozen or so news articles about actual instances where this has happened, a few patterns emerged.  Usually the RVs are dry camping at a crowded event in the summer heat.  For example, they’re at a NASCAR race crammed tightly together with other RVs in hot weather conditions.  Without shore power, folks run their generators overnight to operate their air conditioning or CPAP machines.  If those generator fumes happen to pool into a RV (theirs or a neighbors), people can die, or suffer terrible injuries.  Please be aware of this situation, and avoid it.

Another all-too common scenario is leaving a generator to run overnight, again to operate air conditioning or a CPAP machine.  During the night, the generator has a problem, or the wind pushes the generator exhaust into the air conditioner, or under the RV where it can seep up into the unit.  The lesson there is to never run a generator when you’re sleeping.  We did this once but, knowing what we know now, we’ll never do it again.

Angela and I have also added CO detectors to our bedroom at home.  Home Depot and Lowes sell small, self-contained, and relatively inexpensive battery powered CO detectors.  When we go camping in campers we don’t fully-know, I will bring this detector along and put it next to me in the cabover.  It gives me more peace of mind.

For more information about the potential dangers of carbon monoxide I recommend reading the Advice page on CarbonMonoxideKills.com.

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