Common Causes for RV Fires

Common Causes for RV Fires

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Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by Jessica Lauren Vine

RV fires can start at any time, whether your RV is moving or parked. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost 2,000 RV fires occur yearly. Faulty wiring and electrical shorts lead to nearly 35% of all RV fires

Unfortunately, several other reasons, such as issues with water heaters, generators, and air conditioners, may lead to RV fire accidents. 

Let us dive deeper into some of the most common causes for RV fires. 

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Wiring Faults and Defects

RV drivers know about the wiring mess hidden behind a wall or cabinet in their RV. Unfortunately, most RV manufacturers fail to ensure that the wiring and connections are solid and are not bouncing around. As a result, even if wires are in one place, they get loose over time and start rubbing each other or other objects. This leads to frays in the wiring therefor, it’s essential to inspect wires and connections frequently. 

Leaking Engines

One of the most common causes of RV fires is leakages in the engine area. When fuel or other fluids leak into the engine, the result is an overheated engine. In addition, any vehicle’s engine compartment is comprised of electrical connections and hot moving parts, which makes it susceptible to fire damage. 

A pre-trip inspection can help prevent many engine fires. Remember to address all engine compartment issues before traveling. Some of these include insecure clamps, loose hoses, and leaking fluids. 

Flat Tires

Not only is a flat tire incredibly inconvenient, but it is also hazardous. But that’s not all you need to worry about. Under-inflated tires are just as risky as flat tires, especially during interstate road trips. That’s because they can create friction which turns to heat, causing fires. 

Don’t forget to check your RV’s tire pressure. Look for any issues before beginning a trip. A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) connected to your tires is a fabulous tool to have. Although such systems can be expensive, they come in handy for alerting the driver to any changes in tire pressure. While this monitoring system won’t prevent a flat tire, it will immediately alert you to pull over. 

RV Refrigerator

This seemingly harmless RV accessory can sometimes lead to a catastrophic fire. Generally, the seams in cooling units develop cracks that release flammable gasses. Often, that results in a quickfire, and there’s little you can do to make any repairs. Don’t rely on the brand of your RV refrigerator to prevent this fire. Instead, conduct regular maintenance check-ups to ensure a smooth function. 

Overheated Brakes

RV drivers often pull off on the roadside due to failed or overheated brakes. Unfortunately, incidents like these are widespread while driving through the mountains. Going down mountain passes or long hills can take a toll on your RV’s brakes. That’s because you apply constant pressure to your brakes to control the RV’s speed. One of the best ways to give your brakes a ‘break’ is to downshift into a lower gear and utilize emergency pull-outs. 

Insects and Animal Nests

Are you sure no insects or birds are living in your RV vehicle? Finding nests in an RV’s appliances, exhaust pipes, and walls is quite common. Some birds will use whatever materials they can collect to build their nest. Ensure that nests next to appliances or pipes give off heat to keep this area risk-free. 

Propane Leaks

While propane is an odorless gas, the foul smell is an additive for identifying hazardous leakages. Although propane alone can’t necessarily lead to a fire, it is highly combustible. That’s why it can lead to a severe fire explosion. Check whether your RV features an efficient carbon monoxide detector. Since propane is a heavy gas, you should mount this detector in a low spot near furnaces and gas stoves. 

Other Areas to Check

Here are some more areas of your RV to check properly before you head out. 

  • Vehicle exterior 
  • Passenger/operator area
  • Cooking area
  • Trunk or cargo area

Tips for Preventing an RV Fire Accidents

Routine maintenance and regular RV inspections can help you enjoy a safe road trip with your friends and family. 

Here are some tips to follow for preventing an RV fire accident. 

What to do Before Driving?

Most electrical and mechanical failures occur due to RV fires when you are always traveling. Give your RV some time to cool off. That’s a great time to conduct routine maintenance or schedule inspections. 

Keep Two to Three Fire Extinguishers

Again, two fire extinguishers may not be sufficient if your RV is big enough. Always keep one in the living area or bedroom and one locked safely. All RV passengers, including older children, should know where the fire extinguishers are installed. Teach them how to use it too. 

Install Multiple Smoke Alarms

You need only one smoke alarm if your RV is less than 21 feet long. However, you need a second alarm for a larger RV with a bedroom away from the lounge area. Make sure to mount alarms on the ceiling and in the kitchen area. 

Check Your Tires

There should be no small cracks or unusual wear patterns in the sidewalls of your tires. Never drive on such tires unless you check them thoroughly. Another thing to do is to check the tire inflation pressure. 

Check Your Detectors Regularly

Inspect detectors in your RV, including carbon monoxide, smoke, and propane detectors. Even when you are not driving, check them regularly by following the manufacturer’s instructions. 

While You are On the Road

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re on the road with your RV.

Inspect your Tires Regularly

Check your tires carefully at each rest stop. You must feel the hub of each tire to ensure that they are not scorching hot to touch, which indicates any brake or wheel bearing issue. Don’t continue your journey unless you check and correct the exact problem. Again, a TPMS will come in handy to alert you immediately. 

Check All Gauges

Whenever a gauge registers out of normal operating ranges, stop and check it before continuing your journey. 

Park Safely

Always choose a safe spot for parking your RV. A catalytic converter or a hot exhaust pipe can ignite dry grass under your vehicle. 

While Camping

This is what you can do to keep safe from RV fires.

Cook with Caution

You are likely to cook more while camping, so it is essential that you take the necessary precautions. Don’t leave the stove unattended or keep anything flammable near the burners. 

It’s nice to cook outside while camping at a beautiful campsite. So consider renting or buying a portable propane camp stove for setting up a ‘picnic’ spot. 

Clean Up Spills or Leaks

Propane and gasoline can pose serious fire risks. If you are using any gas-powered devices, make sure you handle the fuels in a properly ventilated area. 

Prevent Gas Leaks

The carbon monoxide detector alarm should sound for any propane system leakages that power your oven, furnace, stovetop, or refrigerator. When the alarm goes off, extinguish any pilot lights or open flames. Do not touch any electrical switches. Leave the RV immediately and switch off the primary gas supply value. Keep the RV door open, and do not let anyone go inside until the odor clears. Let a qualified technician check the system before you use it again.

Build A Safer Campfire

Set up campfires at least 25 feet away from your RV or flammable. All campsite fire sources like lanterns and Tiki torches should also be away from your RV vehicle. The best spot for your campfire is dry, bare dirt. Other things to take care of include wind speed, low hanging branches, and speed or direction of the wind. 

Check Power Cord Connections

Another thing to ensure is that all power cord connections between your RV and the campsite are foolproof. The campground’s electricity supply must have a suitable gauge for handling the electrical load. Never use damaged cords. Replace them immediately. Avoid using extension cords and electrical adapters, which often result in fires and excessive heat.

Keep the Generator Far From the RV

Make sure the generator operates in a place where no gasoline fumes can reach an ignition source. Avoid placing the generator exhaust near anything that can ignite from heat within seconds. 

Use Safe Heaters 

Always use portable electric heaters with an automatic shutoff or other safety features. Never choose a fuel-burning heater in an RV because it leads to a fire if not vented to the outside. Switch off any lanterns or camping heaters before going to sleep.

Final Thoughts

Follow this guide so you can fix these common causes of RV fires. 

But here’s one more thing you must know. 

Devise an escape plan and design escape routes. Never overlook this critical aspect! Even when your RV is in immaculate condition, all RV passengers should know emergency routes and exits. Usually, the best way to make your way out of the RV is through emergency exit windows. Most RVs have at least one emergency window. Ensure everyone in the RV knows where it is and how to activate the release mechanism. 

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