Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Tips on Preventing it in your RV [SAVE THIS!]

 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Tips on Preventing it in your RV [SAVE THIS!]

Carbon monoxide poisoning in an RV is a very real danger. Learn the symptoms and ways to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning while using your RV.

Much too often,  Carbon Monoxide Poisoning claims the life of RVers who went to bed thinking all was well…but never wake up.

Carbon monoxide is the RVer's biggest danger.

A tragic incident in Alabama tells the all too common story on how it happens.

At a campground near the Talladega Speedway. Craig Franklin Morgan, 46, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Morgan and his wife, Jami Allison Morgan, 38, were discovered unresponsive by friends who went into their RV at the South Campground outside the track.

Police said the carbon monoxide apparently leaked from the exhaust system of the family’s RV.

carbon monoTalladega County Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore told reporters that the couple’s RV had a broken exhaust pipe on its generator, which ran all night Friday.

When the Morgans didn’t come out Saturday morning, friends went looking for them.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is common

According to the CDC, every year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

In fact, Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths each year.

Carbon Monoxide is the Silent Killer

Carbon Monoxide is an invisible, odorless, and deadly gas, produced by the partial combustion of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels.

Carbon Monoxide is found in fumes produced by furnaces, kerosene heaters, vehicles “warmed up” in garages, stoves, lanterns, and gas ranges, portable generators, or by burning charcoal and wood.

Carbon Monoxide from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, like an RV.

Typically, RV furnaces and generators cause the most problems for campers. 

Poorly maintained equipment is often cited by first responders called out to investigate cases of RVers suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.  

Carbon Monoxide Monitors in RVs can and do fail

Almost all of today’s RVs come with carbon monoxide monitors.

But they can, and do malfunction.

Thus,  as a matter of routine, you should test the carbon monoxide detector every time you use the RV If they have batteries, replace them at least once a year, twice if the unit is exposed to extreme cold. A good tip is to change the batteries when you change clocks for daylight savings time.

The sad thing is that many deaths occur when the victim is asleep. If their detection monitor is not working, or if they don’t have one, they just stop breathing.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

There are symptoms that are noticeable when awake. Collectively, they are most often described as similar to the flu, but without a fever.

They also may include.

• Dizziness
• Vomiting
• Nausea
• Muscular twitching
• Intense headache
• Throbbing in the temples
• Weakness and sleepiness
• Inability to think coherently

Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in an RV

Here’s some more advice specific to RV’s, as suggested by  the website Carbon Monoxide Kills

  1. Inspect your RV's chassis and generator exhaust system regularly, at least before each outing and after bottoming out or any other incident that could cause damage.
  2. Inspect the RV for openings in the floor or sidewalls. If you locate a hole, seal it with a silicone adhesive or have it repaired before using your generator again.
  3. Inspect windows, door seals, and weather strips to ensure that they are sealing properly.
  4. Yellow flames in propane-burning appliances such as coach heaters, stoves, ovens, and water heaters usually indicate a lack of oxygen. Determine the cause of this condition and correct it immediately.
  5. If applicable, have your built-in vacuum cleaner checked to make sure it does not exhaust under the underside of your RV. Have the system changed if it does.
  6. Do not operate your generator if the exhaust system is damaged in any way or if an unusual noise is present.
  7. Park your RV so that the exhaust may easily dissipate away from the vehicle. Do not park next to high grass or weeds, snowbanks, buildings, or other obstructions that might prevent exhaust gases from dissipating as they should.
  8. Keep in mind that shifting winds may cause exhaust to blow away from the coach one moment and under the coach the next.
  9. When stopping for long periods of time, be aware of other vehicles around you, such as tractor-trailers at rest stops, that may have their engines and refrigerators running.
  10. Do not sleep with the generator operating.
  11. Leave a roof vent open anytime the generator is running, even during the winter.
  12. If you do not feel well, do not be fooled into thinking that it is because you have been driving too long, you ate too much, or you are suffering from motion sickness. Shut off the generator and step outside for some fresh air just to be sure.

Tips on how to treat someone with carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms

  1. Get the Person to Fresh Air. Move the person away from the carbon monoxide area immediately. Check to make sure they are not injured before moving.
  2. Call 911
  3.  If the person is unresponsive, not breathing, or not breathing regularly, begin CPR until emergency responders can take over or they start breathing again
  4. AMT responders will treat with oxygen

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.


  • Thanks for this very helpful list of suggestions, Mike. I have printed it up and will make it part of my RV checklist

  • Here’s another caution to add: Other sources besides your own unit. Our carbon monoxide detector once saved us when we weren’t even running our own furnace or generator. We were sharing a campsite with a friend and parked close behind him. He ran his generator at night and fumes from his exhaust pipe crept up into our unit. Thank God our detector was working properly.

  • I have three questions regarding this incident: 1) did this couple have operating carbon monoxide detectors in their RV? 2) Due to the close proximity of other RV’s, race tracks usually require an exhaust system like the Gen-Turi system, which re-directs the exhaust of the generator above the coach. This system costs about $ 125 3) Since the weather was fairly mild at Tallageda over the race weekend, why did they have to run their generator at night. There are battery operated fans or 12 volt fans available that could have been used. I had a similar experience with carbon monoxide when I was staying in my travel trailer in a WalMart parking lot. I was using my Yamaha EU2000 and the exhaust came into the TT. The carbon monoxide detectors saved my life.

  • I have the same questions as Eric regarding this incident and the others you subsequently posted about. Presumably the existence of CO detectors and their functionality were investigated. When we got our 1998 Roadtrek in June we found that the CO and Propane detectors were 4 years out of date and promptly replaced them before going on our first trip.

  • Thank you Mike. This is a chilling account…… My wife and I also had a close call when camping with friends at a rustic campsite. Our generator was at a safe distance from the camper but our friends generator was just close enough to our unit that the CO alarm ended up waking us up that night. I assume our lives might be much different without that alarm going off. I checked out the site you mentioned in your post, very good information. I found an article that had some great info on amount of exposure and related symtoms ( I love reading about the life you and your wife are living. My wife and I are very envious and hope to start our adventures soon!!

  • Regarding CO detectors, all are not designed and manufactured for the rigors of RV travel. I did research on what is the appropriate CO detector an I found a company in California called Quantum Guardian. I got a 2 pack for about $ 50 and it was the best investment. I put one in the back bedroom about 8 inches from the ceiling and another one up front in the RV to cover both areas. You can buy directly from the company. Be careful of inexpensive LP detectors that you might find on eBay or Craigslist. They are usually out of date and sold as surplus goods. According to Atwood, even though they may be out of date, they are still effective once they are installed and the clock starts. Just be aware of this situation and buyer beware.

  • John John Gines

  • Thanks a bunch for this article. Very educational.

  • All of the campers I’ve been in have built on safety monitors. Spray bug guard on in front of one…it works…lol

  • Every single one of these in any rv I’ve owned has been a piece of annoying junk. I even went so far as bringing home an industrial analyzer just to double check. Yup, junk.

  • And not just the RV’s. Everyone should have one or more working CO2 detectors in their homes as well. Just today three people died in Brampton, ON (near Toronto) after they succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Apparently they were using propane heaters in the house after the furnace stopped working in the frigid temperatures. There are reports that there was CO2 detectors in the house but it is unclear what happened.

    CHECK YOUR DETECTORS AND CHANGE THE BATTERIES!! I’m going out right now and changing mine for the CO2 and smoke/fire alarms.

  • Thanks a lot for valuable tips.


  • We have our alarm!!!

  • My TT has an alarm.

  • Good to no

  • That is sad news to hear. Definitely need to know. Thanks for sharing this article!

  • Always a good reminder as winter approaches and folks will be using furnaces and generators more.


  • A timely reminder as winter approaches once again and folks will be using furnace and generators more. CHECK BATTERIES AND VEHICLE AND GENERATOR EXHAUST SYSTEMS.

  • Chris Oatman and Jessica Dumont- Oatman, I thought you might want to see this info.

  • I have a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector sitting visibly on the dash under the windshield … I hope that people think those blinking lights are alarms, but I also realize that RV’s running generators around me could not only make sleeping difficult but also deadly.

  • Great information thanks

  • Carbon monoxide detectors are suppose to be in all rigs.

  • It kills. For real! Lost my son to cm

  • So very sorry for your loss, Diane.

  • If it wasn’t for the carbon monoxide detectors, my husband and I wouldn’t be here. The heater in the camper, which was old, was bad!!!! They are definitely worth having.

  • Get a cm detector. Every house, RV, etc should have one. Just like smoke detectors.

  • And be aware of what heaters u have, ck each yr before usingn

  • I use electric heater they work great

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