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by Don Brosius

You finally decided to buy that motorhome or trailer of your dreams and have visited every dealer in the area. Each time you are about to inspect a unit to see if it fits your particular needs and budget, you notice a seal near the door. Upon closer inspection, you notice it is an RVIA seal and not one of those - Under penalty of law, do not remove - tags on furniture. Now the obvious question is - What is a RVIA and why is it attached to an RV?

RVIA stands for Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, which is the safety watchdog of the RV industry. Currently, 14 states require RVIA seals on RVs sold within their borders. In addition, 95% of all RVs sold are manufactured by members of the RVIA. The seals are affixed to motor homes, travel trailers, truck campers, folding camping trailers and mini-motor homes. It means that construction of these vehicles complies with the more than 450 specifications of the American National Standard for Recreation Vehicles. Unannounced inspections by RVIA staff, and the affixing of the RVIA seal on each unit are two other requirements manufactures must agree to in order to be members of RVIA.

The 450 specifications cover the four major RV systems - fire and life safety, plumbing, electrical and LP-Gas systems. The fire and life safety component set standards that minimize the danger of fire in the RV. There must be two means of exit labeled and located away from each other. Smoke detectors are required when the sleeping area is separated from the living and dining areas by a door. There are specified ratings for minimum flamespread in interior materials and fire extinguishers are a must in RVs equipped with fuel burning equipment. Plumbing materials need the National Sanitation Foundation or the International Association of Plumbing approval to be used. The fixtures, piping, holding tanks and toilets used in the RV must conform to set standards.

RVIA plumbing regulations cover water supply lines, drainage systems and venting. Sanitizing instructions for cleaning the water system must be furnished, and testing of each vehicle's water supply and drainage system must be performed before leaving the factory.

The National Electrical Code governs the RVs electrical specifications. Approval is required by a nationally recognized testing agency for all electrical fixtures, appliances, equipment and materials used in the system.

A factory installed power-supply cord, proper grounding, location of receptacle outlets and minimum conductor, fuse and circuit breaker sizes are specified. The manufacturer must perform voltage tests on the completed systems to avoid potential short circuits and make sure they are adequately insulated.

The regulations governing the LP-gas system reduce the risk of a fire or explosion due to a leak. If your RV has a permanently installed LP-gas containers, there must be a 80% stop fill device. Appliances must be listed by a nationally known testing laboratory. Gas tubing concealed within walls where it can be punctured and can't be tested or repaired is a no-no.

Before leaving the RV plant, each vehicle is subjected to leakage testing on the complete system before and after appliances are connected. It's a good idea to check to make sure the unit which you are considering a RVIA seal. Ask the salesman about to explain what this little tag means, especially if the unit doesn't have one.

The RVIA seal should help to make the RVer a happy camper, knowing that your RV won't suddenly fall apart, stranding the family 100 miles from the nearest Mr. Goodwrench location.

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