Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Even The Simple Maintenance - Check & Replace Smoke Detector Batteries!

    My RV came with an adorable smoke detector. Like my motorhome, it's a 3/4 scale version of a full size detector. I test it regularly, so I know it's still working. Not just by pressing the TEST button, but by blowing out a match a few feet away and making sure it triggers the alarm. Usually, it's very easy to replace a battery in a smoke detector. Some of them can be a bit fiddly to get the old one out....but most of the time it's simple. Why not try and see if you can get it done yourself? An ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound (or MANY dollars!) of cure.

The 9V Battery Compartment
First, you have to remove the detector from its mounting. On mine, I just had to grasp the detector like I was removing a jar lid and gently turn it slightly counter-clockwise. You can feel the detector release from its ceiling mount with a "click." Once removed, flip it over. On some, you will just see the battery in a small compartment. On others there will be a battery tray with a lid that either has a screw holding it on or a small plastic lever that you push to one side and pull up the cover. Most detectors I have seen use a 9 Volt battery. That's the sort of rectangular one with two snap-on contacts on one side. There are MANY different kinds to choose from including some VERY expensive ones allegedly designed just for smoke detectors. I just use a plain old, good quality, alkaline one from a major manufacturer. So far, I haven't ever had a failure. Besides, the manufacturer's manual told me to use them!

Be Careful Of The Thin Wires, They Are Easily Damaged.
Once you manage to remove the old battery, take a look at the innards of the detector. Everything look OK? Have any water leaks gotten inside the unit? If so, I would replace it. You never know what water and electronics mixing together will do. Most of the time it will cause a failure. With a safety device, it's not worth taking any chances. Before installing the new battery, make sure the contacts are clean and the wires aren't frayed or have bare spots rubbed through the insulation. If it looks good and has been working it's probably OK. Insert the new battery and route the wires so they don't get pinched when you replace the battery cover and reinstall the detector in its mount. Now test it. You can press and hold the test button first...but I still use a blown out match to be really sure.

Peace of mind is worth a few minutes of easy work. Just go online and do a search for motorhome fires. They can be devastating. Prevention is the key!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


  1. Rich, your article about testing your camper smoke detector couldn't have come at a better time. The best part of the article was the way to test it with a match. Not just by pushing the button. Yesterday I found out a friend who has been really ill the last couple of years was being poisoned by carbon monoxide in her own home. 2 1/2 years ago she purchased a new gas stove, had it professionally installed. Three months later her carbon monoxide detector went off. She contacted the utility company who came in and tested the levels. Told her it wasn't a problem because new gas stoves tend to do it in beginning and it will stop soon. They did recommend she purchase a new carbon monoxide detector, which she did. After many doctor, specialist, and emergency room visits for stomach, headaches, eye problems, and other general problems no doctor thought of carbon monoxide poisoning. She is a smoker who always goes outside to smoke, she finally realized she felt better outside her home smoking than when she was inside. She remembered that incident two years before with the alarm going. So she did a web search for stomach problems, eye problems and carbon monoxide. She found out those were both symptoms and called the utility company again. This time when they tested
    the levels. They were high, and she had them totally disconnect the gas stove. She had to argue with a doctor to treat her for carbon monoxide poisoning and now months later she is feeling so much better and today received good news that her one eye has finally returned to normal. It does appear there is permanent damage in the other eye. But only more time will tell. Apparently even though the new carbon monoxide alarm tested as working it wasn't. So when you recommended testing a fire alarm with the match test it couldn't have come at a better time. Thank you for the posts you do and all the wonderful tips such as todays. You have probably saved lives with todays post! I also highly recommend having more fire and carbon monoxide alarms than just one in people's campers and/or homes.

    1. Kat,
      An amazing story. I am glad your friend is feeling better. Thank you so much for your compliment, it means a great deal to me that folks find my articles helpful. I will be doing a CO/LP detector article very shortly as it is equally important as smoke detector maintenance.

      Thank you,

      Rich "The Wanderman"


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