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Tech Topics - October 2016

by Paul and Kerri Elders

This month, let’s take a quick look at some simple tips to help keep your RV bug-free, no matter where you roam.  We’ll also give a bit of thought to one of those “silent heroes” that keep your engine running at its peak, the humble fuel filter.  Ready?  Let’s go!

Fuel Filters: RVers travel the length and breadth of the country, and we purchase fuel from many different sources, at all times of the day and night.  An open secret of the well-traveled is that fuel quality can vary tremendously, depending on the time the fuel’s been in storage and its turnover rate.  And the turnover rate is often just a function of location:  busy highways in urban areas will tend to have faster turnover than a lonely fuel station out in the middle of nowhere, USA.   Unfortunately, you can’t always tell what your fuel quality will be like, just based on the looks of the service station alone.

As a general rule of thumb, fuel contamination tends to be less of a problem if you can time your stops so that you can refuel at a busy truck stop on a bustling interstate highway, since they tend to move large quantities of fuel on a daily basis.  If you must refuel at a small service station on some seldom-traveled, backcountry road, your chances of loading contaminants into your fuel system increase.  Why?  Simply because these lonely fuel outposts generally don’t service enough traffic to regularly rotate their fuel supply.  That’s why the humble fuel filter is a priceless part of any vehicle’s fuel system.

Fuel can be contaminated with moisture, dirt, or even debris from rusty storage tanks.  In the case of diesel fuel, fungus, micro-organisms, and bacteria can actually “live” in the fuel itself.  As a consumer, most of these fuel quality factors are completely beyond your control.  But one thing you can usually control is when and where you choose to refuel.  It just takes a little planning.

All fuel that flows from your fuel tank to your RV’s engine travels through a fuel filter first.  Whether you drive a gasoline or a diesel engine, contaminants have the potential to cause problems for your fuel injectors over time, so you want to prevent potential problems the easiest way possible.  How?  Just by capturing these contaminants before they make their way to the fuel injectors in the first place.  That’s the fuel filter’s job and it does it very well.

How will you know if you’ve picked up a bad fuel supply that’s clogged your fuel filter?  Usually, it’s pretty obvious.  If your engine seems to be acting sluggish, shows a loss of power, or isn’t performing as usual at higher speeds, this could be an indicator of a restricted fuel filter.  Other clues are engine hesitation, rough idling, or engine stalling.  Have a mechanic check and change the fuel filter at your next stop.

Don’t forget that your RV’s power generator also has a fuel filter.  If your generator has become hard to start or is surging or chattering while it’s running, a simple clogged fuel filter may be at the root of your problem.  Some RV generators require that the fuel filter be primed when it’s installed; the steps involved are beyond the scope of this article.  Consult your Owner’s Manual for complete instructions or visit your local RV service center for assistance.

Bug Beatdown:  Depending on the area of the country you travel through, bugs and pests can be a problem.  Insects like ants, beetles, and spiders can be very unwelcome fellow travelers.     Sometimes, the only way to avoid having your RV invaded by these unwelcome hitchhikers is to practice prevention.  Start by thinking about where you park your RV.  When you can, avoid parking in tall grass or too close to trees or shrubs, where branches will directly touch the sides, roof, or slideouts of your RV.  Those branches give great shade, but they’re also a direct highway for insects to make it from nature’s path into your RV.

Here’s an elegantly simple solution to the bug problem:  buy some inexpensive disposable plastic food containers (like Gladware or Ziploc plastic storage bowls).  Punch a few small holes in both the containers and their lids.  Fill the containers with moth balls, snap the lids in place, and strategically locate these “insect sachets” in your storage bays, paying particular attention to areas prone to insects.

Another option is to spray ant killer or sprinkle borax (like 20 Mule Team Borax found in supermarket “cleaning supply” aisles, near the laundry detergent) or non-toxic diatomaceous earth (available at some health food stores) around everything that touches the ground:  jacks, wheels, water hose, sewage connections, electrical lines, etc.  Just be SURE to avoid contaminating your drinking water hose!  Some oldtimers recommend spraying wheel hubs with insect spray (liquid only), in addition to spraying around tires; the treatment will last longer and will keep working even after you’ve moved your RV to another parking spot.

Happy trails, road warriors!

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