RV Tips and Tricks

Tech Topics - September 2017

by Paul and Kerri Elders

This month, we’ll take a look at some simple ideas geared toward maintaining your engine’s optimal efficiency.  Oil filters and air filters are quiet guardians of your engine; you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to change them! We’ll also give you some maneuvering food for thought, as you navigate your RV through the highways and byways of our beautiful country.  Let’s go!

Changing Oil Filters:  Oil filters are a critical part of any engine’s system and should be changed every three to five thousand miles or at every oil change.  Use a high-quality, brand-name filter and always inspect your oil filter for leaks after having your oil changed at any service center.  In rare cases, a service technician may fail to sufficiently tighten the oil filter after an oil change, which can result in an oil leak.   It’s also a good idea to check your oil level after driving about a hundred miles after any oil change (remember to check when the engine is cool).

Get in the habit of taking a quick glance at the area under your engine compartment each time you fill up or take a break at a rest stop, keeping an eye out for fluid leaks.   Above all, train yourself to check your oil gauge and temperature gauge regularly while driving, just as a matter of habit.

Before installing any new oil filter, make sure the O-ring from the previous filter has been completely removed from the engine block.  Always use a new O-Ring when installing a new filter. Lubricate the O-ring lightly with oil before installing the filter.  Hand-tighten new oil filters as per the package instructions; it’s important to never over-tighten oil filters, so don’t use a wrench.  And be sure to dispose of the used filter properly (a favorite argument for using a commercial service for oil changes). A wide variety of videos on YouTube.com visually demonstrate not only how to change an oil filter, but give you some useful visual advice on oil changes, too.  It’s a highly recommended resource for do-it-yourselfers!

Air Filters: One of the most surprisingly simple causes of reduced engine performance is a dirty air filter. That’s because all automotive engines, whether gasoline or diesel, need air in order to operate.  Before this combustible air enters the engine, it MUST be filtered to screen out impurities (dust, bugs, etc.). Disposable paper filters, foam filters, and reusable fiber filters are available to serve this need.  An engine’s power output is directly proportional to the air available for combustion, so even a small restriction in the air induction system will cause an engine’s optimum power output to drop. Check your Owner’s Manual for your manufacturer’s air filter recommendations and always use a replacement filter that’s properly sized for your engine.

K&N offers a popular line of reusable air filters that use pleated, oil-impregnated gauze as a filter medium.  Generally speaking, pleated designs provide a large filter surface area, providing increased airflow to the engine.  Many air filter options are available from Fram, Mann, Purolator, and many other companies.

Changing your engine’s air filters at recommended intervals will help keep your engine performing at its peak.  Change the air filter more often if you travel in dusty conditions (like the desert Southwest) for an extended period of time.  Recommended inspection intervals for normal driving conditions are usually every 12 months or 30,000 miles for reusable filters and every 12 months or 12,000 miles for disposables.  After inspection, clean, re-oil, or discard the filter, depending on its condition.

Motorhome Tailswing:  If you’re an RVer with a motorhome, then you’ve no doubt learned that driving a motorhome is a bit different than just driving a REALLY BIG SUV.  Proportion, height, weight distribution, and unique handling characteristics make a motorhome its own special driving experience.  Motorhomes aren’t difficult to drive (and in many ways, they’re MUCH more fun), but they do have a different “road feel” than a passenger car or truck.  And they call for a little heightened awareness behind the wheel.

Depending on the motorhome’s chassis design, some of us need to keep an eye out for a physical phenomenon called “tailswing.”  If your motorhome has a long rear overhang—meaning that the rear bumper of the coach is a good distance back from the back wheels—then you need to be aware of the residual tailswing effects of that rear overhang.  It’s simple physics: turn the motorhome sharply in one direction and the motorhome’s “tail” will swing out in the opposite direction.  The longer the distance is between the rear axle and the rear bumper, the more dramatic this movement will be.

Obstacles in the path of the tail’s swing (like stop signs or compact cars) can meet with a swipe.  Just up your awareness level a notch or two. Notice your motorhome’s amount of tailswing and just adjust as you approach your turn.  Watch your mirrors carefully when making turns in tight conditions (like small, narrow streets in older cities).  Happy trails!

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