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Polk’s Top 7 Tips to Extend the Life of your Motorhome’s Engine

Mark Polk, motorhome  and motor coach maintenance expertBy Mark Polk
RV Education 101 

There are probably more than 17 ways you can extend the life of your motorhome’s engine, but we are going to narrow the list to what I consider to be the top 7. When all you hear every day is how poorly the economy is doing, it only makes sense to buckle down and take care of what you already own.

A little bit of preventive maintenance (PM) now can pay big dividends in the long run. What’s that old saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! So, what can we do to extend the life of your motorhome (and your automobile) engine? Let’s take a look.

The first question on your mind is probably if I am talking about a diesel engine or a gasoline engine? For the sake of this article, I am talking about extending the life of any engine. Often times, as the expression goes, we can’t see the forest for the trees. If we focus too much on a specific type of engine we might miss the whole point of the article.

1. Routine Oil and Oil Filter Changes
This is number one on my list. I have known people who I think change their engine oil and filter more frequently than it is needed, but it is usually the other way around. You should follow the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines for changing the engine oil and filter. If at all possible try to change the oil and oil filter prior to any long-term storage. Acids accumulate in used oil and can corrode the engine bearings. Don’t forget the generator oil and filter, too.

2. Help your Engine Breathe
A dirty or clogged air filter can rob life from your engine. When the engine can breathe properly it not only lasts longer but is more fuel efficient. Recommendations for checking and replacing air filters are normally based on driving conditions. It only takes a couple of minutes to check the air filter. I check mine when I change the engine oil, and the filter gets replaced if it’s dirty.

3. Pay Attention to Service Intervals
The manufacturer recommends service intervals for a reason. You guessed it, to maximize efficiency and extend the life of the engine. Whether it’s a diesel or gasoline engine it’s important that you pay attention to, and follow these recommended service intervals. If you don’t perform your own routine maintenance, find a local dealership or repair shop that you can trust and put the vehicle on a routine service schedule.

4. Keep it Running Cool:
Just as clean engine oil lubricates moving parts and extends the engine’s life, clean engine antifreeze helps the major components of the engine stay cool and extends the engine’s life. Follow the engine manufacturer’s guidelines for flushing and replacing the coolant (make sure to use the proper type of coolant for the engine), and every time you lift the hood, check the coolant level and inspect coolant hoses for damage. Coolant hoses deteriorate from the inside out. Inspect all hoses for wear, cracks, soft spots, brittle areas and leaks. Replace any damaged hoses or clamps as required.

5. Perform Pre-Trip Checks:
Before moving the RV, make the following checks concerning the engine. Check all fluid levels in the transmission, power steering, engine coolant, engine oil, windshield washer and brake fluid. Consult your vehicle owner’s manual for proper levels. Start the engine, allow it to reach operating temperature and check for proper readings on all gauges. Look under the vehicle for signs of leaks. Have any leaks checked out and repaired before using the vehicle.

6. Driving is Important, Too:
Smart drivers can extend the life of their vehicle engine. Watching RPMs, knowing when to shift gears and monitoring gauges all contribute to extending the life of your engine. Always warm an engine up before driving. Don’t race a cold engine; accelerate slowly until the engine is up to operating temperature. Avoid quick starts and fast stops whenever possible. Always monitor your gauges. If a gauge is reading outside of the normal operating range, pull over when it is safe and have it checked/repaired.

7. Proper Storage Procedures:
Proper storage procedures can extend the life of your engine, whereas improper procedures can harm the life of your engine. I already mentioned that changing the oil and oil filter prior to long-term storage (say three or more months) can help your engine. Acids accumulate in used oil and can corrode the engine bearings. Start the engine periodically when the motorhome is in storage and run it until it reaches operating temperature. Fill the fuel tank and add a fuel preservative to the tank. Run the engine and generator long enough to get the preservative through the fuel system. Protect the engine compartment from critters.

Squirrels and mice love to chew on plastic, rubber and anything else they can find, and a vehicle engine compartment makes a safe and cozy winter home. If the motorhome is stored outside I recommend starting the engine more often to deter these critters from calling it home.

Also, exercise the generator on a regular basis. When you run the generator make sure there is at least a ½-rated load on it. Check your generator owner’s manual for instructions on exercising it.

I mentioned earlier that there are many other factors that can extend the life of your engine, but I think these are some of the most important. If any one of these items is not properly maintained, it could end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs. Maintaining your motorhome’s engine is not that difficult to do, and in times of uncertainty it is what I would call cheap insurance.

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