RV Maintenance: Fluids and Filters You Can Do Yourself

You don’t have to be a mechanic to have your RV properly maintained. In fact, many RV owners don’t want to have to pay someone else to maintain their RV.

It is a widely accepted fact that when it comes time to do maintenance on your RV, you’re better off doing it yourself than paying a tow truck to do it. However, there are times when a professional is not always the answer, and that’s where you come in. In this article, you’ll learn about the primary fluids and filters you need to maintain your RV’s health, as well as how to do it yourself.

An RV might seem like a luxury, but over the life of the RV it will undergo thousands of gallons of liquids, many of which will need to be filtered. If you’re tired of dealing with the hassle of RV maintenance, then you’re in luck. This blog will show you how to keep your RV running smoothly, even if you can’t find a mechanic or don’t own a vehicle with a lift.. Read more about rv maintenance near me and let us know what you think.Once you learn how to change the oil in your Class A motorhome with our do-it-yourself oil change guide, you’re ready for the next step. You’ve taken a big step in maintaining your RV and lowering your overall maintenance budget. Use the Camper Smarts inspection list to find other parts that need to be inspected. Now it’s time to take the next step. Yes, you can maintain other filters and fluids. Even if you are still unsure of what is under the hood of your Class A van, I will tell you:

  • Identification of required parts
  • What each filter and liquid looks like
  • To remove, replace and reinstall the new filter
  • Determine the maintenance needs of filters and fluids
  • Streamline the process so you don’t have to go back and forth to the store.

If you remember the oil change article, my dad called me a Brian Newman on the hard way for not doing the research and not preparing properly. To avoid blaming you, I’ve compiled this article with some helpful resources so you only have to make one trip to the store (or order everything in one online purchase).

Motorhome maintenance tips, to be used with this item

We recommend that you first read the entire article on RV maintenance to familiarize yourself with the subject. Keep the article on your mobile device while performing each maintenance check, so you can review all the steps again. Keep a small notebook and pen handy to take notes. At the end of the article, we’ve put together a shopping list that you can print out. Use the checkboxes to determine which fluids you need. On the filters, there are lines where you can note the make and model number of the current version. You can use a list to store all the information in one place. In case you missed it, here’s a link to the Camper Smarts checklist. To continue the series of articles on RV maintenance, create your own RV inspection checklist based on your specific needs using everything you’ve learned.

Back to RV service area

Have you created your playlist yet? I think you can go for the 80’s hairband vibe this time: Motley Crue, Poison (Brett Michaels is a great journeyman), Def Leppard and Warrant. Try not to bang your head too hard, you need to concentrate. I still have plenty of RV cleaning toothbrushes for those who call this music old. Just like any other major maintenance on a car or SUV, you need to get dirty. As you prepare your wardrobe, don’t forget to pack mud shoes. The clothes you are wearing may still contain moisture and grease stains. Don’t forget latex work gloves and disposable safety glasses. You will be careful with all these liquids, but there is always the possibility of splashing.

Maintenance of vans: Understanding your motorhome

Reminder: After your oil change, you now know the name of your SUV’s engine, where the oil filler cap is located, and how to check the dipstick. Knowledge is 101. Maintenance point for recreational vehicles. Gasoline engines are powered by the Ford Triton 6.4L V10 or the new Ford Godzilla 7.3L V8. Cummins Class A diesel motorhomes use one of the following Cummins inline 6-cylinder turbo diesel engines:

  • 6.7 litres B
  • 8.9 litres ISL9
  • 11.9 litres X12
  • 15 litres X15

Checking the engine fluids is an important part of maintaining a motorhome

Engine Fluids

Before we get to the filters, let’s start with the fluids. Some of these fluids are designed for specific engine brands, but there are also multi-brand and multi-purpose options. Fluids are colored to make it easier to detect leaks (insert irrational ritual to suppress swearing). Since you’ve already changed the oil, it’s now time to replenish the other fluids. Your vehicle has seven fluids, but Class A motorhomes use six. If you’re toasting your car (which is towing a passenger car), it’s a good idea to keep one bottle of the other two in the storage compartment in case you need them on the road.

  1. A/C cooler – compressed gas
  2. Brake fluid – not needed
  3. Oil – dark yellow or gold
  4. Power steering fluid – red
  5. Radiator fluid is green, but often varies by manufacturer.
  6. Transmission fluid – clear or pink
  7. Windscreen washer fluid – blue, green or orange

Camper leveling jacks use hydraulic fluid, but we’ll show you a veteran trick later that can save you money and space in your toolbox. The manager at the RV service center taught me this trick and I had no problems. For Class B vans and Class C caravans, this applies to everything except the lifting fluid. You can keep up with it, but you’ll have to spend a little more time looking up where some parts are in the manual. By signing up for the Campers Smarts newsletter, you won’t have to wait long for articles for your RV maintenance guide.

Refrigerant for air conditioners

The air conditioning system on the dashboard of your motorhome works differently than the air conditioning systems on the roof. Freon or a substitute, such as R134 or R134a, is used to cool the air in the driver’s compartment. After a few years of use, you may notice that your dashboard air conditioner is no longer cooling the air like it used to. The coolant canisters of the conditioners are the size of a bottle of hairspray. You connect it to the right port with the hose that comes with the canister. Spend extra money and buy an air conditioner refill kit with a pressure gauge. This is cheaper in the long run. If you need to charge the air conditioner, you still have the hose and the gauge, so you only need the cartridge itself. On the passenger side under the hood, you will see a matte gray metal pin with a black or light blue cover. If you have a diesel camper, you will find it on the driver’s side, in the front of the generator compartment. The black rubber hoses are connected at the top and bottom. To charge the air conditioner, remove the black or blue cap, connect the hose that came with the refrigerant bottle and pull the trigger. If your air conditioner starts to heat up again after a few weeks or months, you may have a leak that needs attention. Some air conditioner refill kits contain additives that seal small leaks.

Oil for cylinders and gears

Your Class A van is most likely equipped with an electric leveling system. Keeping the alignment system in top condition is an important part of maintaining an RV. My 2001 Fleetwood Pace Arrow has a metal plate on the back of the battery compartment. On the other side is a black tank with about one liter capacity. A dipstick is attached to the lid for easy determination of the fluid level. Recreational vehicle manufacturers move the hydraulic tank. So check the owner’s manual to see where it is located. I know modern arrows have the tank in a different place. It’s probably near the front tire on the driver’s side, and you’ll need a funnel with an extension cord to fill it. As with any dipstick, unscrew the cap, wipe it clean, replace it and remove it. If the liquid covers the entire track, everything is fine. If not, it’s time to add more. Virtually any hydraulic oil can be used in RV car jacks, as long as it has a low viscosity. Some companies make versions specifically designed for camper supports. Another option is clear or pink automatic transmission fluid (ATF). Like the oil, it is available in one-quart or five-quart cans. ATF transmission oil is a low viscosity lubricant. It doesn’t damage the canisters and works just as well. If you compare prices, a 5 liter canister of ATF transmission oil costs about the same as a 1 liter bottle of hydraulic oil. Many experienced drivers have a spare canister in their toolbox in case they need to refill their jack or transmission fluid. After you check the transmission fluid gauge, you might panic because you can’t find the cap to refill the fluid. Put the sample back where it belongs. Ford did not include an oil cap for the transmission. Take a funnel and slowly pour the liquid into the tube of the dipstick. It’s one of those cases where it’s so easy for your instincts to overthink you. Like the oil, the transmission fluid must also be changed. Stay tuned for another Yes You Can article on changing the transmission fluid and filter in a Class A motorhome.

Power steering fluid

You can refill the power steering fluid. On the tank cover, it says power steering. This tank has a gauge that sits on the cap, so wipe it off and measure. When adding red fluid, do not exceed the maximum fluid level. Like engine oil, power steering fluid contains synthetic and other additives that you need to watch out for. Varieties include native, Asian and European models. It may be useful to use a version with a leak stop function. Parts wear out over time. The additive seals small leaks before they become big problems. Tips from Camper Smarts on original parts and fluids: Ford recommends Mercon V fluid for its transmission and power steering systems. Cummins also recommends a specific brand. Recommendations are not made just for marketing reasons. Many of these car and engine manufacturers design their products with specific fluids and secondary components in mind. Competitors’ products are just as good. The recommended product may have a special ingredient or dimension that the others do not. The result may be a reduction in fluid or a minimal change in parts. Your VR service manager can explain this issue in more detail. In most cases, camping car stores use a competitor’s product because it works well and is cheaper.

Radiator coolant

The radiator in your Class A motorhome uses air to cool the engine and transmission. Thin layers of aluminum fins trap the heat of the refrigerant. When you drive, air blows into the front hood opening (on a gasoline engine) and cools the cooling fins. On Class A diesel motorhomes with a rear engine (known as diesel pushers or DPs), the radiator is either on the tailgate or on the rear quarter panel on the driver’s side. Regardless of where your radiator is located, you need to do two things: First check the radiator for dirt or stones that may be trapped between the cooling fins. To straighten bent cooling fins, use the cooling fin tool to return them to the correct position. Some people use slotted screwdrivers, but the winged tool is more accurate, cheaper and less time consuming. For best results, use a long-tooth comb suitable for radiators. Meanwhile, the coolant continues to circulate around the engine and transmission, constantly pulling heat away from the components to maintain a safe temperature. On the dashboard you will see a screen with a vertical key symbol floating in the water. If you remember the road safety course, the screen shows the engine temperature. A medium level is optimal, while a high level means you are at risk of overheating. If the engine heat warning light is on high, check the coolant in the radiator if you are not performing preventive maintenance. It’s always a good idea to keep a spare bottle of coolant on hand for radiators in multiple vehicles to keep the levels up. Due to the heat, a small part evaporates after a while. Radiator fluid also serves as an off-season antifreeze when your RV is in storage. Maintenance of the cooling system is essential in a mobile home. word-image-5778

Water consumption and coolant change in radiator

Some people think you can use water instead of coolant for the radiator. Water can be used in case of emergency. The problem with water is its properties. The water boils and evaporates. It freezes at low temperatures. Once you’re in a safe place to work on your car, you should drain the radiator, which means completely replacing the fluid. Under the radiator you will see a pipe with a metal band around it. There are holes in the tape that look like a ladder. Prepare a disposable aluminum container to catch the liquid. Don’t use an oil can, because you only want to use it for oil. If you loosen the screw on the ladder strap, the liquid comes out quickly. No need to disconnect the hose from the connection. Once it stops, put it back in place. Then follow the instructions above to fill the container. Start the engine to allow the new fluid to flow through. Any water left in the system will evaporate, so don’t worry about that.

Windscreen washer fluid

Almost everyone knows the bright blue cans of windscreen washer fluid. It’s not hard to find a clear tank. You may need a funnel with an extension cord to reach it if the van’s designers have placed it in an unusual place. You can use orange windshield washer fluid in the fall or early spring because it doesn’t freeze in cold weather. It helps keep your windshield ice-free in the winter. There is a green version of windshield washer fluid that is ideal for removing bugs from your windshield. If you’ve ever driven by a swarm of bed bugs in Florida, you know how quickly they can completely cover your window and blind you. No amount of scraping, window washing or other methods will completely remove them when the sun shines on them. The window cleaner contains an enzyme that removes insects better than ordinary window cleaner. I only buy this type of fluid for my RV and always have a spare bottle.

Motor filter

In case you haven’t noticed: There are no standardized parts used in the RV world. During the COVID 19 pandemic backlog, motorhome manufacturers replace updated parts while third-party suppliers wait for parts. Finding the right filter for your motorcycle is less complicated than finding motorcycle parts, even if you have an older RV. Car manufacturers prefer to standardize parts because of the high volumes and large number of models they produce. In many cases, these filters and fluids can be found at auto parts stores and RV shops. You can get discounts in stores by signing up for their discount programs.

Air filter

For your engine to work properly, it needs air. The filter prevents dirt from entering the engine. The air filter should be changed every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. You will see that there is black dirt on the paper fins, but that is normal. When you separate them, pay attention to the inner part. If the blades are completely clogged, so that it appears that they are blocked, the filter must be replaced. If you are camping, wait until you get home to change the filter. Replacing your van’s air filter makes a difference. Think of it this way: If you’re wearing two or three masks, it’s probably going to be harder to breathe. A heavily clogged air filter obstructs the air supply to the engine. As a result, the engine runs harder, fuel consumption is reduced and acceleration is hampered. Extreme symptoms of a clogged air filter are black smoke coming from the exhaust pipe, faltering engine ignition and strange noises. The best way to determine what type and model number of air filter you need is to find the housing and remove the filter. Note down the brand and the product number. Check other brands for the same filter. Competitors may offer their own version or a better price. The most popular brands are :

  • Fram
  • K&N
  • Premium security
  • ACDelco
  • ECOGard

Cummins diesel engines and the new Ford V8 Godzilla gasoline engine use a square or rectangular air filter. The older Ford Triton V10 models use a large round filter with a black center cap. Make sure the new square filter is placed face down. If the air filter is installed too late, it will quickly become clogged and stop working.

What you won’t find in a Class A diesel motorhome

When servicing a diesel motorhome, don’t waste time looking for a brake fluid reservoir or a filter for the indoor air conditioner (unless the owner’s manual specifies a filter). Class A diesel trucks do not. In passenger cars the filter is located behind the glove box, but not in vans. Air conditioning units on the roof of your bus should be equipped with filters in the air intake to clean the air inside.   Class A diesel vehicles use air brakes instead of the hydraulic systems used in passenger cars. There are thick rubber bubbles on the axles that inflate when you turn on the ignition. There are several ways to check the trunk and brake system. Take a spray bottle and mix soapy water into it. Make sure the legs are down and the chocks are secure. With the engine running, spray the air bubbles on the wheels with water. If you see bubbles, there may be a leak in the bladder. If so, have it checked by your local RV repair shop. You can run a series of tests to make sure your brakes and air compressor are working properly, as explained by one of the many iRV2 forum members. After you turn on the transporter, give it a few minutes to fill with bubbles. Apply the service brake (normal brake, not parking brake) fully in intervals of two seconds. There are two gauges on the dash that show the front and rear air blast values. Every time you press the brake, the needles go down a bit. Continue this procedure until you hear the sound of the compressor starting. The maximum air pressure should be about 130 psi and the compressor should operate at about 85 psi. See RV735’s last post in this forum thread for more tests to check your air system.

RV alternator filter and spark plug

At this point, you should be feeling good. You may have had to deal with warped hull sections when you tried to put everything back together, but you succeeded. The features under the hood don’t have to be intimidating either. You have maintained your van yourself and don’t need to drive it to a service centre to spend almost double what you just paid for consumables. The alternator air filter works in a similar way. Every 50 to 100 hours of operation, you should take the time to check your generator and run it once a month. Check out this RV Life article for more helpful tips. The part looks different, but the replacement is the same process. But you need to check the spark plug. For optimum performance, the generator should be replaced every 450 hours. First, locate the spark plug and turn off the alternator switches just to be sure. When disconnecting the cable, make a twisting motion. Don’t try to push it or it might break. You will need a socket wrench or a wrench to unscrew the spark plug from its hole. Once outside, it’s time to clean the cable and the surrounding area. When you buy a new spark plug, you should buy a spark plug gauge if you don’t already have one. For proper operation, the distance between the plug and the metal part above it should be a certain distance. The required distance is indicated in the generator’s operating instructions. Be very careful when screwing in the spark plug. You don’t want to remove the teeth and leave the ankle crooked. First screw it in by hand and then tighten it with a wrench. After tightening, connect the cable and close the cover.

Congratulations, you have maintained your motorhome yourself!

You accomplished a lot today and you should be proud of yourself. Keep excess fluids out of the system during preventive maintenance. You never know when something might need recharging. Keep the brand and product numbers in an easily accessible file on your computer or mobile device for future reference, just as you did with the oil change parts. Once you are familiar with these tasks, you can combine them for your next oil change. Now get your garden furniture ready and open your favorite drink. It’s time to relax and enjoy what you’ve accomplished. Keep your wardrobe and tools handy, because there’s more to come. To help you gain total control and pride, I will soon show you how to change the transmission fluid and fuel filter. People looking for help maintaining their Class B or C RV or tow vehicle don’t have to wait long to gain the confidence that comes from learning how to maintain their vehicle parts. With a tool like MaintainMyRV.com in RV LIFE Pro, you can keep track of your RV maintenance. Don’t forget to subscribe to Camper Smarts newsletter so you won’t miss a single article. You can also learn a lot about all things RV by exploring Camper Smarts, Do-It-Yourself RV, Camping Reviews and many others on the RV Life Network. Don’t forget to print out the shopping list below to buy everything you need.

About the author

Although originally from Motown, Brian is a Rover heir who grew up on I-75. Since 2017, he, his wife, and two working fur babies have lived full-time in their mobile home. Like John Madden, he hasn’t worked in years because he can write about his passion. When not working, he supports his daughter’s dog rescue and disability projects. Learn more from him at CamperSmarts.com

List of parts which may be required for the servicing of recreational vehicles

  • Refrigerant kit for air conditioner
  • Hydraulic or transmission oil for various vehicles
  • Radiator fluid for various vehicles
  • Radiator fin tool – long teeth
  • Windscreen washer fluid (normal, tapering, cold weather)
  • Engine air filter [Brand : ______________ Model # __________________]
  • Alternator air filter [Brand : ____________ Model # __________________]
  • Spark plug for alternator [Brand : ___________ Model # ________________]
  • Spark plug measuring device

Frequently Asked Questions

What maintenance does an RV need?

As the title suggests, this blog post will take you step-by-step through how to keep your RV well maintained and in tip-top condition. We’ll go over everything from fluid changes to filters. We’ll also throw in some tips for finding the best RV maintenance products to ensure you keep your RV well maintained and in tip-top condition. When you own an RV, you have a lot of responsibility. You have to clean the inside, you have to keep the outside spotless, and you have to make sure the RV can get you where you need to go. This article will help you take care of those things that you need to take care of on your own.

How much is yearly RV maintenance?

We spend a lot of time on the road. Whether it’s heading out for an extended weekend trip, or to explore an unfamiliar patch of wilderness, a reliable and well-maintained RV is key to a good trip. It’s probably not shocking to hear that your RV needs some maintenance—and when it comes to RV maintenance, you can do a lot yourself. The thing is, RV maintenance is complex and can be intimidating to follow, especially if you’ve got a full-time job and you aren’t used to the rigors of RVing.

How often should you service your RV?

For anyone who ever dreamed of living in the country, and more specifically RVing, it’s inevitable that you will have to service your vehicle over the years. Vehicle maintenance is essential if you want your RV to last a long time, and this how-to guide will show you exactly what to do to keep your RV in top-notch shape. This article will cover the basic maintenance of your RV, with the focus on fluids and filters. If you own an RV, you’ll want to do a thorough tune-up every once in a while. Here are tips on how to do both.

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