Maintaining Your Recreational Vehicle

DIY Maintenance

Many people in both the automotive and RV world like to do their own maintenance on their vehicles, or maybe prices from a shop are too outrageous to pay to get a few simple things done. Maintenance is what keeps vehicles on the road and going so that we can go out and have adventures. It doesn’t matter if the vehicle was very gently driven or driven hard; everything needs to be maintained. Keeping our vehicles in the best condition we can helps us to get the best gas mileage, prevent major engine damage, and to keep us on the road as long as possible.

Now if you are just looking to see what it would take to do it yourself or just for an interesting read, this is what it takes to get your vehicle in good running shape. Now I do have to say that I am not responsible for any damages or injuries that may occur while working on a vehicle. It is your job to BE SAFE!!! I do need to say that most fluids have a time period that they should be changed out in. Check with your manufacture to make sure what those times or mileage is. We are going to be focusing on engine oil which for a good rule of thumb is to change it every 3000-5000 miles or every year whichever comes first.

What you will need:

  • Oil
  • Oil filter
  • Oil filter wrench or large pliers
  • Oil drain bucket big enough for your application
  • Socket and ratcheting wrench or basic wrench
  • Funnel
  • Rags
  • Jack and jack stands
  • Torque wrench (optional but very recommended)
  • Other fluids to top everything off

Step One: Jack up the vehicle so that we can get under it. Make sure to apply the ebrake and/or put a wheel chock behind the back tire, then jack at a point on the frame or the vehicle pinch weld. Place the vehicle down on the jack/safety stands so there is no risk of it falling on you while you are under it. If you have an RV you can use the stabilizer jacks to lift the vehicle high enough to work, but still use jack stands to make sure there is no chance of falling.

Step Two: Drain the oil. Locate the oil drain plug and the proper socket/ wrench to remove the plug. Place the drain pan under the engine to catch the oil. Now loosen the drain plug; REMEMBER LEFTY LOOSY RIGHTY TIGHTY. The oil will now start draining into the pan. A good tip is to remove the oil filler cap so that the oil can drain more freely and faster. Once oil has stopped draining then reinstall the drain plug. Now here you can just tighten the plug or torque it to the manufactures specification. I highly recommend torqueing the drain plug back in to insure it will not fall out. You will have to check with the manufacture what that spec is for your application.

Step Three: Remove the oil filter. Location will vary on these. Some can be removed by hand but it is usually much easier to use an oil filter wrench or large pliers. REMEMBER LEFTY LOOSY RIGHTY TIGHTY. As you loosen the filter it will start to drip oil so it’s a good idea to put the drain pan under the filter. Once removed let any oil drain into the pan and dispose of the oil filter. When installing the new oil filter it’s good to lubricate the gasket as well as clean the surface on the engine to insure a proper seal. Tighten the filter. Most filters will say to go until they touch the engine then ½ to 1 more full turn, but going as tight as you can by hand is good practice. If you take your vehicle to a shop they are required to use an oil filter wrench and get it very tight to insure it doesn’t leak.

Step Four: Add oil. Check with your manufacture how much oil to add as well as what type is best for your application. Add the oil into the oil fill using the funnel. I usually get the majority of the oil in then when I have about a quart of oil left I will check the dipstick. The oil should be in the hash marks or marks on the dipstick.

Step Five: Start the engine. As you start watch to make sure the oil pressure light goes out or the oil pressure gauge starts to rise. Once you confirm you have oil pressure, get out and get under the vehicle to check for leaks. If any leaks are present shut off the engine, then insure the tightness on the item then check again for leaks.

Step Six: Check transmission fluid. While the engine is running it is a good idea to check the level of the transmission fluid. Most vehicles will either need to be in park or neutral. Pull the dipstick and make sure the level is in the hash marks. A good transmission fluid should smell sweet and be pink in color. If it is low then add while the vehicle is still running. If it smells burnt or brown/black, you will need to take it to a shop to have the transmission fluid changed/flushed. You can now shut the vehicle off.

Step Seven: Check Coolant. Some vehicles have a separate reservoir for coolant and it will have a high and low mark. The fluid level should be between these two marks. Some you will need to remove a pressurized cap. BE VERY CAREFUL. Take it off slowly, as pressure will be released when the cap is removed. Its good practice to use a rag so hot coolant doesn’t explode in your face or hands.

Step Eight: Check Power Steering fluid. The cap for the power steering is usually also the dipstick. Make sure the fluid is in the hash marks. It usually has a hot and cold fill level written on the dipstick; fill accordingly.

Step Nine: Check brake fluid. Most brake fluid reservoirs have the required level marked on the reservoir itself. If it is low you should have a shop check your brakes, because as brakes wear the level will go down.

Step Ten: Fill windshield washer fluid. Use the right fluid for whatever temperature you are expecting.

Step Eleven: Check air filter. If it is dirty it should be replaced.

Step Twelve: Check rear differential. Usually these will have only a plug of a bolt that can be removed, some cannot be checked. Once that plug/bolt has been removed fluid should be right at the bottom of the hole. If it is low then fill it till it runs out the hole, then reinstall plug/bolt.

Step Thirteen: Recheck oil level and tightness of everything. If the oil level is now a little low that is normal, because the new engine oil has been circulated through the engine and is now at the right level on the dipstick. Again recheck to make sure there are no leaks and that everything is tight.

Step Fourteen: Clean up. Make sure all spills are cleaned up. Used engine oil should be placed in a container and taken to a location that recycles oil. Most auto parts stores will allow you to recycle there.

Sorry, but a giant oil barrel is not the best way to get rid of the oil. Do the right thing and take it somewhere.

Congratulations. You have now done all the maintenance on your own vehicle. You should be proud and at ease knowing your vehicle will be running that much better.

All these steps will also apply to any recreational vehicles or generators, although most will only have oil and coolant, or just oil. Some do not even have oil filters. Even still the basic procedure still applies.

Now go have an adventure in whatever you are driving!!!!!

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