This is the third installment of a three-part series on RV health and wellness, written by Wayne Hulit – CEO at Cedar Mountain RVI and published by RV Industry News.

In Part I, we explored how truckers use fluid analysis to determine the optimum time to change the oil in their rig so that they get maximum value out of the investment in their oil, and savings by avoiding premature oil changes.

Then, in Part II, we took a deep dive into the technology of fluid analysis and showed how multiple samples over the year can give you a solid record of the health of your engine.

It’s still important to stress that not all RV owners have background in trucking. And as we discussed in Part I, many of us are still working off the old adage “Don’t let your oil get too dirty or you’ll blow your engine.”

Let’s bring Part I and Part II into perspective. RVs are not trucks, even though they are built with trucking technology. And while many of us are full-time RVers, putting some pretty hard miles on these babies, most of us are not putting 100,000 miles a year on them.

But, the simple truth is that you can’t see a trend with a single oil sample, and once a year is too long a time to wait to see what the next season may have in store for us. A good compromise is a series of three fluid analyses a year. Three samples will definitely show you a trend whereas one will not. Alternatively, rather than change your oil every 3,000 miles, take an oil sample.

For full-timers, a sample every quarter definitely makes sense. For those who “garage” the RV in the winter, three samples, say every two months, with the last sample taken as you wrap it up for the winter will be an ample amount of data to create a trend. Each year you will be building a database of three or four samples, so that in five years time you will have 15 to 20 samples. Now you will have good insight into the health of your engine.

But, let’s not forget the rest of the RV. It’s true we spent a lot of time talking about the engine. And it’s true that if the engine fails, the costs of towing, repair, loss of time, money, home and hearth will be devastating. But, if we’re talking about creating a database of fluid analysis for the engine, what about the water heater. And where are you going to keep the records of all those samples over the next five years. I hope not in a shoebox.

Wellness records for your RV

How many of you have a similar story as this? I bought a used RV from a man who kept meticulous records. Unfortunately, he was very old school and had every receipt for every maintenance visit, or spare part, or replacement part, or correspondence with every dealer or manufacturer he ever communicated with. He had stickies everywhere.

When he transferred ownership to me, I was left with a mountain of loose papers, receipts, stickies brochures, and things that can only be categorized as “question mark.”

Many of us of a certain age may remember visiting our doctor and seeing rows upon rows of cabinets of patient records, all neatly cataloged of course. I believe that many of us have tried with some success to use a spreadsheet to keep track of our own maintenance records. But seriously, keeping records in a spreadsheet is nice, although tedious.

How many of us will take the time to plot the data points associated with the oil analysis to create the pretty charts and trend lines? Now you have the task of “remembering” when to take that next fluid sample. Oh, and what about if you decide to buy another RV in five years? You have to start all over again.

Doctors are smart people. They are also in business where efficiency is paramount. They have all gone to computerizing their records. In this day and age, why should we be trying to keeping receipts and transactional data in a spreadsheet when we can use an “app?”

What is an “app” you say? Well, I’m confident that every one of us uses online banking. That is a good example of an “app”. Your bank account is not only computerized, but you can access it over the internet. Doctors have computerized our medical records. They’re not necessarily accessible over the internet, but my doctor walks into the examining room with a little hand held computer.

With a touch of the screen using his little stylus, he can pull up all the details of my last blood test. It’s all filled in with the appropriate terminology and he or she can proceed to explain in understandable language what the state of my health is.

Let’s make this easy

We now have a recommendation for taking oil samples three or four times a year. There are many ways to keep track of when it’s time to take the next sample. But taking oil samples is not the only thing on your RV that needs maintenance.  Here’s a few things to consider:

  • RV owners treat their RV maintenance the same as their car.  A good number of people don’t have previous experience with diesel engines, generators, or any of the key RV components. They get a set of assurances from the dealer on how easy it is, and that an annual service back at the dealer’s service center releases them from having to worry about anything, much like owning a car.  While this is true in some cases, with some really good RV centers, it is rare. And once the sale is made most RV owners are on their own.
  • RV owners are shocked and overwhelmed when they see how many maintenance tasks there are. This is especially true of motorhomes. As many of us learn how much there is really to stay on top of, and why we should stay on top of it, we quickly become eager to get help to do it, but we don’t always know what we don’t know.
  • Important, but not urgent. While every single RV owner agrees maintenance is important it often doesn’t stay urgent, and an out of sight out of mind syndrome develops. As RV owners, if we get behind and dread the expected time investment to get it all figured out, we become chronic procrastinators.
  • Get caught up in the age old adage “that engine is designed to last a million miles.”  We have pretty much have covered this in detail. Engines may be designed to last that long, but we are not likely going to approach that number of miles. If we do, or if we ever hope to do, we definitely need some sort of maintenance regime to do it. How else can you hope to maintain your engine, shocks, brakes, refrigerator, smoke detectors or winterization without some aid?

My final question is, who wants to spend time every quarter trying to pull together receipts, records, mileage, and the myriad of data we must keep on our RV? Where will we have the time to enjoy the RV if we fussing about keeping records. We must keep records. But we must also enjoy our investment.

So, let’s summarize. We know we don’t want to damage the engine in the RV because that is the single most expensive item to replace should anything happen to it. We know that we need to seriously take care of it by ordering up fluid analysis three or four times a year so that we can establish reliable wellness data for it.

We also know that there are at least 30 other things on the RV which need care both on the chassis and the coach. And it’s also true, that an RV is neither an automobile nor a truck. It’s a house on wheels and needs special care and attention. We all need help in doing this.

For the health and wellness of your RV, my final points are these. Recognize that the most expensive maintenance item on your RV is your engine and that it’s oil is as important as blood is to us. Treat it with great care and provide it with regular “check ups” — I mean oil analyses.

And take the burden off yourself by trying to maintain all those pesky receipts and records. Use a tool to keep track of them. Save time. Save money. Don’t waste your oil or your time. Personally, I use an online tool called Maintain My RV.

Cedar Mountain RVI provides an important fluid analysis service to dealerships and RVers alike. Check out their website at www.cmrvi.com for more information and download a whitepaper describing the importance of fluid analysis for your RV. People can also listen to RV Daily Report’s Podcast 117 featuring Tom Johnson, president of JG Lubricant Lab, discussing the importance of fluid analysis for RVers. Podcast 118 featuries Rob Willard, president of MaintainMyRV discussing his on-line maintenance record keeping service.