Motorhome Oil 101: Tips & Tricks for Getting the Best Performance From Your Travel Rig

motorhome oil care tips

Protect your investment by remembering to change your RV, motorhome or campervan’s oil regularly

The engine oil in your RV, motorhome or campervan is the automotive equivalent to the oxygen-giving blood that flows through your veins. Oil is an extremely important component to keep your vehicle running smoothly, efficiently, and for many years to come. Ensuring your vehicle has proper levels of clean engine oil helps to lubricate, seal and protect your beloved travel vehicle against rust and corrosion.

Why is Engine Oil Important?

  • Lubrication. Engine oil helps your vehicle’s moving parts withstand the friction of rubbing together. A thick lubricant will help prevent wear and tear on the internal engine mechanisms.
  • Cleans. When driving, particles and grit are often sucked up into your engine parts. Oil helps keep these elements from building up and creating deposits. Most high quality oils will have a detergent agent added in that helps breakdown particles such as soot and other contaminants. Keep your engine free of sludge by regularly changing the oil as directed by your vehicle’s manual.
  • Protection. Changes in temperature can create oxidation on engine parts; oil helps protect from this process.
  • Seals. Engine oil also acts as a sealant on piston rings and helps maintain compression. Compression keeps your engine parts moving effectively.
  • Cools. Proper amounts of oil help keep the engine cool by absorbing the heat given off by moving parts. Keeping your engine properly lubricated can prevent overheating in most conditions.
  • Efficiency. Another benefit of proper motorhome oil maintenance is fuel economy. If your engine is able to turn over with less effort due to proper lubrication, your vehicle will naturally become more fuel efficient.

What Type of Engine Oil Do I Need?

Now that you know about the importance of engine oil, you might be thinking: Which type of engine oil does my motorhome require?

That’ll depend on your specific vehicle and we recommend consulting your vehicle manual to find out which type of motor oil is suggested. Here’s a general overview of the two types of oil most commonly used in RVs, campervans and motorhomes:

Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil offers many performance benefits as opposed to conventional oil. For instance, synthetic oil allows your vehicle’s engine to run cooler and reduces the likelihood of oxidation. Synthetic oil also helps your RVs engine start faster in cooler temperatures.

If you plan on towing a boat or a car, synthetic oil can help improve engine performance. Synthetic oils can be used in both old and new motorhomes. Using a high quality oil filter is always recommended.

Diesel Oil

Motorhomes (class B or class C) equipped with diesel engines typically remain on a similar oil maintenance schedule to diesel pickup trucks or cars. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for a proper oil change schedule.

For a class A diesel motorhome, you should follow the manufacturer’s suggestion — or at a minimum, change the oil yearly regardless of use. Class A vehicles will hold a much larger amount of oil compared to smaller RVs and motorhomes, so the oil change schedule is generally less frequent.

Note: Class A motorhomes can sometimes have multiple filters that need to be changed. Be sure to carefully review your vehicle’s owner’s manual for recommended oil changing practices.

Motorhome Chassis Lubrication

Regardless of the type of motorhome or RV you own, conducting an annual lubrication and inspection schedule can help prevent some unpleasant and costly repairs. Below is a checklist to go through on a yearly basis:

  • Check the PH level and the strength of the coolant, using approved strips
  • Replace the axle oil (diesel chassis)
  • Check the coolant filter
  • Check all belts
  • Inspect the fan and fan shrouds
  • Change Allison transmission filter (every 2 years)
  • Check the air compressor
  • Add supplemental coolant if needed

In addition, if you own a diesel motorhome or RV, use the following maintenance tips:

  • Check the supplement cleaning additives (or SCAs) every year.
  • Clean your vehicle’s spark arrester every 250 hours. To clean, simply remove the plug located on the muffler assembly. Start your pusher’s generator and put it under load for 5 minutes. Reinstall the plug and you’re done!
  • Maintain the oil levels of the wet hubs. Most diesel pushers have “wet hubs” or an oil-filled portion on the front axle.
  • Check your air filter. On average, a diesel pushers air filter cartridge should last about 3 years.

Buying RV/Motorhome Engine Oil

Reading engine oil labels can be a bit confusing if you aren’t super familiar with auto mechanics. For example, when reading an engine oil label that says “CI-4”, here’s what that means:

  • C represents a services category (compression ignition diesel engines)
  • I represents the quality designation (low emissions engines)
  • 4 designates four stroke engines

Additional Oil Considerations & Advice

Even if you had your vehicle’s oil changed prior to storing it for the winter, condensation can create moisture — thus changing the chemical makeup of your RV’s oil. Be sure to double check, using a dipstick.

Not all oil is created equal. While saving a couple of bucks might seem appealing in the store, don’t sell yourself short and instead get a quality brand that will keep your rig’s engine clean.

Long highway trips are not as taxing on oil as frequent short trips. If you’re mostly a weekend warrior, you may want to look into changing your oil more regularly.

If you have any questions or concerns about changing your motorhome’s oil, don’t hesitate to ask the experts. Find a local, certified RV tech who can help you get on a maintenance schedule that works for you.

Searching for your next travel rig? Classic Vans is California’s premier dealer of Class B motorhomes, RVs conversion vans and wheelchair-accessible vans. We’ve been a family owned and operated business for over 30 years. We specialize in pairing our customers with the vehicle of their dreams!

Don’t live in California? No problem, Inquire about low-cost nationwide van delivery.