Avoid vacation vehicle woes

Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician in Trail

The Kootenays are a popular vacation destination and inevitably the auto repair shops will get involved in solving some tourists’ vacation vehicle woes.

The rolling house (our name for RVs/Motorhomes) is many times the vehicle we are trying to get back on the road while the family anxiously hangs around in hopes of expedient departure not to mention a bill that is not going to cut short their holidays.

Working on a rolling house is a lot different than a regular vehicle especially when someone is making sandwiches for the kids while the mechanic is sweating profusely trying to change the spark plug wires on a 1989 big block Ford E350 motorhome.

Most motorhomes spend most of the year in a field. Then they are rushed out of storage for that two-week vacation. As a result most of these machines are sporting fairly low mileage but they have a lot of years on their old rubber tires.

The tires are one of the most important parts on your RV. They may look as if there is a lot of tread left but tread is not the only thing you are looking for. Age wreaks havoc on rubber tires. Old tires get hard and the rubber starts cracking. They also can be rotting from the inside out.

Tire manufacturers generally recommend replacing trailer tires that are more than five years old and motorhome tires that are 7 to 10 years old even when an outside visual inspection says everything looks good.

How do you know how old your tires are? There is a date code on the sidewall after the three letters “DOT” (Department of Transport) there will be some letter codes and at the end of the list there will be 4 numbers. The first two numbers represent the week of the year that the tires were made “00 to 52” and the second two are the year “16” would be 2016.

Speaking of rubber; belts and hoses are some other items to carefully inspect on your motorhome. Age is just as much their enemy as it is to tires. They start to crack and rot. Hose will likely do this from the inside out.

The engines in most motorhomes are tightly packaged and on top of that their workload many times exceeds their design. A full freshwater tank, sewer tank, fuel tank, and a couple extra passengers and their belongings and your rolling house might just be overloaded. That poor engine and transmission is working double time.

Motorhome maintenance is easy to forget. The typical owner is in a rush to get the vehicle out of the field and onto the road and then again rushing to get it back in storage. Infrequent maintenance items like spark plugs, the fuel filter, the transmission fluid, the differential fluid, and the air filter can get forgotten.

On something that sits around half the year at least and works its butt off the other half these maintenance items are more important than ever. The engine oil and filter should be done just before putting it away. At this time it is also a good idea to fill the fuel tank (ouch!) and add fuel stabilizer.

For any other maintenance items check the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual or check with your professional mechanic. Keep records.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail: nutechauto@telus.net

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