RV travel is meant to be fun and help you make many amazing memories. However, nothing can throw a wrench into your trip like issues with your RV. If you have a diesel pusher, many times those RV issues can be expensive. However, if your diesel motorhome is losing power it might be a quick and easy fix. That is, of course, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty.
It doesn’t matter if you live full time in your RV or maybe you just travel a few times a year. For my husband and I, it’s our home away from home for a couple months in the winter. Yet, issues along the road are not good no matter how you choose to travel.
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A Wrench in Your Travels
Literally, no pun intended there. While we are talking about RV’s, and engines and what can go wrong, it’s no laughing matter. There is nothing worse that being in your home away from home, on the road and having vehicle issues. It’s scary for many reasons.
The cost of repairs, especially for a diesel engine can be very expensive. Many vehicle repair shops don’t deal with diesel engines. They might not have staff trained properly on diesel engines. Also they just might not have the room or equipment to work on a larger RV’s.
Read on to find out what we dealt with and how my husband (who can fix just about anything) figured out what was wrong and fixed our diesel engine RV, while on the road.
Loss of Power with Your Diesel RV
On the road driving to your home away from home destination and you realize that when going up hills your RV is just not acting right? You are losing power, speed is dropping and other vehicles are flying past you. What could be wrong you start asking yourself.
This is exactly what happened to us on our travels in 2021. It was the first trip in our new (to us) 2003 Winnebago Itasca Horizon RV. We had just left a KOA in San Antonio, Texas and out of the blue the RV wouldn’t go. Right from the minute we pulled out of the RV park the RV had no power. Holding the pedal to the floor, and nothing. The RV just wouldn’t go over 30mph.
We pulled into a parking lot a few blocks from the RV park and my husband started digging in owners manuals and Googling things to try and figure out what was wrong. Being that my husband is one who can fix just about anything, he knew from past experience that with a diesel engine the first go to is to change a fuel filter.
New to changing a fuel filter? Read on to see his tips.
How to Change a Fuel Filter
Most RV’s come with an owners/users manual. However, they can be very vague or can be ones that are just generic and not exactly for YOUR RV. Here are the steps my husband used for our 2003 Winnebago Itasca Horizon 39ft.
Some RV’s have one filter, some have 2. Our RV only has one filter. Your RV may have a one filter or two filter system. Make sure to look instead of relying on your manual, as they are not always correct.
Steps for Changing a Fuel Filter
Make sure you have diesel fuel to fill the filter. It’s always a good idea to bring a diesel can with you, either already filled or to use to get diesel. For our engine it used about 1.5 quarts of diesel fuel to fill the new filter. Don’t fill it yet.
Second step – find a pan or bucket to place under the fuel filter area and if your filter has a drain valve, drain the filter into the pan. If there is no drain valve, carefully unscrew the filter and try to catch as much of the fuel into the pan as you can. It’s a good idea to have a filter wrench with you in the RV, just incase. Maybe even some aluminum pans to catch the fuel. One can never be too prepared, right?
Remove the reusable portion of the filter, if equipped. Clean out the reusable portion of your filter with carburetor cleaner or WD or similar. Attach it to the new filter.
Once the filter is drained unscrew it from the filter housing. Next, fill the new fuel filter with clean fuel, to the TOP! One tip is to let the fuel that is in your fuel can settle while you are doing the first couple steps. Many people are against putting unfiltered fuel into a new filter, but if you let it settle and are careful when you fill the new filter it should be ok. (Disclaimer – you do you)
When the new filter is filled with clean fuel, screw it on with the proper gaskets/O Rings in place. (most filters that require these, come with them). Tighten by hand. If you have weak hands and feel it’s not tight enough, give it another 1/8 turn with a filter wrench just to snug it up.
Start it Up
Start up the engine and hold at a minimum of 1000rpm’s for a minute or so. This is to make sure you work out any air in the system, quickly.
Now, you should be able to continue on your travels. Do dispose of your left over fuel properly and leave no garbage behind.
Exhaust Break – Diesel Motorhome Losing Power
Another reason ones diesel motorhome could be losing power is due the exhaust break sticking on. This was yet another issue we dealt with while traveling.
While heading to Flagstaff, AZ., trying to climb those huge hills the RV was losing power. Assuming it was the fuel filter again we kept chugging along looking for a place to pull off the road. All of a sudden my husband noticed black smoke coming out from the back of the RV. And, then we noticed the bedroom in the back of the RV was full of smoke. Immediately we pulled over! Not in a very good spot either but you do what you have to do.
Quick and smart thinking on my husbands part, once again, he figured due to the smoke in the RV that something was sticking on. Yup, right again. It was the exhaust brake.
First thing was to get the engine cover off so he could gain access to the engine. For our rig ( Caterpillar Engine ), that compartment is in the bedroom at the foot of the bed. He noticed was that the exhaust brake actuator cylinder was fully extended telling meaning that the exhaust butterfly was in closed position. When that happens it means that the exhaust brake is engaged.
My husband took a small hammer and was able to pound the cylinder back to “exhaust open” position. That isn’t a forever fix, just a fix for now. Turn the exhaust break off and don’t use it until you can get it replaced.
Diesel Motorhome Losing Power Conclusion
While this is about our personal experiences with our current RV, I hope it can help shed light for others. Not every diesel motorhome is the same, so always check your owners manual and if the manual is no help, resort to Googling for help.
If you love traveling, follow She’s Trippy on Instagram for lots of fun travel posts.
Disclaimer – the above post is our experience and how we fixed things.
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