Replacing The Air Cleaner in our Diesel Pusher RV + Tow Bar Giveaway Winner!

TheRVgeeks Maintenance 17 Comments

We have a winner in our $1,000+ Tow Bar Giveaway! Was it you? Scroll down to find out!

The moniker “DIY RVer” only goes so far. There are definitely some maintenance and repair items we don’t handle ourselves. But one thing’s for sure: when a task is as quick and easy as changing our engine’s air cleaner, there’s no way we’d pay someone else to do it for us!

It might seem like a no brainer to replace an air filter, and indeed it’s not difficult. But when you remove the old element, you’re exposing the engine to potentially catastrophic damage if you allow dirt or other debris to enter the air intake.

So even though it’s not at all complicated, the simple steps we take to ensure that no foreign matter sneaks into our unprotected air intake are worth reviewing. One of my favorite expressions is “It’s not the likelihood, it’s the consequences” for good reason. “Dusting” an engine isn’t likely, but man-oh-man is it bad if it does happen.

If you’ve never heard of “dusting” an engine, Google it to see if it’s something you’d like to experience with your RV’s engine. We can assure you that it can be a very costly self-inflicted wound (but thankfully we don’t know that from first-hand experience). We sometimes say “We learn things the hard way so that you don’t have to”… but fortunately that does have its limits! We do most things right the first time, and protecting the internal components of our engine falls happily into that category.

But don’t let our warning scare you away from replacing your air cleaner yourself. Just follow the simple instructions in the video and your engine will be just fine, and breathing better than ever in no time!

Our rig specifies that we should replace the air cleaner every three years, or 75,000 miles, or when the filter minder reaches the red “Change Filter” line (which indicates that airflow is no longer sufficient).

As is typical with big diesel engines on larger motorhomes, many of our components are built with heavy-duty truck use in mind. So just like oil and tires, filter elements generally age out before they wear out, usually requiring replacement far sooner than would be needed if the material didn’t break down over time. And we’ve never seen our filter minder come anywhere near the red line.

You should of course follow your manufacturer’s instructions for all maintenance items, so be sure to check the recommendations for your RV. We’ve been buying many of our chassis and engine supplies online from RV Chassis Parts for years, and have had good experiences getting various parts shipped all over the place.

So about that Tow Bar Giveaway…

Out of more than 2,500 entries, a hearty “Congratulations!” goes out to Ken S, whose entry #84 was the lucky random winner. We spoke with Ken, and he’s excited to be adding our beautiful Roadmaster Sterling to his 1998 Holiday Rambler Imperial. His toad just so happens to have a Blue Ox baseplate, like ours did, so the adapters we used are perfect for him, too. In their typical responsive fashion, Roadmaster has already shipped the tow bar, and Ken should be receiving it early this coming week. Wishing you many years of safe travels and happy towing, Ken.

Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway. If you didn’t win, and are still in the market for a tow bar, remember that we’ve arranged a special deal for our viewers on Roadmaster’s top-of-the-line Nighthawk. Get a free heavy-duty cover and a free hitch receiver lock when you buy factory direct. Watch the video about it here.

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We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.

Comments 17

  1. On some older units, Gulfstream being one, the filter minder will show red again after changing the filter, the reason, the air intake on the side of the RV is a restriction. with the inlet hose hose off on the inlet to the filter housing , the engine has more power and boost.

    1. Post

      Hi Charles,

      We’ve heard of similar problems before, where the design of the air intake in the RV sidewall isn’t sufficient to allow enough flow for the engine to “breathe” properly. Sounds like you’ve found a simple fix for your coach!

  2. Hi guys.. yet another great video from you!!. I’ve usually had the Freightliner Mechanics replace my Air Filter, but sure seems like I could do it myself. So thanks for this. One thing though.. I see you power washing the engine compartment. No worries regarding water everywhere? What about the electrical?
    footnote, thanks to you I grabbed the ViAir for that low low price.. what a deal that was!!!

    1. Post

      Thanks Mike! Water’s no problem back there. We’ve done it dozens of times and watched shops do it even more when they’re working on an engine. We had a stubborn oil leak years ago, and they power washed the engine like mad after each attempted fix so they could quickly see if it was still leaking, and confirm that any oil on the engine was new, not old. Love that you got that amazing compressor deal! ?

  3. “Dusting an engine” searched. Wow! Learned something new today.

    On my filter I don’t have to replace the metal casing, just the filter cartridge. Last June I had it inspected at a Spartan service shop when having some non-DIY items taken care of. The service guy told me that my filter is still good – and the indicator agrees. But he also said I should replace the filter every three years* as the glue holding the folds to the core can dry out and fail. He said that Cummings shows mechanics what happens when parts of the filter gets sucked into an engine, and it is not something you want to have happen.

    Thanks for another fine video.

    * I think that the three year replacement suggestion was based on my being in the desert (hot AND dry) for many months per year. If you only drive in Canada then perhaps a good inspection would be the wise choice to see if/when a replacement is required.

    1. Post

      Hey John! The three-year decision takes me back to my favorite saying that I mentioned in the post. The consequences of a failed air cleaner are so severe that the cost and effort of replacing it is pretty modest. Not familiar with air cleaners that can have the element replaced. Have to look into that. ;-)

      1. I made a mistake – the air filter is the whole unit, not just the paper element inside. The quoted replacement cost in Calgary was $425 so I guess it makes sense that the air filter includes the canister.

        Also, I just noticed that my invoice for the air filter inspection advises “40% life remaining” and to replace the filter “every two years due to deterioration”. My filter is coming due so I’ll hit some rallies this winter and get a replacement.

        I appreciate this reminder about being very clean and dust aware when doing a filter change. Obviously I will not do it on a windy day in the desert.

  4. Good video but as you said at the end: “your air filter maybe positioned differently than ours…” I can tell you from experience that yours is exceptionally easy. In my mobile service business I have changed over a hundred of ’em and they are seldom located in such an easy place. ( I had one that I actually had to drop the exhaust system to get out!) Anyway, just wanted to mention to others viewing this site, that they need to be very cautious if the air filter is located near the batteries (as many are) and to put cardboard or an old bath mat over the batteries before trying to remove the air filter to prevent shorting the battery terminals which could lead to a fire or even explosion. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from attempting this repair but you do need to use some caution with some coaches.

    1. Post

      Thanks so much for the great, additional info, Dennis! The only thing we hate worse than a manufacturer who places components where they’re inaccessible to us DIY types, are manufacturers who place them so they’re not even accessible to the pros! Glad to hear that we have a particularly easy situation (kudos to Newmar/Spartan)… but your advice for those who aren’t so lucky is really valuable. Thanks again!

  5. I always enjoy your videos. If you have a chance to do a video on xantrex auto genstart control systems….. that would be great. I find mine confusing. I have a RC7 GS. Would like to learn how to work the set up stages… thanks again.


    1. Post

      We know those can be confusing, sorry you’re having trouble with it Dean. Unfortunately, we don’t have the same controller as you to demonstrate on, but we’ll keep it in mind if we ever get the opportunity to check one out.

    1. Post
  6. Congrats Ken! Enjoy the how-to videos. I’m always going back and watching old ones when I find myself in that situation. Oh the bloopers are pretty good too. Lol. Thanks guys.

    1. Post
  7. As a long time auto mechanic, I’ve heard of dust in an engine, but not the term dusting an engine. So, I did a google search as suggested. I found it interesting, but not surprising, that it all seemed to be focused on diesels.

    Remember the old days when you put a rag over a gas engine to suffocate it? I was told not to try that with the 6.5L diesel in a HMMWV, as it’ll just result in the engine ingesting the rag. Not pretty. I’m not sure of the why, I can only surmise it’s the much higher compression ratio in a diesel compared to a gas engine gives the engine more sucking power.

    In the first gulf war, M1 tanks had to have their intake filtration systems modified/changed because there was so many damaged from dust destroying the (turbine) engines. My recollection is they reworked the pre-filters.

    I thought the following thread from iRV2 forum (a great resource) would be of interest to others, and particularly the pictures that were part of the thread.

    The thread;

    The pictures;

    1. Post

      Thanks for all the great additional info, Dave. It’s great to hear from a mechanic who’s had so much experience with so many different kinds of vehicles!

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