Routine Diesel Pusher Maintenance Budget?

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PeterH

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Sandpoint, Idaho
My wife and I continue to debate the type of Class A motorhome to focus on. We are looking for a MH that is between 10 and 15 years old. That isn't the problem, lots of them around to look at. The problem is over the power plant. Does anyone have numbers to share regarding what they budget or what they have experienced with routine maintenance on a class A diesel pusher?

I'd like to know what sorts of routine maintenance is required on such a MH. I'm guessing:

Air filter
Engine Oil and Filter Changes
Transmission Oil and Filter Changes
Compress air system maintenance?

Any idea on what a brake system overhaul would cost? If I buy something that old, there are some systems that I'd like to ensure are reliable, such as the brake system.

Thanks,
Pete
 

Kevin Means

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Hi Pete. I don't know about the cost of a brake overhaul. A lot would have to do with what needed to be replaced vs what was servicable.

Our coach is eight years old and I do all the house maintenance myself. The chassis gets serviced at a reputable RV service facility, whose labor rate is $130.00 per hour. I have the engine, tranny and generator fluids/filters changed annually, even though it isn't required, because we live out west and we're always towing. We're often dealing with 6% or greater grades in 100+ degree temps, which is hard on drive-trains.

Our annual service bill is always about $1100.00 if nothing is wrong. (Fortunately, there usually isn't anything wrong.) If I were to do all the work myself, I'd save a lot of money, and if I only had the fluids and filters changed at the factory recommended intervals, I'd save a lot of money as well.

The costs for the house maintenance varies from year to year, but it's not any different than what it would cost on a similarly equipped gas coach.

Kev
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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A big question is whether you can DIY any of this, because shop labor is hugely expensive.  Truck shops are usually cheaper than RV dealers, but we are still talking well over $100/hr.

Fuel (2) & oil filters and an oil change are typically an annual expense. And a diesel engine may require 20-30 quarts of oil.  The transmission probably does not need a frequent fluid change (48 months or as needed by test analysis) but tranny filters every 3 years.  Fluid analysis on the tranny fluid runs $30/year if DIY.  Air filter every couple years (as much as $150), hydraulic filter/fluid once in a while, and radiator coolant additives plus change every 5 or so years. And a chassis lube annually.

Don't forget that the diesel generator has oil & filter, fuel filter, and air filter.  And coolant to change every once in a while.


Odds are a diesel motorhome will never need a brake overhaul - the air brakes are typically lightly used and good for 150k-200k miles. Or more.


I did my own filter and fluid changes and typically spent $200 per year. And we usually stopped by the Freightliner factory service center each year and left behind $800-$1300 for some set of things, partly routine PM and partly some component that needed replacement or adjustment.
 

KandT

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Ok - So there are a lot of parts on a 10-15 year old coach and I would submit that the engine may not be your biggest expense.  10-15 year old air conditioners, refrigerators, heaters, H2O heaters, tires etc. go bad.  Batts are 2 or 4 or 6 at a time.  Inverters go and slides need love.  Of course, you do have the engine and when it needs some love it probably won't be a top off windshield wiper fluid.  Figure a turbo or waste gate issue.  Oh and they don't break right in front of your house where you know the local mechanic either. 

I figured about $1,100/month to own one.  Of course there is depreciation too.  So if you can buy it right (from a financially distressed individual and sell it right - in the Spring to guy with a fresh line of credit) you can get that cost down. 

Even the awning and fantastic fans need some love sometimes. 

In my humble opinion the maintenance you mentioned is nothing to worry about.  That is the cheapest part of owning the motorhome.

That being said, I wonder if you wouldn't benefit from a group consensus on whether or not a gas coach is the same/more or less???
 

Mile High

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Speedco, part of Love's now -  Semi-synthetic Rotella T5 and oil and fuel filters $299
Air filter varies by coach but mine is $65

Don't forget the generator - about $125 with fuel and oil filters for an Onan 8K (one of the more difficult to service)

Haven't had to service Brakes or air.

https://www.loves.com/en/truck-services
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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It's also worthwhile mentioning that the larger engines (Cummins ISL/ISM/ISX and their Cat equivalents) take more oil and use larger fuel, oil and air filters.  All that adds up to higher costs.
 

thelazyl

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I, too, and trying to ballpark anticipated spending for maintenance and repairs.  Here is my list for the first year of ownership of our 2003:

$800 to replace all fluids and filters (engine, tranny, fuel, air).  This does not include the generator which we plan to do next year.  I am not yet a DIY on this.
$2,500 for tires.
$250 to replace a coolant sensor on the Cummins
$600 at an RV repair facility for things I now know how to do myself (winterize, inspect components, clear window weep holes).
I haven't been faced with a major repair such as A/C, Appliances, leaks

I  originally ball-parked $3-5k per year as an average.  This is just a guess and it sounds like I may be estimating too low.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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A set of tires lasts 7-10 years, so you can figure a little less than one tire/year (either 6 or 8 tires total).  The cost for one large RV-sized tire can be anywhere from $350-$900, depending on size, brand and where you buy them.
 

Lou Schneider

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KandT said:
That being said, I wonder if you wouldn't benefit from a group consensus on whether or not a gas coach is the same/more or less???

Any Walmart with an oil bay door tall enough for my gas motorhome will do an oil and filter change (and chassis lube) for $49.  It uses the same kind of air filter as a car or pickup truck, costs about $20.  Having a shop change the transmission oil and filter runs about $200.

Replacing all (6) 16" tires cost $800 five years ago.  That was the total cost, not each.  I'll probably replace them again next year.

thelazyl said:
$800 to replace all fluids and filters (engine, tranny, fuel, air).  This does not include the generator which we plan to do next year.  I am not yet a DIY on this.
$2,500 for tires.
$250 to replace a coolant sensor on the Cummins
$600 at an RV repair facility for things I now know how to do myself (winterize, inspect components, clear window weep holes).
I haven't been faced with a major repair such as A/C, Appliances, leaks

I  originally ball-parked $3-5k per year as an average.  This is just a guess and it sounds like I may be estimating too low.
 

LTG

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A non luxury Diesel Pusher, no air leveling, no Aqua Hot heating system, no tag axel, smaller engine, etc. will be less expensive to maintain. It will still be more expensive to maintain than a gas Class A motorhome, but not so much as to make you wonder what you have gotten yourself into. 
 

UTTransplant

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LTG said:
A non luxury Diesel Pusher, no air leveling, no Aqua Hot heating system, no tag axel, smaller engine, etc. will be less expensive to maintain. It will still be more expensive to maintain than a gas Class A motorhome, but not so much as to make you wonder what you have gotten yourself into.
This is a good description of ours. We spent about $600 for a yearly diesel service including generator at Bay Diesel in Alabama. They are cheaper than California where Kevin Means gets his service, so location has a lot to do with cost. DH will change the generator oil when needed between yearly services, but he doesn?t want to do more than that. We didn?t need the service by mileage, but we are like Kevin Means and plan on doing it every year just because of our driving habits. DH works on the house side extensively though. We put away $5000 in an account when we bought the coach for big maintenance needs, planning on just doing the regular yearly stuff out of expense money. Should work out ok with interest.
 

KandT

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All good points but I think the real important thing to note here is while no one on this forum can know what will break on your 10-15 year old DP, I think most of will bet that you should budget for house repairs as well. 

In my humble opinion, I think I would be miserable if I bought an RV where I had to sweat every time I put $250 of fuel in it or needed to pray nothing broke.  The Vectra I bought was a great MoHo but although it looked clean some it just hadn't been maintained (the house) the way it should have been.  Then we needed to keep it outside because inside storage in Pennsylvania is a pretty penny.  Outside storage is sure hard on them.

On the other hand, boy did we have fun!!  It is an awesome time and nothing beats a DP for ride and maybe its a guy thing but who doesn't love that whoosh when you let the coach down??  Or the air brakes releasing?  I am not discouraging anyone from getting one - Just know that the engine is only part of the maintenance - and probably the smaller part.

 

KandT

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UTTransplant said:
This is a good description of ours. We spent about $600 for a yearly diesel service including generator at Bay Diesel in Alabama. They are cheaper than California where Kevin Means gets his service, so location has a lot to do with cost. DH will change the generator oil when needed between yearly services, but he doesn?t want to do more than that. We didn?t need the service by mileage, but we are like Kevin Means and plan on doing it every year just because of our driving habits. DH works on the house side extensively though. We put away $5000 in an account when we bought the coach for big maintenance needs, planning on just doing the regular yearly stuff out of expense money. Should work out ok with interest.

Yes - I am sure those are accurate numbers for a 2018 Tiffin but he's asking about one 10-15 y/o.
 

billwild

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We had a 2005 Holiday Rambler 40' ISL diesel with 400 HP. for 7 years. I documented everything. Total cost was just over $19,000.00. That included 1/2 windshield replacement, 2 new tires, broken wire on the generator, professional paint touch up on a few spots, new power step motor, new awning, and topper covers, diesel motor seal, 6 new tires, etc. The last 4 years of ownership, my good son in law helped me change filters and oil in his gyprock company shop. So as you see it was a long ongoing list. The result, after 7 years of fun, it was time to sell it off.


Bill
 

UTTransplant

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KandT said:
Yes - I am sure those are accurate numbers for a 2018 Tiffin but he's asking about one 10-15 y/o.
It was really just a note that region is very important. The hourly rate in Alabama is not the same  as the hourly rate in California, so where you have the work done impacts the price.
 

PeterH

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Hello everyone, and thank you for all of your thoughts, opinions, and experience that you shared.

My major concern is over the power plant and transmission and the other things unique to a DP MH. My 2015 RAM pickup maintenance costs have surprised me a bit with the cost of filters and other diesel related maintenance. I've owned a few non-motorized campers so I'm not afraid of the maintenance and repair costs of the other standard systems (water, heat, A/C, etc.). Based on what everyone said, I shouldn't be afraid to look at a DP so long as I perform a complete inspection, including all of the fluids, in an attempt to purchase a DP MH with at least a sound foundation.

Initially, I anticipate replacing all of the fluids and filters on anything I buy. I also expect to buy new tires at a cost of ~$6000 to $8000 depending on brand. Based on what my wife has already seen and said, I'm betting I'm renovating the interior of any coach that old, as well! :)

I am considering seeing if I can find the ideal (for me) MH this year so can get started on bringing everything up to the best condition I can, before I retire next year. We do plan to keep our sticks and bricks home but rent it out while we travel. I also intend to rent only the house and garage so I can still use the other end of the property in the summer to do a little boondocking and annual maintenance, on my own property when we come back here in the summer. We live in North Idaho so this is a great place to spend the summer (I like the winters too, but not my Idaho-born wife).

My next concern is insurance for the MH. Last year Geico quoted me some outlandish price for a 2008 Country Coach MH. When I asked she said it was their policy to insure based on the original price! I will do some searching and if I can't find another thread on that subject, I'll start one to ask my questsions about insurance.

Thanks again,
Pete
 

docj

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PeterH said:
I also expect to buy new tires at a cost of ~$6000 to $8000 depending on brand.

Even if you're assuming you have a tag axle and need 8 tires, this is way more than is necessary to budget.  I just installed four Hankook AH37's on my drive axle at a delivered cost of ~$425 each (include FET and state tax.)  Even if you are insistent on Michelin's your budget is too high.
 

Cooperhawk

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Gary RV_Wizard said:
It's also worthwhile mentioning that the larger engines (Cummins ISL/ISM/ISX and their Cat equivalents) take more oil and use larger fuel, oil and air filters.  All that adds up to higher costs.

Well, not exactly Gary.  On our gas vehicles we do maintenance every two to five thousand miles.  On our DP we do oil changes and filters every ten thousand miles.  Depending where you get it done it can vary quite a bit as well.  In the end I do think the DP is a little more expensive to maintain, but the engine and drive train will last much much longer, and the power, silence, and air ride certainly make it worth while.
 
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