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Signs Of an RV’s Blown Engine – 5 Things You Should Know


Published : August 18, 2022
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Engine failure can be scary, especially if it happens out of nowhere. You may notice warning signs that something is wrong, but more often than not, it's much harder to work out the cause. Attention to these details can help you identify when it's time for you to step up before things devolve further. After all, anything from an unfamiliar tick to a loud noise from the engine compartment or strange vibrations throughout the motorhome could be signs that you need to take immediate action. 

But how do you know whether those symptoms indicate an engine problem? There could be many reasons your engine sounds different, including worn parts, loose connections, or plain old wear and tear.

To help you diagnose what’s causing those problems, we’ve compiled a list of five possible indicators signaling you that your motorhome's engine is starting to fail you. Check out our guide to see if any of these problems sound familiar. Be prepared to take action if your motorhome's engine fits any of these characteristics.

1. Your Check Engine Light Is On

If there’s one thing everyone knows about driving, it’s that the check engine light is supposed to go off when you start up your motorhome. That is pretty self-explanatory. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, millions of drivers go about their business with the check engine light on. They rely on their potentially good luck to make sure that their motorhome will keep on functioning regardless of the blazing light in their dashboard.

A good rule of thumb is that if your “check engine” light is on, you should immediately take your motorhome to a mechanic. While many assume that the light signals a minor issue with their vehicle, it could indicate a much bigger problem.

An engine light on your dashboard might not necessarily mean something is severely wrong with your motorhome. There are several other reasons why you might see one, including a loose gas cap, worn spark plugs, clogged air filter, faulty ignition coil, etc. If you’re wondering what causes a check engine light to illuminate, here are some common culprits:

  • Clogged fuel injectors. This happens when debris enters the system, causing the injection pump to malfunction.
  • A dirty exhaust valve. When exhaust valves become too dirty, they don’t open properly.
  • Bad timing belt tensioners. Timing belts keep everything running smoothly inside the engine. If the tensioner pulleys aren’t working correctly, they won’t do their job well.
  • Faulty oxygen sensors. Oxygen sensors help regulate how much fuel goes into each cylinder. They work by measuring the amount of oxygen present in the exhaust stream. If they detect less oxygen than normal, they’ll shut off the fuel supply to the cylinders.
  • Poor wiring. Wiring harnesses must be tight enough to prevent corrosion. Loose connections or poor soldering can cause problems down the road.
  • Weak starter motor. Your starter motor helps start your engine by spinning up the crankshaft. If it fails, you won’t be able to turn over your engine.

If you notice a check engine light in your motorhome, schedule a trip to your local auto repair shop immediately. There is no point in risking your life by driving around with those cautionary lights on. Plus, based on how much time you wait before taking action, you might find yourself in a worse situation if the wear and tear expands too much.

2. Jerking, Inconsistent Acceleration, and Performance

You know how it feels when your motorhome jerks forward, surges, stalls, or stutters. You have probably also thought about what could be causing those symptoms. More often than not, poor acceleration, erratic behavior, and overall lack of power are signs that something has gone wrong with your motorhome. Those signs are there to indicate serious problems that require immediate attention.

If you notice that your motorhome seems to accelerate unevenly, it might mean that your spark plug wires are loose or broken. Similarly, if your motorhome suddenly starts surging forward or lurching backward, there could be a mechanical issue. Perhaps your alternator isn’t charging up enough electricity, or perhaps your battery is weak.

In addition to these possible causes, many things can cause your engine to perform poorly. For example, if your oil pressure gauge keeps dropping, that could mean that one or more of your piston rings are damaged. If your motorhome lags during hard acceleration, that could mean that your engine is overheating. If this happens, you must pull over immediately and let the engine cool down.

The same goes for your tires. If your tread depth is low, that could mean that the rubber is wearing off. If you notice that your sidewalls are bulging, you might have too much air inside the tire. Either of these conditions could lead to blowouts, which are dangerous and must be addressed quickly.

Finally, if your motorhome doesn’t seem to have enough power, it could be due to various factors affecting the engine. For instance, if your spark plugs aren’t firing properly, that could prevent your engine from getting the energy needed to turn the crankshaft. Or, if your intake valves are leaking, that could allow unburned fuel into the cylinder. Finally, if your engine lacks compression, it could be difficult for the pistons to push against each other.

There are plenty of reasons why your motorhome could be performing poorly. But first, you must bring it in for a professional inspection to find out what’s happening. If you suspect your engine is having trouble, don’t wait until it fails to address the issue. Instead, get it checked out ASAP.

3. Hearing Noises That Shouldn’t Be There

Many people hear strange sounds from their motorhomes, including noises that aren’t supposed to be there. Some of those sounds are harmless, but others can be indicators of bigger problems. So here are some things to look out for.

  • Pop and Click. Pop and clack noises are often caused by loose parts rubbing inside your vehicle. They’re usually harmless but can also be signs of larger problems. For example, if you notice pop and clacks while driving down the highway, that could mean your airbags are deploying prematurely. Likewise, if you hear clicks while turning off the ignition, that might signal a problem with your steering wheel or column.
  • Grinding Gears. If you start hearing grinding gears while driving, pull over immediately and call a tow truck. You don’t want to damage your transmission. The same goes for any grinding noises you hear when your motorhome starts.
  • Noise When Shifting Gears. If you hear a noise when shifting gears, stop the motorhome immediately and contact a professional about what’s causing it. It could be minor, such as a broken shifter cable, but it could also signify much worse trouble.

4. The Nose Knows – Identify Strange Smells

It could mean trouble if you’re driving down the road and suddenly notice something odd about your motorhome’s odors. And there might be no better place to check out what’s happening than under the hood. Many modern vehicles use electronic sensors to monitor things such as temperature, pressure, and fluid levels. But many motorhomes also have systems monitoring certain aspects of their performance, including air quality, tire wear, and gas mileage.

These sensors can detect problems before they become major issues and alert drivers to potential malfunctions. For example, suppose you notice a strong odor inside your car. In that case, chances are good that your heater core is leaking coolant, which could cause overheating and serious damage. Or if you hear unusual noises, it could indicate that your engine needs repair. But some smells aren’t necessarily indicative of anything wrong. Instead, they might be normal odors of everyday life.

5. Watch For Smoke

A motorhome that smells like burning rubber might mean one thing: running low on gas. But there are many reasons your vehicle emits black smoke from the tailpipe. Common causes include a faulty catalytic converter, overheating brakes, burnt valves, clogged air filters, etc. You’ll want to take your motorhome to a mechanic immediately if you suspect something is wrong.

Smoke from your vehicle could mean one thing: your engine is overheating, and you’re about to experience serious trouble. A few different types of smoke are common culprits. Here’s what each type means.

  • Blue Smoke. This color indicates that oil has leaked into the combustion chamber, causing pressure build-up and ultimately burning the oil away. In most cases, this happens because the oil seal inside the cylinder head has failed, allowing the oil to escape.
  • White Smoke. This color usually occurs when there is a mixture of antifreeze and water in the gas tank, resulting in a heat build-up. Antifreeze contains methanol, which is highly flammable and dangerous.
  • Red/Black Smoke. Carbon deposits in the exhaust system cause this color. Carbon builds up over time due to incomplete combustion of fuel and eventually causes the exhaust valve to stick open.

If you see any of these colors in your vehicle, stop driving immediately and contact a mechanic. You don’t want to put yourself or others in danger.

Immediate Steps After Detecting Engine Trouble

When you’ve recognized the warning signs of a blown engine in your motorhome, it’s crucial to act without delay. Immediate intervention can prevent further damage and, in some cases, may even allow for simpler repairs. Your first course of action should be to safely pull over and turn off the engine to avoid exacerbating the issue. Next, consult a trusted mechanic or roadside assistance service to assess the situation. It’s often not advisable to continue driving, as this can lead to more extensive and expensive damage. Remember, the sooner you address engine problems, the better your chances of getting back on the road with minimal hassle and expense.

Bottom Line

To wrap up, one sure thing you can do when your motorhome’s engine acts defective is to take it to a mechanic for a professional inspection and, ultimately, repairs. A blown engine can lead to other problems with your motorhome, so fixing it is essential. You may also need to upgrade important parts of its engine. However, many times, these part changes are too costly. As a result, if you have a motorhome that is not worth repairing, you should consider getting rid of it. For example, if you want to sell your junk motorhome, you are lucky, as we can buy it from you with good cash and free removal in some states. 


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