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Old 11-29-2003, 02:08 PM   #1
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Motorhome engine lifetimes?

I am on my 3rd motorhome with good success so far but this weekend on a short trip the 454 seemed to run differently than normal. One of those things where the guages seems fine but there was just a feeling. Came home and compression, fluids, tranny, etc seemed fine so I guess it is in my head. 56k miles.

I got to wondering what the lifetimes on 454's seem to be, have read posts and heard references like 75k miles from dealers mechanics but never seen or heard "real peoples" experiences.

How about some of the forum members mileage experiences or symptoms before failures? Thanks for any input, JEM
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Old 11-29-2003, 03:34 PM   #2
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Longevity

76,000 on the '87 with no rebuild..................yet.

I have only put on the last 4K.

Hoping for a few more, but you never know.

The tranny was rebuilt shortly before I got it, but it's definitely time to estabilish a contingency fund for the engine replacement.

I search e-bay from time to time to see if a bargain might come up close by so that shipping would not be a factor.
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Old 11-29-2003, 07:35 PM   #3
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I think a LOT of these motors dying before 100k is just because of how a MH is operated. The 454 is the same as the one in my Burb and I regularly hear of people pulling 200k when they keep up the maintance.

Motor homes get run hard and put up wet. They get run durring the summer and neglected in the winter. Condinsation forms in the engine and is not burned off like it would with regular use. Gas goes stale and stale gas CAN and DOES damage engines. Not to mention the weght of a MH does add stress to the engine.
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Old 11-29-2003, 09:01 PM   #4
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My limited experience is consistent with the posts above. We looked at a number of AS motorhomes before we purchased and a lot of them with mileage in the 65K to 80K range were touting new or rebuilt 454's.

We bought an '85 325 for a good price because the engine at 45K has one very low cylinder. I haven't had time to check it out so I don't yet know why it is low, but I went for and the dealer accepted a $9,000 deduct.

I tend to agree, as a lifelong boater, with the suggestion that the engines don't get run enough and die an early death from neglect. It would be interesting to hear from someone who runs a 454 full time -- I'll bet the engine life is much longer.
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Old 11-30-2003, 06:57 AM   #5
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I have to chime in on the "use it or lose it" concept. So many Motorhomes are used once a month or every other month, or strictly sesonally. Then they sit, with no special care or prep. Storage for an engine--to me is anytime it sits more than 10 days to two weeks.
I start my 454 every weekend and drive it a bit with the generator running and a load on it.
It might be going to Wal Mart for supplies, or down the road and back early on a Sunday, but it is getting used. Up to full op temperature, driven at some speed, and for at long enough to give a bit of a workout.
Same thing for my 25 year old sports car which gets a work out also.
I know this may seem impractical to some, but thats why the engines are replaced with 50,000-70,000 miles on them.
In the long run regular use should make a difference. Looking at the ads for most Mh's of varying brands, the low mileage on 15-20 year old units is common, and not necessarily a good thing.
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Old 11-30-2003, 09:53 AM   #6
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I have to agree with Alan.

An engine is an engine no matter what it's installed in. That said, I've had a '96 Impala SS in the garage most of the 5000 miles I have on it.

Although I don't start it as much as Alan, I run it well at least once per month. I make sure all the fluids get a properly heated and also turn on the A/C to get the oils and such moving to keep the internal seals in good shape. I move the car about a foot each month but it's all I can do in the winter as the car is blocked in the garage.

In the summer I take her on a few 20 mile trips every month or so to get everything moving.

It's a bit nuts, but the car has has had 13 oil changes with about 6 lubes and had the rear differential fluid changed. In the spring, I will be changing the power steering fluid, flushing out the cooling system and most likely replace the brake fluid as well.

Sometimes I wonder if I own all the toys or if they own me since this whole list is only for the one car...there then is a boat, my Impala SS tow vehicle, the Safari, house, pinball machines, etc......

Eric
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Old 11-30-2003, 04:51 PM   #7
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Eric I know what you mean abou the cars owning you.
I caught myself watching a show on Speed network where they drove cool cars and talked about how the cars drove and all that, so here I am sitting watching that when I realized "hey I've got a cool car or two myself" the heck with this.... and I got off the couch, cranked up the old 911 and took it for a spin on some nice curvy roads near here.
Then took the Airstream out for a spin just so I could watch all the gawkers checking it out while I cruised. Fun time for a car freak. Always have been one, and proud of it!
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Old 11-30-2003, 05:08 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Silvertwinkie
I have to agree with Alan.

An engine is an engine no matter what it's installed in. That said, I've had a '96 Impala SS in the garage most of the 5000 miles I have on it.


In the summer I take her on a few 20 mile trips every month or so to get everything moving.

It's a bit nuts, but the car has has had 13 oil changes with about 6 lubes and had the rear differential fluid changed. In the spring, I will be changing the power steering fluid, flushing out the cooling system and most likely replace the brake fluid as well.

Sometimes I wonder if I own all the toys or if they own me since this whole list is only for the one car...there then is a boat, my Impala SS tow vehicle, the Safari, house, pinball machines, etc......

Eric
Eric, you are not nuts by changing the oil that often. In fact, you really should change the oil every three months, with the changing of the seasons. An engine that sits, gets condensation in the crankcase , which of course, goes straight into the oil, and sinks to the bottom of the oil pan, water being heavier than oil.
Then when you start the engine, that water is the very first thing that gets sucked up into the engine, and circulated through it, since the pickup for the oil pump is also in the bottom of the oil pan.
Motor homes are not exempt from this, in fact, they are worse, if that is possible. I don't remember the number of times a motor home has been towed in to my shop for repairs after having been stored for a year or so, and everything has to be cleaned out and replaced. Seals dry out, gas goes bad, brake lines rust, exhaust pipes rust off, A/C's don't work, etc. etc...
The worst thing is for an engine to sit. They self-destruct in place.
I strongly encourage my customers to run their MH's at least once a month, just for this reason. The ones that do, usually come to my shop on that day, and have the fluids and tire pressures checked...and... this particular group of Motor Homer's (SOB's, unfortunately) all have their OEM engines, the lowest mileage is 96,000, up to 138,000.
Okay, I will climb off my soapbox now, and let somebody else have a turn...
Terry
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Old 11-30-2003, 10:51 PM   #9
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load and clear

Thanks for the input, seems that most abuse is non use....I surely am guilty of that all to often....jem
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Old 12-01-2003, 07:47 AM   #10
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Wow. What a subject that hits close to home..... er, motorhome, that is.

Alan and Eric are correct, the way the engine gets used has a LOT to do with the expected retirement age. These MH's were put together with expenses in mind, ie the motor is just enough to get it up a hill. Stressed, overworked, hot, underpaid, neglected, etc, etc, the engines I've been hearing about last around 80K. Mine rolled over dead at 89K. I was pushing her through some rolling hills at the time, and probably could have nursed the engine another couple of thousand miles.

At first, I was really hard on myself. The 454 is a strong motor, how could I kill this thing? Then story after story, and a nice explanation from Chevy and my local rebuilder, lo and behold, I had beaten the odds and actually stretched the retirement age further than most.

Thought to ponder: Several small airlines that fly small piston aircraft send their pilots through engine management school. This expense is returned unto them several fold as the pilot understands the issues of overloading, cooling, fuel management, mixture control, etc.... a rebuild on a small 6 cyl runs about $28,000. The same info has to be out there for RV'rs. Learn how to keep your engine happy and healthy.

Of course, there's no replacement for horsepower, and I'm still trying to figure out how to finance a 502 drop in replacement for my 454. There's just too much metal to move, after the horse trailer is hooked up, for that (under the circumstances) little engine.

Good luck,

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Old 12-01-2003, 08:25 AM   #11
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good info

I take my motorhome out for a ride everyother weekend but I did not give much thought to running the generator. I will from now on ...
thanks
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Old 12-01-2003, 10:16 AM   #12
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Onan says to run it at least once a month for two consecutive hours, and under a load. This according to their web site.
They say shorter runs don't do as much for long term maintenance.
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Old 12-01-2003, 11:06 AM   #13
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Mine must have beat the odds, just over 100,000 when I rebuilt it. The cylinders were bored .030 and the crank turned .010 on all journals so it wasn't that bad. They do put up with a lot of abuse that a car doesn't. The engine, especially in the longer bodies, is pretty well maxed out. Cooling airflow is bad. Even on a flat road at 65-70 these are working hard, and most mhs I see just pull in and off goes the engine with no cool down. A 400 trans has no OD or locking converter so rpm for a given speed and revolutions per mile are considerably higher.

John
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Old 12-01-2003, 07:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by ALANSD
Onan says to run it at least once a month for two consecutive hours, and under a load. This according to their web site.
They say shorter runs don't do as much for long term maintenance.
Part of that long run-time is to burn off the nasty stuff that accumulates when starting the engine, and from leaving it sit for so long. Way back in the early 80's, the "short trip" syndrome was starting to kill engines left and right, because the researchers had found that those engines needed to run at least 15 miles just to burn off the crud from initially starting the engine. No one was doing that, because gas was expensive, and cars at the time still got relatively poor gas mileage. So, cars with 50-60,000 miles on the clock needed new engines.
Terry
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Old 12-02-2003, 08:15 AM   #15
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As Alan doeth, so doeth I. (The Shakespeare festival in Ashland, OR is still in my head). I take my MH out as often as I can. My kids love it, so we take it mostly everywhere in town. It's actually confortable to sit in it in the lot and have them do the shopping!

This trip I just took to WA showed me that this engine, at 56.5K is very strong. The only thing was I had to add oil evry 400 miles. It has a leak at the pressure fitting at the oil cooler.
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Old 02-26-2004, 01:55 PM   #16
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I am in the process of replacing my 454 with a 502. The reason is heat and lack of use. In many cases it is over heating and the Banks system will help in that case. If your fan is coming on a lot you know that the engine is running warm. There is not enough room in the dog house to cool the engine. Therefore there is heat build up.
The other one is running the engine too lean. This can be caused by having a leak in the intake manifold or problems with the carburetor. The engines that are not used enough tend to have the carburetor gunk up. This causes them to run to lean and you end up with scored cylinder walls, pistons and valve problems. The same thing caused by intake manifold. There real reason is that they are old without enough use. If you have your carburetor rebuild and check the manifold for leaks it will help the problem. You are really fighting age and not enough use but not mileage.
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Old 02-26-2004, 05:05 PM   #17
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I'm looking for a new 454 for my unit. under some circumstances several rebuilders will not warrant a rebuild if installed in a motor home. recon is a big one if you don't buy a mh engine or their fleet truck motor the warranty is not valid. you get no warranty for their light truck and auto engines. if installed in a motor home. Groom engines will not sell you a 454 for a motor home. one of the local rebuilders here will re build my motor if it is a four bolt main and give a warranty. no warranty at all for two bolt main motors installed in a motor home. i think i have a two bolt main motor.
the recon motor is run on a dyno and you get a fact sheet , not sure what that is worth other than you wont have to worry about starting a dry motor. should still have some oil from the dyno run on the bearings.
my motor has 75k on it. it did get run hot two years ago , couldnt be avoided belts came off in an area with no curbs. didnt get extreamley hot. i did start to get a small amount of blow by and that was when i was doing 70mph doesnt appear to blow by if i stay below 65.
last trip i drove from huntsville to sarasota fl and back to valdosta ga no blow by. got in the crazy traffic and strated to drive with the traffic and from the ga /fl line to the ga/al line i used a quart of oil some was in the air filter pan.
time to do something....
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Old 03-03-2004, 10:47 PM   #18
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Long time wrench says it's the heat

I've left hobby cars and spare engines sit for years without problems.

The air flow is poor to the radiator.
The engine oil cooler is MOUNTED OVER THE RADIATOR!!
NO EXTERNAL TRANMISSION OIL COOLER!!
STOCK CAST MANIFOLDS RESTRICTIVE AND HOLD MUCH HEAT!!

What I did to fix.
Moved and installed new engine oil cooler to the left, passenger side, away from the radiator. Installed tranny oil cooler. Installed a nice electric fan to blow over these coolers. Installed hedman hedders (summit racing) and flow mastrs to get that hot exhaust away from the engine and under the chasis.

REsults: Dropped engine temperature from 220+ TO 180 at load (thermostat 180). Temp drops to 165 if I'm just sitting or coasting along and forget to turn the fan off.

Also installed an after market drain plug for the tranny oil pan (summit racing again) and drain and top off the tranny oil every engine oil change. Cheap insurance. Been doing that for all my automatics for years and have never had to replace one. Use single weight eng oil for summer use.
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Old 03-04-2004, 07:01 AM   #19
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My 1990 Suburban 7.4L has 164,000 mi. and is running strong. No rebuild. Use it exclusively for towing my 31 ft. Airstream. Just keep speed under 60 mph, and change oil every 3K.
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Old 03-11-2004, 10:48 PM   #20
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photos of the 454 out

I have photos of the engine out. I was droped out the bottom. They are too big to post. If anyone want them please email me and I will send them. I hope to have the 502 running this weekend. I can't wait to see how it does compaired with the 454.
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