Saturday, September 23, 2023


RV mods: Screen your engine for protection

By Greg Illes
We were happily driving along the highway, enjoying the passing scenery, when suddenly a small flock of sparrows crossed our path, darting frantically about in front of our Class A before escaping. Alas, one of the tiny birds was not as adept an aviator as his fellows and I heard/felt a small “thwack.” So we pulled over to investigate the front of the RV, including the engine grill.

We were both glad that we stopped. The bird had passed straight through the factory grill (in several pieces) and was distributed in a very messy fashion across two radiators and my hydraulic jack pump.

Sad task to clean up

Needless to say, it was a sad (and yucky) task to clean up, and it left me with a resolve to try to avoid a recurrence. I might not be able to save a hapless bird, but I can do better to protect my engine compartment.

Photo: Greg Illes

After some brief interneting, I found an online provider of standard and unique metal products and I purchased a small sheet of what is called “expanded metal” — in stainless steel!

Quick, and attractive, way to protect engine compartment

Trimming and mounting the sheet in place of my factory grill took less than two hours of fiddling and fitting, and the results are rewarding. I have a rustproof grill with openings only one-half inch wide now. Anything larger than a bumblebee is going to be denied entrance to my engine compartment, including birds, sticks, rocks and other would-be trespassers. And honestly, as an extra bonus, I feel that the appearance is much improved over the old retro-looking steel-bar grill that came with the coach.

For $60 delivered to my door, this was a worthy mini-project. If you are intrigued by the possibilities, the material is available in various metals, hole sizes, and gauges at

Editor’s note: Amazon also has sheets of expanded metal.

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at


Ask Dave: What is the best and safest way to clean my RV’s front cap?



  1. When running my Camaro in 24-hour endurance road races we discovered that the stock aluminum radiator would not stand up to small stones and other road debris. We adopted the use of standard 1/4″ “Hardware cloth” placed just in front of the radiator to solve the problem. Low-cost and easy to find at big box stores like Home Depot or Lowes. You can spray the galvanized screen flat black if you want it to “disappear” visually.

    • Reminds me of all the fun and adventures I had as a flagging and communications official for Sports Car Club of America! Love road racing!!

  2. Talk about birds, I had a custom van years ago, a pheasant flew out of the ditch and hit the windshield. We were doing 60 mph and his beak pierced the windshield and shattered it! His head and neck were on the inside of the van and his body was on the outside. Insurance replaced the windshield, my wife replaced her underwear. Happy Trails

  3. Not an RV story, but several years ago we were driving across the desert when we startled a flock of small birds beside the road. We heard a thunk, and there was a wing stuck onto our antenna on the right. What a distressing sight.

    • That’s sad, Gene. It reminds me of when my sons and I drove our Suburban to Skagway, AK, from Seattle, in about 1990. We were on one of our “side trips” to an old gold mining town. Driving back out of the town on a small road in the early evening, I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a big owl that had just taken off from the right side of the road and flew directly in front of my front bumper. It was like he was flying in slow motion. But I didn’t hit him/her, luckily. Can still picture that amazing sight like it just happened. BTW, did you ever see Randy Johnson, pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, take out a bird? OMG! Take care. 😀 –Diane

  4. Diesel pusher so no grill, but we did have a strange bird encounter. After arriving home we noticed our cat sitting at the front of the motorhome. Just stayed there. While watching him we saw something dripping from the front of the motorhome. Upon opening the hatch there was a pheasant, dead of course, stuck in the workings of the generator. Remembered hearing a thump when we were in Wyoming, but that was 3 days before getting home. It was freezing temps at night at the time, so maybe didn’t thaw out until we made it home. There was no sign of anything on the outer part of the front of the motorhome.

  5. It’s important to know that any screen blocks airflow.. 1/2″ expanded metal sounds ok, but there is still some resistance . Window screen is a no no. That alone is 50% blocked.
    Good idea, it keeps stones off the air conditioner condenser.

    • We had no problems with 1/4″ hardware cloth but agree that window screen would probably hurt airflow also I doubt that window screen is strong enough for larger objects.

  6. Wow! I didn’t read where it damaged anything. Thats a good thing. I remember several years ago a co-worker was going home with a brand new truck he had just purchased when a bird flew unto his grill and the birds beak punctured the radiator. I think the dealer replaced it under warranty but they didn’t have too.

  7. Be careful of what you use. Just because it has holes it is still restricting airflow. I you’re cooling system is marginal to begin with, putting something in front of it may cause it to overheat when stressing the engine.

      • Most people are familiar with the temperature of the engine and also transmission temperature if it has a indicator. I drive a diesel pusher and have a good feel for the temperatures especially on hot days. I’m at the point that I know when I need to clean my radiator and after cooler with simple green and a hose. One would be surprised by how much dirt comes out of the radiator.


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