RV Shrink: Dealing with a nosy campground neighbor


Dear RV Shrink:
We live in our motorhome full time and have no home base. My husband likes to change the oil himself and always is very careful to catch it all and not to make a production out of it. Last week a national forest campsite neighbor saw him changing the oil and came over and pitched a fit. He said it was illegal to change oil in the campground and accused us of polluting. My husband was very embarrassed and put things away immediately.

I don’t think changing the oil in a campground is illegal. I also know my husband would never think of spilling a drop, and we have to do it somewhere. He has a very efficient system that collects the old oil and we carry it with us until the next town stop and dispose of it responsibly. I think he should have told the nosy neighbor to take a hike, but he doesn’t like to rock the boat. He is a little upset that I had a few words with the jerk.

We do not run into this type of individual that often, but they are out there waiting to pounce. Should I just turn the other cheek in the future, or bite back? —Responsible Oil DIYers

Dear DIYers:
Sometimes people make up laws for what seems out of the ordinary to them. Some people have way too much time on their hands and need to supervise those around them, whether they know them or not.

I agree with your husband on a couple of counts. I consider oil changes the life-blood of my engine and do not care to hire it out to people I don’t know and can’t watch. I can see how someone might take offense at having repair or maintenance work being done in a campground while they are there to camp and relax. It is best to pick your time and place where you do not have an audience.

If maintenance is necessary, it must be done without spilling fluids on the ground or disposing of parts in campground receptacles. Perhaps in the past this neighbor had seen other, not so responsible RV owners leave a mess. Your husband made the right decision to clean up and shut things down and wait for a better time and place.

Your parting shots might have made you feel better, but did nothing but fuel the flames of discontent. It sounds like your bark is worse than your bite, but I would suggest you keep both in the holster. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

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##RVT915 ##RVDT1357

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Sharon B
3 months ago

Oil is oil and if it spills can be a disaster. It cannot be cleaned up..ever. I agree not to change oil at a campsite, I also agree to do it where you buy your oil. The parking lot is a safer place and may may have the appropriate dumpster for that purpose.
As far as changing the oil in a National park that is ridiculous. I say no no no. If I owned a camping park I would also say never in my park. Sorry guys. You are talking to a Sierra member here since the 60’s and have seen many environmental disasters that can never be saved or cleaned up. Geez how bout the Gulf oil spill. That will NEVER go away..ever. DNA has been altered in fish and other creatures. And many of those supposedly plugged up drilling sites leak like crazy. What happened to Tesla?? If he was around and fulfilled his experiments we would not be using oil, but I believe using magnetism. Tesla come out of your grave and get to work!

3 months ago

I disagree with keeping the bark in the holster. I am known to bark at people who are doing something they shouldn’t be. Like a kid throwing a plastic bottle into a pristine lake. I actually made the kid go in and get it out. It’s parents did absolutely nothing about it. Maybe next time the kid will think twice about doing it again and/or his parents will do something. Changing oil, if the guy was being cool about it and had a containment system I would not of had a problem. Sometimes you just need to do it to make people think and hopefully change behavior. Maybe next time nosey neighbor will mind his own business until he sees them doing something really wrong. Plus maybe the neighbor could of been nicer about it and discussed it in a more productive tone.

Bluebird Bob
11 months ago

Keep working and ignore him. Finish and make sure not to leave a drop.

11 months ago

The rules are there for the people that can`t seem to keep the area clean when doing maintenance, the oil filter part tends to get messy even with a drain pan then the clean up rags on and on and on. Or should oil changes be ok but doing brake jobs on site are not or doing full tire rotations with an impact wrench. Where do you cut it off. NO maintenance solves the problem for the owners and every bodies happy. Yep one should follow the rules in life and not make them up as you go to benefit you cause your lazy or cheap.

11 months ago

I’ve camped in many national forest campgrounds, and yes, it IS ILLEGAL to do any vehicle maintenance in them. I can’t believe there’s even a discussion about this! Doesn’t anyone here read campground rules?

11 months ago

I have noticed that in some of the campground guidelines and rules they prohibit any and all maintenance including oil changes in their campgrounds. Assume some have the rules and some do not. Two out of the four places we camphosted, all regional county, have prohibited all maintenance.

11 months ago

Maybe they had a bad experience as we did, our campsite had oil all over, downside? It ended up on our shoes and stuff, and pets, my husband spent 2 hours scrubbing and cleaning up someone else’s mess.

Richard Davidson
11 months ago

Poor choice of where to change oil but nosey should get lost. I would have just ignored him or told him to call the police if I knew wasn’t breaking any laws.

Ed & Robin D.
11 months ago

Hey Shrink, I have to strongly disagree with you on this one. As long as this Gentleman is not infringing on anyone else area, I see no reason why he can’t take care of business as it pertains to his RV. Changing the Oil in his Rig is not a noisy job by any means and the nosey neighbor should have minded his own business. If he had a complaint, he should have addressed it with Park Management. If the Park Management thought there was an infraction of their rules, they would have addressed it. In many cases the nosey neighbor would have been put in his place and his rude behavior could have led to a much more serious altercation. I believe that some advice to the nosey neighbor (to mind his own business) would be more appropriate here. The Camper changing his oil did nothing wrong.

Lee Ensminger
11 months ago
Reply to  Ed & Robin D.

So, Ed, exactly where IS the line crossed? Is it when Mr. Maintenance-in-the-campground gets out his electric impact wrench, jacks up his RV and decides to rotate his tires? How about a brake job? New Banks header installation? Maybe a complete new exhaust system? Body work? Frame welding? In my opinion, unless there’s been a breakdown which prevents the RV from moving off of the campsite for repair, the work doesn’t need to be done at a campground next to people who are on vacation or trying to relax. And no matter how careful this guy was or wasn’t, there’s always the opportunity for an accident that makes a huge mess. I do agree with you on this-the other camper should have gone to park management about this problem instead of confronting the offender. Way too many “I’ll do whatever I please and to h____ with everyone else” types out there today whose answer to any confrontation is violence. I think the rude behavior was exhibited by the guy changing the oil and his attack-dog wife.

Larry H Lee
11 months ago

I generally change the oil and filter while in the parking lot of an auto parts retail establishment. No complaints yet.

Steve flippo
11 months ago
Reply to  Larry H Lee

Good solution, Larry. Much better location for such a thing than a national park. Plus, you can immediately dispose of the old oil at the parts store.