Saturday, September 30, 2023


Use the right lubricants to keep your RV working right and quietly

By Greg Illes

It’s truly surprising how many different ways modern technology has provided to lubricate moving parts. When I was a kid, the choices were likely between “axle grease,” motor oil, 3-in-1 and Liquid Wrench. Nowadays, we have a plethora of synthetics, Teflon-bases, penetrants, dry-lubes, and food-grade (you can swallow it) lubricants.

Let’s start with the basics — your RV engine and chassis. Of course you need to follow manufacturers’ recommendations, but remember that the older your unit, the more likely that improved lubricants have come out since the manufacturer wrote up those notes. Do your research — the new synthetics generally provide better lubrication and longer mechanical life. This goes for everywhere in your RV: engine oil, chassis grease, axle lube, transmission oil, even power steering fluid.

Next, the regular maintenance stuff. Here, the biggest boon to the RVer is likely to be the dry lubricants made by folks like WD-40, Liquid Wrench, 3M, CRC and others. These products have a dry, non-greasy lube like PTFE or moly-disulfide, suspended in a penetrating evaporative fluid. It runs into sticky joints, dries up, and then leaves a slippery deposit behind that will not attract dust and dirt. For my RV, this stuff worked wonders after literally years of trouble with my outside cargo door latches. Many slideout lubes operate similarly, as do key-lock lubricants.

And then there are the old standards, the stuff you always reach for when things squeak or get sticky. The ubiquitous WD-40 is an excellent penetrant, not to mention its hundreds of other reported uses (way too long a list for this article). However, WD-40 “ablates” — that is, it doesn’t stay around for very long, so a non-ablating lubricant must be used for longer-lasting results. I like Tri-Flow for its penetrating/lubricating capabilities. Some food-grade silicon lube is good for O-rings or threads on food and water containers or plumbing (these come in tube and spray). Some light oil is always useful, in a small-droplet applicator for those tiny spots that need just a little dab. I like the small Tri-Flow, and I also like Phil Wood Tenacious Oil. This last is a viscous, clingy lube available from bike shops or Amazon, and it doesn’t “run away” when you apply it to a joint. It’s kind of a cross between oil and grease.

There are literally hundreds of choices in today’s marketplace — far too many to keep in stock in our RV’s limited space. For your chassis, try to pick name-brand lubes that you can buy on the road, so you don’t have to stock them. For regular maintenance, pick a few useful lubes and keep them handy. Your rig will run longer and happier, not to mention squeak-free.

Editor’s note: There are many lubricants to choose from, at great prices, at Amazon.

photo: wikipedia / public domain

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


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