* Cummins 8.3L 350hp Air Filter *
My 2003 Winnebago Ultimate motorhome has April 2002 production date. The motorhome was built on a 2002 Spartan Mountain Master GT/Winnebago Industries Monocoque Chassis (Winnebago built the center section of the chassis rails while Spartan built the front and rear portions). The original tires on the chassis had mid-February 2002 mfg dates, so this chassis didn't sit around very long at the Winnebago factory. The engine is a 2002 version Cummins ISC 8.3L turbo-charged/after cooled diesel putting out 350-hp @ 2,000 RPM and 1,050 ft lbs @ 1,400 - 1,600 RPM. It has electronic speed control, a 1,000 W engine block heater, and a Jacobs Exhaust Brake.
On the Spartan-provided recommended maintenance schedule regarding the Cummins air cleaner, the manuals provided indicate the air filter has a service gauge, and that the gauge should be checked at each service interval, and that the filter should be "replaced when necessary" based on the gauge reading. In the FAQ on the Cummins Filtration website (www.cumminsfiltration.com), in response to a question about when an owner should change the air filter, the answer is, "Air filters should be changed only by engine manufacturer's recommendations on air restriction as measured by an air restriction gauge." After 8 years and 60k miles, my gauge was still slight below mid-range and well out of the warning area.
Each year when I have had my annual chassis service, I have asked about changing the air filter. Each service place indicated "as long as the gauge reads ok, leave it alone." I heard other owners warn from time to time that the filter cartridge could deteriorate and go to pieces over time, indicating that is what Cummins personnel teach at RV rallies. On hearing that warning, a friend called Spartan (who provides the recommended maintenance schedule), and they told him they had not heard of such deterioration happening. Still I heard the warnings from others, indicating they always change their air filter at the 3 to 4 year point. Checking the internet, I found a place that claims to provide Cummins service interval guidance ...they warn "Never use an air filter longer than one year!" And they say, "In certain applications, the air filter can start to deteriorate and the filter material can be sucked through the intake into the engine. (I have seen this happen, and it ruined the engine!)" Of course they SELL filters, and are eager to SELL MORE filters ...I also noted the oil change intervals they quote as supposedly being from Cummins call for an oil change TWICE as often as my Cummins & Spartan owner manuals do.
Ok, so I listened to the dire warnings for years until I finally decided at 8 years and 60k miles that replacing the air filter wouldn't be a total waste. Understand that like most things on this big diesel engine, the air filter is far beyond the air filter you find on your car. This air filter is no small item ... it is a paper cartridge filter in a metal canister apx 10" in diameter and 18" long. It has a 6" side inlet, with the 5" outlet centered on the other end. List price at most places is close to $90-$120. I found a place online to get the genuine filter required, part #114880-003, model ECO-SE 9.8 x 18 BI, for $75 plus $15 shipping. The filter is pictured to the right. Removing the old filter and installing the new one took me apx 1 hour from start to finish. That included emptying of the closet in the rear of the motorhome so I could remove the access panel under the closet floor to get to the clamp on the outlet end of the filter, and putting everything away after the installation. After getting to the floor access panel, removing and replacing the air filter was fairly easy. The clamps on each end required a deep socket, 7/16" size. Installing the new one did require assistance from a helper pushing on the end of the filter from the outside while I reached into the engine compartment from above to guide the new filter onto the tubing and tighten the clamp to hold it in place.
For the record, the old filter was mildly dirty on the intake side, pictured to the left ...pretty good for 8 years, although we don't drive in dusty conditions very much. The outlet side of the filter, pictured to the right, looked like new. Nowhere did I find any indication of any deterioration in the paper element, even after rubbing and pulling it with my fingers. (The "lines" across the folds in the filter is glue, designed to help the filter folds maintain proper shape). So is it possible for one of these filters to deteriorate, come apart, and get sucked into the engine. Well, some do say it is ...based on the condition of my 8 yr old filter I have to wonder if those cases involved other than OEM filters?? ...and would deterioration result from very humid & dirty conditions (mfg'er advertising for the Racor filter I bought claims the paper element is "water resistant")?? ...or perhaps from the rig being driven very little AND parked in humid conditions?? If/when a deteriorated filter is found, I would be interested in knowing how old it is AND how much (or little) the rig has been driven. I guess I'll let you be the judge for now ...I used my original filter for 8 years and replaced it for just over $90 for a cost very close to $11.25 per year. I figure I'm good for another 8 years or until the filter gauge says otherwise.
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