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Be prepared, physically and mentally, for RV breakdowns

By Chris Dougherty
Chris Dougherty is a certified RV technician. Here is an article he wrote while he was serving as RVtravel.com’s technical editor.

It really doesn’t matter what form of “transportation” you use, breakdowns happen. Whether it’s a car, plane, cruise ship, yacht or RV, you have to be prepared for the possibility that you might get stuck on your vacation. As Forrest Gump said, “It happens.”

I have had a number of breakdowns over the years and have taken them in stride. I must admit that I usually deal with them all myself now. But in the early days I was as dependent on RV technicians and tow trucks as many of my customers have been dependent on me. Wwhich is a sentiment I take seriously, by the way.

Handling an RV breakdown

So how do you deal with the ever-present specter of the dreaded RV breakdown?

  1. Be prepared. If you are good at repairing mechanical things, have tools with you that will help you take care of the problem. Have a good RV repair and maintenance guide with you, or online resources to give you the information you need to do the repair. Have a plan for a breakdown that includes things you will need to do, including finding a place to stay, calling your destination to postpone your arrival, and so on.
  2. Use a roadside assistance plan. These are particularly useful in getting a tow, RV service, lodging and so on. These companies, which include AAA, Coach-Net, Good Sam Roadside Assistance and more, have enormous resources at their fingertips to help you from the moment of breakdown to the moment you’re back on the road.
  3. Extended service plans for RVs are a great safety net for many RVers. I always recommend ESPs for RVs, especially larger and more complex motorhomes.
  4. Have an open mind, and try to consider the breakdown as part of the adventure! Most places where you’re stuck have things to see nearby.

##RVDT1854

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Winnebago Bob
1 month ago

If you carry spare fan belts for your motorhome or tow vehicle, you will be ahead of the game. Nothing prevents quick repairs, like no spare parts. A technician obviously cannot fix it with parts he doesn’t have. Usually, fan belts like to cause trouble, in the evening or on Sunday when auto parts or dealers are closed. If you have the necessary belts, you can be on your way sooner than, if you don’t. I learned this from owning a Volkswagen air cooled Beetle years ago. Always had a spare belt.

Bill H.
1 month ago

My plan has always been to hit the road in my RV when I finally retire, which I expect will occur sometime in the next 4 years (before my 75th). One thing I have been thinking about doing is going to one of the RV technician training schools for my first trip and take the training necessary to become a certified RV technician. It’s just one of the post-retirement trainings I’m thinking about taking after I retire in order to keep my mind active. That would mean that I will be fully capable of maintaining and repairing my RV systems, with the exception of the engine and transmission, which is my primary purpose for taking the training. However, at the same time, I could potentially make some extra money on the side doing repairs for other RVers at the campgrounds I visit. I suspect having a sign on the front of my RV identifying me as a certified RV technician might be all I need in order to attract business.

Patricia Neuzil
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill H.

My husband took a week-long class and it’s really helped him fix any problem we’ve had.

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Good advice; thank you!

CeeCee
1 month ago

Also, consider the likely proximity of available assistance on the route you are taking, especially if the scenic route avoids larger towns. We discovered the drawback to the hinterlands all too well a few years ago, when we had a major problem and the nearest shop was over 80 miles away. Fortunately, it was scenic.

Moseying M
1 month ago

$$$ Part of the preparation should also be financial. Have money set aside before your trip for the eventuality of repairs.

Glenn A
1 month ago

The key to dealing with adversity is attitude.

Ron T.
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn A

Amen to that! When I talk about our Alaska trip now, yeah there were lots of things to see and do and we did, but the six days we were parked behind a logging truck repair shop waiting our turn were the best of the trip. We got to know the folks working there and the other couple also waiting for repairs and they couldn’t have been more accommodating. There was also a wild fire outbreak that rerouted the rest of our trip. Talk about adventure. The liquor store across the highway didn’t hurt either.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

As far as truck repairs go, about all I can do is open the hood (because isn’t that what we all do?), scratch my head as I look over that unfamiliar territory, and maybe look for escaped liquid. Then I’m done and would have to call someone.

Some trailer repairs my wife and I can do ourselves,

tom
1 month ago

If you carry that specific spare, you will never need it.

Ran
1 month ago

I agree with Glen, and I’m only 10 years behind him! I’ve found the ESP’s are a waste of money and rarely can get repairs done in a timely manner, or at all. Some ESP’s are not available to certain states, so check them out thoroughly. Of course, read the fine print. I prefer to have cash, Credit Card, tools and a breakdown plan as well. Know your insurance company limits. Some have recently reduced some of those nice benefits!

Bob S
1 month ago

This is good advice. I broke down near Flagstaff AZ during the busy season & was stuck there in a motel for a week, waiting for repairs. But I found so many things to see & do. It turned out to be a great side trip to my planned trip to Yellowstone.

Glen Cowgill
1 month ago

Chris, sounds good but at 81 years old, I am not doing much crawling around underneath my Class A diesel pusher. A mechanical breakdown needs a specialized shop. I have worked on heavy trucks but mostly cars in my good years so I can pretty well diagnose the problem mechanically and I am very familiar with the house side and again, I seem to do quite well. I carry a few basic tools to repair minor things but now I tend to call a professional for any repair that requires more than a turn of a wrench.
Keep in mind the larger and more complicated the RV, the more the repairs tend to cost.

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