Monday, October 25, 2021


Be prepared for RV breakdowns — physically and mentally


By Chris Dougherty
Chris Dougherty is a certified RV technician. Here is an article he prepared while he was serving as’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 — which is a sentiment I take seriously, by the way.

So how do you deal with the ever-present specter of the dreaded 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.

##RVT801 #NRV


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Stanley Sokolow
6 months ago

I have 2 things to add. I’ve been to many places where there is no cell phone signal, however I wouldn’t be stranded without a means to communicate for roadside assistance. I have a satellite communicator from Garmin which allows 2-way text messaging with an emergency center for medical response, insurance for medical evacuation if necessary, and text messaging to people I’ve added to my satellite contact list (in my case, my daughters) who can make phone calls to bring out tow trucks, etc.. You can’t count on just a cell phone for help, so get a satellite communicator.

Second, I recently had a chat with a lady who does extensive traveling in her VW Rialta motorhome. She said a while ago the RV broke down while on a trip, but it was extremely hard to find a shop that was qualified and willing to work on the RV. Her insurance covered only 100 miles of towing, so she had to pay $1000 for the excess miles to a shop. Get towing insurance without a limit to the nearest qualified shop.

Dan Carioggia
4 years ago

Being new to RV’ing we left home to go to Florida to visit friends on July 3rd. We stopped at a rest stop for the night and rolled out our slides. The next day (4th of July holiday) our slides would not come in. We were running out of gas and therefore were not able to run the generator and not able to run the air conditioning. It was 90 degrees in the shade and 100 degrees in our RV. My wife and dog were on a bench under a canopy and drenched in sweat. After multiple calls to a local Camping World that was open they sent out a technician who fixed us. The lesson learned is NEVER stop anywhere without a full tank of gas.

Ron Twellman
4 years ago

We just arrived home today from a nearly 10,000 mile trip to Alaska. We were about a day from getting back into the US after a night in Quesnel, BC on July 3rd. About 35 miles south the next morning our V10 spit out a spark plug (a known quirk of these engines). Our insurer covered the tow back to Quesnel and the tow driver found us a truck shop that could do the repair after the place the insurer picked didn’t do chassis work. We spent the rest of the week commiserating with a BC couple whose pickup camper had been there five days already. The shop and other co-located businesses supplied us with electricity, bathrooms and their limited internet. Our RV finally reached the top of the list Friday after noon and was running by quitting time. We stayed that night so they could change the oil Saturday morning, but by then over 138 wildfires had broken out on Friday and BC 97 was closed from Quesnel south to the intersection with Tran-Canada 1. What to do? Reroute north then east through Banff and Calgary then on across the border to Wisconsin. If you like adventure, you just have to take it in whatever form it arrives!

Phyllis Avella
4 years ago

We left home 5 June planning to be gone until 27 Jul. We drove west to visit the Grand Canyon and all the UTAH National Parks. About half way through the trip, the lover’s pump died. The levels were extended. Could not retract them, had to use a crow bar to lift them high enough off the ground to slip the car jack underneath and raise them back up. Lived for three days with slides in since had no levels. Got that fixed, but cancelled remainder of that leg of trip. On way home, had difficulty with the kitchen slide. When brought it in, it dropped to the floor, not supposed to do that! Now have lost use of stove, microwave, and cannot get into freezer. Fun times when you own an RV????.

Sherry Dawson
4 years ago
Reply to  Phyllis Avella

What is a lover’s pump? I’m a newbie and want to look it up.

4 years ago
Reply to  Sherry Dawson

That was supposed to be “level’s pump”. Sorry for the misunderstanding, I was in the sun and didn’t notice it until after it was posted.

RV Staff (@rvstaff)
4 years ago
Reply to  Phyllis

Thanks for clarifying that, Phyllis. 😀 –Diane at

4 years ago
Reply to  Phyllis

Well, dang it, I was really looking forward to finding out what a “lover’s pump” is! Best typo I’ve seen in a long time. 🙂

RV Staff (@rvstaff)
4 years ago
Reply to  Lyn

😯 😀 —Diane at

Tommy Molnar
4 years ago
Reply to  Lyn

Yeah, me too! Ha.

Wayne Justice
4 years ago

Yes break downs are just part of the RV experience. Our last RV was a 1991 21 foot class C We bought it for a song, not running, dirty and in need of work. Let me just say I am A auto teck and own my own shop so working on these is not a problem. But we had it for about 2 years when we left out home in NC and headed to DE to see my grandchildren. In VA we started hearing a clunk noise under the rig. My wife was driving as usual and I said just keep going till we find a good spot to pull over and I’ll check it. Well within a mile it went from a clunk to a very loud banging. We pulled over the side of the interstate and when I check I found the propane tank had come loose from it’s mountings and was dragging on the road. Scary: lucky it had been raining for the last hour so no sparks. The police showed up but when I explained the situation they moved way down the road. I was able to get it jacked back in position and had enough straps to hold it in place for a while. In a few exits we found a Lowes store and I purchased enough metal and brackets to make a permanent repair. Who knew they had only bolted it to the wood floor. So we went on out way and when we reached the campground where we were going to stay we decided to dump the tanks first because it was a no hookups stop. Well when I pulled the handle on the dump valve it came out in my hand. Long story short I found a RV parts place, purchased a new valve went back to the dump area (luck a ly no one was in need of for
awhile ) Took my hack saw and cut the bolts 1 at a time so I could keep a bucket under to catch the honey, and was able to replace the valve. Now this was a trip to remember. So there will be trouble you just have to deal with it as it comes. After we purchased our current 29 foot class C the dump valve felt very stiff so needless to say I replaced in at home with an empty tank.
Sooo happy traveling and check that tank and valve every so often.

Mary Ihla
4 years ago

We had our first breakdown on a trip back from a family reunion in Bottineau, ND. (There’s an excellent RV park operated by the city.) First, a tire blew (shredded, actually), but we have Good Sam roadside assistance, so within an hour we were back on the road again. But, very quickly we knew something else was wrong. We managed to limp our class C motorhome into the driveway of my granddaughter’s house in Grand Forks. All the RV repair places were booked up for a month, but I found a truck repair place that could squeeze us in. We found out our insurance policy covered towing, and our maintenance from Good Sam covered about 1/4 of the cost of repairs, which were extensive. And we discovered that the hail we’d had the week before caused leaks in the skylights so we woke up with water dripping on us. But, the silver lining was that we were able to see three of my adult grandchildren and see the adorable craftsman home my granddaughter and her husband had just bought.

Kira Carolan
4 years ago

Love your articles. I realized, now in our 3rd year of owning a 43′ class A, how lucky we are. Traveling the country in our own self contained home on wheels.’last week our trip to GA was cancelled due to the power steering hose breaking just before we started on the trip. This cancellation was disappointing but we were then able to spend more time with family before coming home. As we await news on the additional repairs to our rig, I’m planning our menu for next 2 weeks meals as we stay and watch our daughter jump her horse st a show.