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How to conquer the fear of breaking down in remote areas

Do you have a fear of breaking down in remote areas with your RV?

This question recently came up during a Zoom meeting among RVtravel.com writers and staff. Given the current shortage of repair parts, trained technicians, lack of qualified service centers, supply chain issues, labor shortages and problems with obtaining emergency road service, it was deemed a legitimate concern.

RV in DesertSince remote areas (aka middle of nowhere ) are my favorite places to visit, I agreed to pose the question and share my thoughts.

As previously mentioned, my wife and I frequently RV to remote areas in search of ghost towns, unique geological formations, mining camps and other lesser-known, forgotten places. As such, we have become proficient in navigating to these places, become self-reliant taking care of our needs, and are prepared for emergency situations.

What is fear?

I hadn’t given this question a lot of thought until I sat down to write this article. I started out by performing a Google search for the word “fear”.

As you can see from the definition posted above, it boils down to an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that something dangerous, painful, or threatening is likely to happen.

I then asked myself, why am I not anxious about the likelihood of something going wrong when we are traveling in or through remote areas?

Am I naive? Or have I taken steps (intentionally or unintentionally) to minimize the chance of breakdowns and being prepared in the event they occur?

After going through the list of concerns stated at the beginning of this article, I came to the realization I have mostly negated them.

Let’s take a look:

Choice of vehicle type

Your choice of vehicle may have a bearing on your fear of traveling to remote areas. Parts and service centers for specialized chassis like Mercedes, Freightliner, Spartan, etc., aren’t typically found in remote settings. However, parts for a standard pickup truck can be found at almost any auto parts store and most any repair shop can service them.

My choice of RV is a conventional pickup truck pulling a travel trailer. Therefore, service centers and parts are more readily available in remote areas.

Maintenance

Many breakdowns can be attributed to deferred maintenance. I make sure my truck and trailer are serviced regularly, the bearings are packed, the brakes are good, and the tires are properly inflated with no signs of unusual wear.

Finding replacement parts

A little online research will reveal the parts most likely to fail on your rig. Rather than relying on finding those parts in remote areas, especially given the current supply chain issues, obtain those parts in advance and carry them with you. Having the parts with you will alleviate the anxiety of travel in and through remote areas fearing the “what if we break down” scenario. For me, that means carrying spare tires for the truck and trailer along with a plug kit and air compressor, a spare serpentine belt for the truck, bearing set and grease seals for the trailer, along with bearing grease, spare fuses for the truck and trailer, spare circuit board for the RV furnace and water heater, etc.

Knowledge

Given the shortage of qualified technicians these days, knowledge is key when your RV becomes disabled in remote areas. Learn the inner workings of your RV, obtain the tools to diagnose and repair common failures and have a backup plan if you don’t have what you need to make field repairs. Here is the backup plan for 12-volt failure in my travel trailer. If you still find yourself needing a technician, knowledge of your RV workings will keep you from being taken advantage of.

RV on mat
Field Repair – Adjusting the brakes in the middle of nowhere

Emergency Roadside Assistance

Knowing you can get towed to the proper facility when needed is key to putting your fears to rest when RVing in remote areas. Check your policy and know the following in advance:

  • Are there restrictions from where you can be towed? Will they retrieve your vehicle from only paved roads, gravel roads, or “any named road” in the boondocks?
  • Do they have contracts with providers that can safely tow your rig?
  • Will they only tow you to the nearest repair facility, or the nearest repair facility that is qualified to fix your rig?
  • Is there a limit as to how many miles they will tow you?

Learn more about what to look for in a roadside assistance policy here.

Remote Areas - Towing
Make sure your roadside assistance policy can handle your rig

Communication

Being without cell coverage is another legitimate concern when traveling in remote areas. If you find yourself broken down with no cell phone service, how will you summon help or let your family know you are okay? Consider investing in 2-way satellite messenger such as a Spot-X, as I have.

With a 2-way satellite messenger, you can contact emergency road service, provide them with your exact location and receive a reply of their ETA at your location. You can also let family and friends know of your situation. An added benefit of a 2-way satellite messenger, I recently discovered, is that you can ask family or friends to research things for you on the internet like sourcing parts, service centers and “how-to” articles/videos on your particular needed repair. This type of 2-way communication, when you are without cell service in remote areas, is invaluable for getting back on the road as well as peace of mind. Not to mention, you can summon 9-1-1 too! 

RV in Remote area
Not a bad place to hang out for a couple of days.

Food and shelter

If you find yourself breaking down while traveling through remote areas, you have nothing to fear as you are in a self-contained house on wheels. Be prepared to spend a day or two in remote areas by always carrying an extra day or two worth of potable water in your freshwater tank along with a few extra groceries. You just might find the unwelcomed stop a fortunate stroke of serendipity, as my wife and I once experienced when our tow vehicle had an intake manifold problem and we limped into a remote Utah town for repairs. Those of you my age might remember the song “Enjoy It” from the Disney movie “In Search of the Castaways.” I will leave you with a few verses from the song to ponder:

We are travelers on life’s highway, enjoy the trip
Each lovely twist and byway, each bump and dip
If there’s a complication, enjoy it!
You’re stranded in the jungle, enjoy the trees.

After all, RVing is all about the journey. So enjoy it wherever you find yourself – planned or unplanned. 

Now that I have shared why I am not anxious about RVing through remote areas, how about you? Do you have a fear of breaking down in remote areas with your RV? Please share your thoughts using the comment box below.

Dave will be speaking at the FMCA Convention in Tucson, AZ March 25th and 26th. He would love to meet RVtravel.com readers that will be attending. Feel free to introduce yourself after one of his seminars.

##RVT1025

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david
26 days ago

Great job, love all of your strategies and how you categorized them. One thing I do is once I get into what is becoming a secluded two track road area, I walk it out first. Once I was just going to drive down this 4wd high clearance rock road and something urged me to get out and walk it, it got worse and worse with high kerfs on the sides and boulders in the tire tracks and came to a dead end. I would have had to back out for almost a 1/4 of a mile with little to no clearance on the sides. I would have torn up a lot of things on my vehicle trying to back out. Dodged a bullet.

Ray Cordero
1 month ago

Great article! Started full-time rving 2016 with no mechanical problems until Oct last year. Since then we have had two blown sparks plugs, an emergency brake that had to be rebuilt and now we’re trying to get a possible engine water pump/pulley/tensioner…fun, fun, fun.

Dana D
1 month ago

I have GEICO insurance, and their roadside assistance. I had to use it once, 110 miles from Wichita, Kansas (middle of nowhere) on a Sunday morning. Fortunately I had limited cell service. GEICO sent a tow truck immediately. It took some time for the tow truck to reach me as they were coming from Wichita. My vehicle was towed to the dealer in Wichita as I requested. Monday morning the GEICO rep was at the dealer. He told the dealer he wanted my car fixed by Friday because I was on vacation, and to FedEx overnight any parts needed. And GEICO roadside assistance is cheaper than AAA.

Since I have purchased a Garmin inReach Explorer+; mainly because I used to do a lot of off-road driving to remote areas. I no longer do that, however I carry the Garmin with me because there are many areas in the West where no cell service exists.

Irv
1 month ago

Roadside service tends to be limited in low population areas–even along Interstates. I waited 4 hours in the cold along I-40 in Tennessee for gasoline from AAA. (The station had gone out of business at an exit where I expected gas.)

AAA didn’t have any partners in the area.

DW/ND
1 month ago

Just as you cruise along – you hear that little odd noise…. Oh yes – one gets that little alert feeling in the pit of your stomach – what if? I know the rig is in good shape – but stuff happens! Then we arrive at the campground or home and I pat her on the dash and say thank you one more time! (Well is it a 94′ Class A, 34′ – but only 34,100 miles on it – but age is age and on the road finding parts can be challenging. So til next year I will plan and we will go and all will be fine! (I hope!)

Ray
1 month ago

Its been my experience that the best roadside service is the one closest to you that can and will reach you in a timely manner. Roadside assistance programs like Good Sam’s have left me in a lurch in remote locations and in not-so-remote locations as well. I’ve had a mid-day promise to reach me that culminated in a late evening call back only to inform they can’t make it. And one on a busy Houston Freeway wherein they could not find an available tow service in program. Save your money for the best service,

Tom
1 month ago

It has become pretty obvious several roadside service companies and insurance companies we pay for services are leaving many stranded not just in the middle of nowhere but even in large populated areas. Your best and safest option is calling the police because they can get you help. The cost will ultimately be on you and collecting for reimbursement is usually nonexistent.

Michael Roach
1 month ago

I recently had a bad experience with my Ford F250 diesel breaking down when a repair shop ripped me off for over 5 grand and still hadn’t fixed my truck, and it became obvious that they didn’t know what they were doing when it came to diesel engines. They kept throwing parts at it hoping that would fix the problem, and charging me each time. After the first time this happened I moved on to another shop that I found by speaking to shops around the area and got the truck fixed right for $1100. It can be hard to find honest repair shops where the owner(s) genuinely care about their customers, so be careful out there.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Roach

Exactly right, Michael. Diesel engines are particularly hard to get reliable service for – even from a Ford dealer (I have an F-350). If I still had my 83 F-250 gas truck I could probably fix most things. But, that truck could never pull my current TT.

The Lazy Q
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Roach

And watch out for scammers when stopped or filling up fuel. Someone walks by and says, oh you see this problem or that with your RV, better get it fixed before you move on and I have or know a shop just down the street that can fix it…
Middle of nowhere Idaho, I was filling up when a person walked by telling me your tires are not looking good better check it out…he was pointing to the mold indentation that is normal, I walked away saying I’ll keep an eye on it ending the conversation. I’m sure if I continued he’d point me to a shop to get ripped off by buying tires I didn’t need.
If someone does this and you are really not sure, find a couple local shops and get their opinion.

Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Roach

We’ve been full time for the last 14 years. I’ve found a very valuable resource, http://rvservicereviews.com/ I look up on this website any time I need help. Let me encourage taking the time to review and share your experiences. This place will help you and you can help others in our RV community.