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.
Since 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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.