By Chris Dougherty
CERTIFIED RV TECHNICIAN
We all love our RVs and the lifestyle, but, on occasion, Murphy’s Law takes over. It’s inevitable. By being prepared, you can minimize the inconvenience of a breakdown and get back on the road safe and sound. Here are some ways you can prepare:
First, you need a way to communicate your situation. A cell phone is a necessity. Even an old phone that isn’t signed up for an account will still dial 911, but a cell phone with even a minimal service plan will allow you to summon assistance. I don’t find CBs useful anymore. Some state police agencies still monitor channel 9 in theory, but I’ve never been able to report an emergency on a CB.
Who do you call? I am a big believer in services like Coach Net. One call gets help on the way, and these coverage plans often come with RV insurance policies or with new RVs. Having been a subscriber and a service provider, I can tell you they’re worth it if you travel frequently, and will often roll over to the family car. Keep a list of important phone numbers and RV data handy to aid in getting proper service. I carry a full set of service manuals for my coach plus the owner’s manuals set, and the tech service numbers for the manufacturer. Don’t forget to have the extended service plan info handy, if you have one.
Next is visibility. When you break down on the side of the road, it can be extremely difficult for other motorists to see you. Keep a supply of visibility items in your vehicle. These should include reflective triangles, flares, flags and perhaps even reflective vests. When you have an emergency, try to get off the road if it’s safe to do so.
Something you may not think about, and I didn’t until a good friend was killed in such a situation, is make sure any pets are secured in the vehicle when you stop. This friend of mine had to stop his RV on the side of the road, with wife, kids and grandkids in the RV. He opened the door and off went his dog. He ran after it, right in front of a truck. Make sure your pet is in a carrier or otherwise restrained while stopped on the side of the road.
I AM OFTEN ASKED about spare tires and the equipment to change the tires. RVs are large, bulky vehicles, and changing a tire on one can be a huge challenge without assistance. Again, the aforementioned plans and insurance policies often provide towing and road service for tire changes, etc., free of charge. Use them. I never change a tire on my coach. I don’t even carry the gear. I just call for help. The tire trucks show up with compressors, power jacks, and everything else that’s needed to change a tire safely. Some folks carry a spare tire, which ensures you’ll have it available without a wait for one to be located.
Being a professional firefighter and having had an RV fire myself, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having good fire extinguishers available. I carry three rechargeable ABC rated 8-pound extinguishers, plus the one included with the RV, located throughout the unit. Some folks carry a larger one, but I need to be weight- and size-conscious, and prefer to have several smaller extinguishers.
Last, but not least, is have a couple of good, reliable flashlights. I prefer at least one rechargeable lantern like those made by Streamlight. The Streamlight lanterns are used in emergency service. They’re durable, come with charger brackets, and emit a lot of aimable light.
A roadside RV emergency doesn’t have to be a trip-ender if you’re prepared.
Chris Dougherty wrote this when he was the technical editor of RVtravel.com. He is currently the technical editor of Trailer Life and Motorhomes magazines.