Tuesday, June 6, 2023


What to do when your RV breaks down: Everything you should know

When your RV breaks down it’s never expected. And not one person I know likes when it happens. But sometimes trouble finds you or, more specifically, trouble hits your RV when you’re far from home. Whether it’s engine failure or a flat tire, there are specific things you should do to keep yourself, those traveling with you, and other highway drivers safe. Here is a compilation of suggestions from several different insurance websites.

Be prepared

Since there’s no telling when your RV may break down, it’s important to be prepared. RVers should always carry the following items on all trips. Even the ones close to home!

  • Warning triangles, flares, or orange cones. (Note: If you smell gas or see evidence of a gas leak, never light a flare! Get far away from the vehicle immediately.) There are tons of kits on Amazon. Keep one of these handy at all times.
  • Emergency RV tool kit: flashlight, adjustable wrench, multi-bit screwdriver set, hammer, tire pressure gauge, extra fuses for truck and RV, socket and ratchet set, work gloves, bottle jack, cordless drill, Allen wrenches, tape measure, bubble level(s), duct tape, and zip ties. If possible, take a small air compressor and hoses. Ours has come in handy for adjusting tire pressure many times. (Here’s a great kit with almost everything mentioned.)
  • Insurance contact information and/or roadside assistance phone numbers.

When your RV breaks down

  • As soon as you sense something is wrong, reduce speed and begin moving to the right shoulder of the roadway. Be sure to signal your intent and use caution while changing lanes. Move your entire rig as far off the road as safely as possible. Put on your flashing warning lights.
  • The driver (or most able-bodied adult) should retrieve the cones or caution triangles. Place the first cone about 10 feet from the back of your rig, a second cone about 100 feet from the mid-point of the bumper, and a third cone about 200 feet behind your RV placed in line with the RV’s left side.
  • Passengers should remain in the vehicle with their seat belts buckled to keep safe in case of a collision. However, if you smell gas or propane, call 911 immediately. Get everyone out of the vehicle and move far away from your rig.
  • If you do not have cell service you may need to walk to the nearest exit for help. You might also be able to get a cell signal by walking to a higher elevation.

Now what?

You might be able to figure out what caused your breakdown. If you can safely fix the problem, do it.

If you can’t determine the cause of your breakdown, call your insurance company (if your policy covers roadside emergencies) or roadside assistance club. Be prepared to give them the following information:

  • Your cell phone contact information
  • Current club roadside assistance membership and policy number or vehicle insurance carrier
  • Your current location (nearest exit, mile marker, street intersection, etc.)
  • The make and model of your RV along with the license plate number. (Note: if your RV will require a large tow truck, be sure to tell the dispatcher.)
  • Tell the dispatcher if you have a repair shop you prefer or ask for recommendations.
  • Ask for an approximate arrival time for the tow truck.
  • Request the name of the assistant who will come to help you.

Note: AAA will tow your rig even if you are not a member. Plan to cover all incurred expenses.

While you wait

  • If you have cell service you can search the Internet for a mechanic in the immediate area. Consider a mobile RV mechanic who is licensed and insured. Some campgrounds allow mobile mechanics to work on rigs inside their park. This may allow you to stay in your rig. Be sure to get permission from the camp first.
  • Call the campground to cancel your reservation or advise them that you may be arriving later than planned.
  • Make plans for transportation and lodging while your RV is in the shop. Search the internet via your cell phone to locate and reserve a hotel room and a rental car. Check with your insurance carrier. Your policy may cover a rental car.
  • Consider accessing the website yourmechanic.com, which can connect you to an online mechanic through your cell phone. They may be able to begin troubleshooting the cause of your breakdown.

When help arrives

  • Ask to see the roadside assistant’s identification. Look for identifying labels on his/her truck or tow vehicle.
  • Explain the breakdown to the service assistant. S/he may be able to fix your ride and get you back on the road.
  • If the assistant cannot fix the problem, tell them where you want your rig towed.
  • Be sure to stay in frequent contact with the repair shop. If you cannot get an estimate for the cost and time needed for a fix, take the rig to a different shop.
  • Try to make the best of the unexpected breakdown. Search out points of interest in the area, stay active, and do all you can to stay positive!


Roadside Assistance gave us the wrong tire – on purpose! 


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


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Bob M
11 months ago

Dollar Tree carries some cones about 12” high for $1.25 each

1 year ago

You cursed me with this article. Now a week later reading this because the day this was published a bearing failed so abruptly the tire came off completely within a slow-limped mile to safety. It was then 5 DAYS trying to get a tow / mechanic / ANYBODY to help. Good Sam and even my truck insurance couldn’t successfully get anyone to move/repair my trailer from U.P. Michigan. I finally got a wrecker willing to pull it to a dealer by calling EVERYONE within 70 miles(!), but dealer still estimates he couldn’t fix the axle in under 2 months… being prepared still isn’t a match for what Murphy can throw at you at the worst time and place.

RV Staff
1 year ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Sorry to hear about all those problems, Wolfe. I hope it gets fixed much sooner than they say. Yikes! Take care. –Diane

1 year ago

I would add to have at least 2 reflective vests on board. They are relatively cheap and can be found at home improvement and most hardware stores.

Dr. Mike
1 year ago

Gail, great advice.

However, the advice for cone placement needs correction.

“Place the first cone about 10 feet from the back of your rig on the left (or driver’s side), a second cone about 100 feet from the mid-point of the bumper, and a third cone about 200 feet behind your RV placed in line with the RV’s right (or passenger) left side.”

There is a great explanation (with images) from the Forest Service available here.

1 year ago
Reply to  Dr. Mike

Thanks, Dr. Mike! The images you referenced clearly show the safety advantages of that cone placement. Enjoy your day!

Jeffrey L Kirk
1 year ago

Get everyone out of the vehicle and move far away from your rig.
Add to this if at all possible as far as possible away from the road and behind the vehicle. The reason for behind the vehicle is if it is struck by another vehicle it and everything else will go forward.

Eric Ramey
1 year ago

Keep a laminated list of all pertinent vehicle information (make, model, year, length, height, engine) A service provider (tow truck, mobile mechanic) will ask for this information so that they are ready to assist you.
Also included in the pertinent vehicle information is the phone number and membership number of any roadside assistance programs that you belong to (this will avoid the delay with having them look up your information by your name or phone)

1 year ago

I broke down this past Monday and had the misfortune of speaking to Roadside Assistance from Good Sam. Sub par. Seems he couldn’t get me a tow until October! I called Freightliner, my insurance company and a heavy hauler. They were all great. Although the motorhome is not repaired yet, I think I would of still been on the side of the road in Oregon if I listened to the agent from Good Sam.

1 year ago
Reply to  Ken

All the roadside ‘assistance’ operations are similar, all promising more than they can deliver, and will let you down in most remote areas, or in ones where the tow companies are sick of dealing with them. Add to that the annoying phone answering systems, scripted responses, and delays; you’re better off finding your own tow.

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