Monday, August 26, 2019

10 Tips on How to be Breakdown-Ready

Nobody wants to break down. But it happens.

We are serial travelers - with cars, boats, motorcycles and now the RV and we've experienced breakdowns in some pretty remote spots. They happen. Here are our top 10 tips for handling RV breakdowns.

1 - Purchase a good tow plan. We have two: AAA with RV/motorcycle coverage and Coach Net. We use Coach Net for our Class A, we keep AAA for the motorcycles and toad.

2 - Be ready with a plan.
Class As are heavy and large. If yours is diesel like ours, the drive line will have to be disconnected before she can be towed in order to avoid transmission damage. Not every mechanic shop or tow company is equipped to handle a rig that big and many tow companies don't want to mess with the disconnecting of the drive line. The two times we've been towed it took 6 hours from initial phone call to get Loretta settled safely in a shop, and we got lucky and were on the fringes of significant population bases both times. Had we still been in the willywonks when disaster struck it may have taken even longer. 

Therefore, while sketching your route for the day, keep mental track of the nearest big cities at any given point of the route. This will come in handy when discussing your preferred shop with the tow company. You're likely to have better access to all the services you need by making that your home base. It may make sense to ask to be towed just a little bit further to a proper city for quicker turn-around on parts, lodging and restaurant options, and things to keep you busy while you wait. 

Along these lines, before you call be sure take a moment to review who manufactured your chassis, transmission, engine, whatever the relevant problem area is - if you can readily give this to the tow company in the first call they will start their search by looking for the right technician to handle your rig.

3 - Have a ditch bag ready. If you have pets this is especially important. We keep soft carriers for the cats, all the paperwork for all 3 pets is handy in a folder. If you must board the pets they will insist on viewing their shots records first, some hotels ask for this as well. We each have a small suitcase under the bed for a week's worth of clothes and our toiletries are already packed in them. Don't forget important medications too, if you can't leave a supply in the suitcase at least leave yourself a reminder note to raid the medicine cabinet before zipping up your suitcase.

4 - Have a savings account or a special credit card set aside for disasters. They happen, so be prepared in advance and limit money as a stress source as much as possible. If you can, pick a card that has some travel bennies on it, cash back on dining out, hotel or the repair bill, which will take some of the bite out. Don't be afraid to ask for a cash discount at the shop if that's how you roll, some shops prefer this and the savings can be significant.

5 - When looking for pet-friendly places to stay, often hotels are not the best option. I am always on the lookout for pet-friendly cabins at the campgrounds where we stay. This time we found an Air BnB with a doggie door to the enclosed backyard which made both cats and the dog quite happy. We were able to extend a little bit when our RV parts took longer than planned to show up, and thus avoided having to move the pets when they were at peace. By staying in a whole-house Air BnB we saved a little over the hotel, eliminated the pets' stress of cleaning staff coming and going, and had a kitchen to cook in if we wanted to break up the restaurant monotony.

6 - RV repairs ALWAYS take longer than you expect. Make housing arrangements for whatever you think it should take x3, if you are in a remote location or if your rig is older like ours and it's harder to find parts, add even more time.

7 - Take your valuables. Passport, credit cards, jewelry, don't leave these things on the bus. I still get upset about the earrings I mistakenly left out in plain sight when I hurriedly packed up in Albuquerque, they weren't valuable but they were cool and I miss them.

8 - Take a quick video of the inside and outside of your rig before handing it off. We've come back to damages here and there caused by technicians while they were working on something unrelated and did not pursue reparations because we had no proof it wasn't like that before. Now I take a quick "before" lap inside and out with the phone videocamera while waiting for the tow truck.

9 - Ask the shop to show you the old parts, or give you a tour of the work they did, a good shop will be proud to show you their work. We've been charged for work that wasn't actually done in Denver and in Los Angeles and since we were just passing through weren't in a position to drop by and get it fixed later.

10 - Last and most kind to one another. Breakdowns can be stressful. At the end of the day take a moment to reconnect over an adult beverage, by relaxing together in the hotel hot tub; at the very least take some time to snuggle together wherever you have landed for the night.

Loretta outside our Air BnB, back from the shop, washed and ready to go


  1. Or get a rig that doesn't break down all the time....

    1. Right now I'm giggling into my coffee. Thanks for the smile!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks. Hope it helps someone. Most of these were hard-earned lessons, a few we learned from watching others.

  3. All very good points. All vehicles eventually ask to see the inside of a repair shop. It's always best to be ready with a plan when they decide that now is the time for a rest.

  4. Great information for the beginner. The sales person very rarely offers this gem of information.Even new vehicles break down or have manufacturers issues.

    1. Ain't it the truth. Adding a payment would be adding insult to injury. I read about folks who make payments for years on new rigs they rarely get to enjoy between warranty appointments.