Last month, my tow vehicle broke down and I was stranded for over two weeks waiting for it to be fixed. I wrote about the incident from a travelogue standpoint but I always intended on writing a more how-to type post of the steps I went through from the time the truck overheated until it was fixed, to help other RVers who might find themselves in a similar situation.
So here’s that article. It’s not all inclusive, not everything here will be applicable to every situation and in some cases other steps will be necessary. My intent was simply to create a good starting point that people can build from. I hope you find it useful! Actually, I hope you never need it…
If there was an accident
I’m going to focus on mechanical breakdowns, not accidents, but here’s a quick rundown. If your rig was involved in an accident, the steps are essentially the same as for any other vehicular accident. A quick search on Google turns up this short list on what to do. (Explanations for each step can be read in full on the original page, courtesy of esurance).
- Move to a safe area (if you can).
- Stop your vehicle and get out.
- Check on others involved.
- Call the police to the scene.
- Gather info.
- Document the scene.
- File your insurance claim.
If there wasn’t an accident
If your RV or tow vehicle wasn’t in a crash you’ll still want to get your rig safely out of traffic lanes if you can as a first step. Turn on your hazard blinkers and if you carry cones or other high visibility markers, put them out.
For the purpose of this article we’re assuming the worst: that whatever happened, your rig isn’t drivable and that the problem isn’t something you can fix on your own.
Calm yourself down. You’ll need to use your brain to assess the situation and decide the best course of action, and you won’t be able to do that if you’re letting adrenaline take the front seat. Take a few deep breaths and push emotion out of the way for the time being. Be sad or angry about your misfortune later, it won’t do you any good right now.
The second step is to get your rig to a shop where they can figure out what went wrong and how much it’ll cost to fix.
If you have emergency roadside assistance, contact them. If you’re like me and don’t, you’ll have to locate and contact a tow truck or other help on your own. I really love being able to look up services and reviews on my smartphone as I travel, it makes locating a good place easier.
If your RV/vehicle is under warranty, you’ll also want to contact them as soon as possible. I’ve heard of people having to fight to get repairs covered because they didn’t contact their dealer before having work done. They may give you specific instructions on where to take the rig. You’ll definitely want to ask them what documentation you’ll need to collect to get reimbursed.
If you don’t have a phone signal, you may need to wait for someone to stop, or walk a ways until you find a signal.
In my case, a local stopped when they saw my truck and trailer along the road and offered to drive me to the “good” shop in town to ask how soon they could get me in, and from there I contacted a tow truck and went back out to collect my rig. It’s always worth asking the locals who they recommend for repair if you get the chance to talk to one, they’ll know who has the best reputation.
One other thing on shop selection, if it’s your RV that is having problems, try to find one that’s willing to let you still stay in it overnight. That’ll save you the hassle of having to get a hotel room if repairs take more than a day.
While you’re waiting at the shop for word on the problem, you’ll want to start thinking about your expectations and plans. Hopefully the issue will be something cheap and simple that won’t derail your travels, but it might not be, so think about it now so that you’re not blindsided when word comes through.
- If there’s somewhere you absolutely have to be, you may need to think about alternate travel plans, like renting a car or taking a plane, and coming back to get your RV later.
- If staying in your RV while it’s being fixed isn’t a solution, look up hotels.
- If you’re in a trailer or fifth wheel and it’s your tow vehicle having problems, look up camping options in the area that you could have your RV towed to.
- If your rig is older, think about the max amount of money you’d be willing to spend to repair it. The general rule of thumb is if the repairs are going to cost more than the vehicle/RV is worth, it probably makes more sense to replace it instead.
- If you’re RVing on a budget, the size of your emergency fund may also limit what you’re able to do for repairs. Hopefully, you’ve given some thought to an exit strategy should the repairs cost more than you can afford.
Hopefully by the time the shop gives you word on what’s up with your rig and how long it’ll take to fix, you’ll have a tentative action plan ready to go and know whether to give the shop the thumbs up or down on the repairs and know what you need to do next.
Repairs on my truck were more than what the truck was worth and were going to take a long time and cut into the next seasonal job I had lined up, and so I researched a plethora of options from looking for a new tow vehicle to having the truck towed to a bigger city for faster repairs. In the end, I decided to have the truck repaired at that first shop recommended by the local who stopped to help and I felt comfortable with the decision because I’d put serious consideration into all the options and knew that was going to work best for me.
While you wait for repairs to be finished, here are a couple more things to think about:
- If you’re being expected somewhere, be sure to let people know what’s happened. If you have reservations that you won’t be able to make, cancel them as soon as you can to get the most money back.
- If the repairs are going to take a while, keep in contact with the shop. Good communication makes the whole process smoother but there’s no guarantee the shop will take the initiative, so you may have to keep calling to make make sure repairs are happening at the expected pace and that the costs are staying on track.
- If it’s your tow vehicle that is being worked on, think about alternate means of transportation. I bought a bicycle so I’d have a way to get around, renting a car may be more practical depending on how far away from things you are.
- No matter where you get stranded, there will be something worth seeing. Look into attractions and things to do in the area. Make the most of your time there.
If you’re a full-timer, chances are good that sooner or later you’ll be waylaid by unexpected repairs. When it happens, keeping a level head, researching your options, and cultivating the right attitude goes a long way toward making the situation more pleasant.
Today’s photos were taken on an evening walk in Boyd, TX last Sunday, what a great sunset!
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