What to Do if Your RV Breaks Down

12/6/2022 – Good Sam

Few things are worse than experiencing a major breakdown on the road. And if you experience an RV breakdown, you need to address a few more issues than you would with an auto or truck.

These are the steps you should take prior to your trip and immediately following a breakdown. Anything you learn and prepare for now will help in an emergency breakdown situation–and will likely save you expenses on repairs.

Immediate Action

The following includes tips and suggestions in the event your RV breaks down. These are your first action items if you experience a mechanical problem to ensure immediate safety and begin acquiring the help you need.

First Response

Depending on the mechanical problem, you could experience a breakdown at any time—including while driving. In those cases, take the following steps:

  • Decrease speed and get to the side of the road at the safest location.
  • Position the RV into a clear area so you don’t have to attempt to move it again.
  • Engage your emergency flashers.
  • Ensure all passengers stay inside the vehicle.
  • Call 911 emergency, when necessary.

Not all breakdowns will be as dramatic, however. A crucial part of reducing engine and mechanical problems is to pay attention to your vehicle while driving. Check temperature, oil, and fuel gauges. Listen for strange noises from your engine or tires. Watch for smoke or steam when stopped or moving at slow speeds. This could prevent more extensive repairs should something go wrong.

Roadside Emergency Kit

Always travel with a roadside emergency kit. You can build your own or purchase a pre-made kit. The contents should include basic tools, high-visibility items (vests, flares, flashlights), caution triangles or cones, towing rope, gloves, jumper cables, and a fire extinguisher. Include anything you think might serve you during an emergency.

After ensuring you and your vehicle are out of any direct harm, take the time to put out caution triangles or cones to notify oncoming drivers. Not only does this keep you safe, but it alerts any emergency vehicles to your site and ensures their protection once they begin assessing your needs.

Note: keep extra oil, antifreeze, and other fluids stocked in your RV.

Contact a Service Provider

Once your situation is safe, begin the process of initial troubleshooting. While being careful not to expose yourself to a hot engine, see if you can pinpoint the general problem area. That way, you can at least communicate if it’s a heating/cooling issue instead of a belt issue, for example.

Some service apps on your phone can assist with finding the closest service provider who would have mechanics and equipment on hand. Give them a brief description of the problem and provide location information such as your nearest exit or mile marker.

Note: RV towing, without coverage, can be costly. Inquire about towing charges and call multiple service providers if available.

Preemptive Action

Before you even hit the road, these tips and services can give you added assurance should you experience an emergency breakdown.

Pre-trip Inspection

You know how much gas is in the tank before departing. Why wouldn’t you check for other tell-tale problems you could solve before the trip starts? Check fluids. Run the engine. Watch gauges. Check tire tread and levels. Inspect for worn belts or tubes under the hood. A pre-trip visual inspection could spot a potential issue easier dealt with beforehand.

Routine Maintenance

Oil changes, filter changes, tire maintenance, and tire rotation—these are the standard, easy items that will keep your RV in good working order. Falling behind on scheduled maintenance doesn’t mean you can keep pushing the envelope: get your maintenance done before a trip, and your service tech might catch a more significant issue in the process.

Roadside Assistance

Several providers offer roadside assistance and tire and wheel protection plans to help with anything from running out of gas to a flat tire. Signing up for a protection plan can be a real help, especially the further out you are from a towing or service provider.

Before you depart, make sure you know what your plan covers. Too often, owners think they’re covered for all emergencies because they have some form of coverage. But in fact, they end up paying far more because they expect all costs to be covered. Know your plan.

Good Sam Extended Service Plan

While breakdowns of any kind put a damper on the entire trip, the inconvenience factor dwindles in comparison to what you might have to pay to cover the cost of a major repair. Not including the towing, an engine or transmission repair will likely cost thousands.

For major breakdowns, nothing saves you more on repairs than the Good Sam Extended Service Plan. This is designed to protect you from the bills associated with major mechanical repairs that aren’t covered by insurance or warranty. For RV owners, the plan covers more than engine or transmission problems. Common, costly issues with components such as the refrigerator or A/C roof assembly are covered, too.