RV Breakdowns: Q&A + 10 Tips for How to Deal with Them

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We figured our recent experiences with 3 RV Breakdowns in a Month would attract some interest, but we were blown away by the number of views, comments and questions we got in response to our 2-part series. We felt they deserved a proper response so we filmed an impromptu follow up Q&A, and included 10 Tips to help you handle an RV breakdown situation of your own, so you can be prepared, just like a good boy scout.

But first, we want to say how much we truly appreciate the level of concern for our well-being and safety from so many of you, as well as the kudos for handling the situation calmly and with a sense of humor! It’s how we try to roll most of the time, but unexpected RV breakdowns and expensive repairs can test the patience and optimism of us all. In this blog post and video, we answer some of the most common questions and concerns that came in after sharing our breakdown adventures – Part 1 and Part 2.

Plus, we share 10 Tips for How to Handle an RV Breakdown if (or when) you should find yourself faced with that situation, at the end of this article.

You can watch the 11 minute video right here, or skim down to read it in more detail. In the video, you’ll find the 10 TIPS start at the 8:30 mark.

Q&A: 3 x RV Breakdown Recap

First off, let’s start with answering some of your questions and concerns that came out of our breakdown adventure.

Q: What happened to the crooked Sumo Spring?

A: You might recall from Part 1 – a large bolt fell out of the suspension, causing our track bar to fall onto the road and bounce up and down, between the road and the undercarriage of our RV, making the worst sound ever while driving along the highway at 60mph! The passenger side Sumo Spring (from our suspension upgrade) was noticeably skewed, compared to the driver’s side which was still straight. Once the coach got into the shop in Phoenix, they replaced the bolt, put the track bar back in place and our passenger side Sumo Spring (it’s made of polymer) simply straightened back up again. We wouldn’t say it’s standing perfectly straight up and down, but it’s close and still doing the job it’s designed for – helping reduce the roll and sway of the coach.

Q: Now I’m leery about buying a Tiffin – should I be?

A: No. This wasn’t a Tiffin issue but a chassis issue. Keep in mind that our coach is 5 years old (a 2012 model) and we owned it ourselves for 2.5 years before ever experiencing a breakdown – and these breakdowns happened way back in November 2016. We still consider our coach to be reliable and while it was definitely an unusually inconvenient and frustrating month, it’s been smooth driving ever since.

Q: Should I be concerned about buying an RV built on a Ford (specifically Ford F53) chassis?

A: No. Although both the Track Bar / Bolt and the King Pin issues were chassis related, this doesn’t mean it’s not a good, reliable chassis. Almost all gas motorhomes built over the past 10 years or so are on the same or a similar Ford chassis to ours. Neither of the 2 repair shops we visited in Part 1 had ever seen a track bar bolt fall out before, so our situation was the exception, not the rule. And the King-Pins should not have worn out so prematurely at only 46K miles. We believe most of this damage was caused in our RV’s prior life. The shop techs seemed to think that an overloaded family trip from Texas to Alaska and back (which the first owners did) may have been related to the early wear out.

Q: Do you have a safety plan or checklist in the event of a breakdown?

A: No, at the time of writing this blog post, we do not, but it’s a great idea! So we’re putting one together and will share with you soon. Meanwhile, you’ll find some useful suggestions for staying safe in a breakdown in the 10 Tips section below.

Q: Now I’m scared to hit the road in RV – what if this happens to me?

Please don’t let the sharing of our experience deter you from pursuing a lifestyle that you dream of! We feel it’s important to share both the good and bad sides of RV life so you can see the reality of it and what can – and sometimes does – go wrong. But things go wrong in everyday life too. It just seems scarier in an RV as it’s often your home (if you’re full-time) and it’s usually unfamiliar territory. The unknown is always scary, but through these posts and videos, we hope to actually help reduce your fear of facing such a situation! You may never experience a breakdown, but it’s always good to be prepared if you do. Keep reading for our 10 Tips.

10 Tips on How to Deal with RV Breakdowns

1. Stay Calm

Staying calm will help you to think more clearly, find solutions to the challenge and also keep you safe. It will allow you to communicate better with your travel companions and/or any potential service providers. Even though the situation may be stressful, take a few long, slow, deliberate breaths – four seconds in, hold for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds. You will immediately notice your stress levels drop and you’ll be able to focus more clearly on troubleshooting.

2. Safety First

Keep safety cones, flares or emergency lights with you (in your RV or tow vehicle)  to act as a warning signal to other drivers and keep yourself safe. Oh, and remember to use them! (We had cones but in the height of the moment(s) forgot to put them out, d’oh!) Also, consider carrying include safety vests or other safety products to increase visibility. Whenever possible, move your vehicle as far off the road as you can. If your vehicle is not fully out of harm’s way, don’t stay inside your vehicle.

3. Multiple Solutions

While your first call will most likely be to Roadside Assistance (if you have it), don’t rely entirely on them to get you out of trouble – there may be a lengthy delay or they may not be able to help you! Try to think of other solutions on your own or call a mechanically inclined friend, your RV manufacturer or anyone else who may be able to assist. Sometimes the solutions you’re able to come up on your own are better than those offered by the service providers! Your alternate or interim solution might be able to progress alongside a service provider’s solution, increasing the effectiveness of both.

4. Stay Positive, Keep a Sense of Humor

We know, it’s not easy when you’re in a tough situation, but trying to stay upbeat, positive and keep a sense of humor will help keep things in perspective. It’s a far better option than simply getting angry or stressing over it, as ultimately that won’t change the outcome. Look for the lessons, appreciate the beauty of your surroundings or find the humor in the situation (like us being stranded 5 miles from a town called Nothing!) It will help you see it as part of the adventure, instead of simply an inconvenience so you come through it like a champ. It will help you navigate a tricky situation and give you an entertaining story (we hope!) to share over a campfire!

5. Keep Some Water on Board

It’s possible that some breakdowns and repairs may leave you in a situation where you are parked for a couple days without easy access to water. Plan on carrying enough water in your RV’s fresh water tank for 24-48 hours of sparing use in case you end up in a repair shop parking lot for a couple days.  We don’t recommend carrying a full tank of water because of the substantial weight involved.

6. Keep Things in Perspective

Remember that repairs and breakdowns are all part of the journey. Embracing that concept in advance will help keep you in a good frame of mind. Sure, it will likely be inconvenient, but there may also be some unexpected blessings that come out of it. Perhaps you’ll end up uncovering another needed repair you weren’t aware of. You might get the chance for an unexpected connection with people and places that weren’t on your original itinerary. The unplanned, serendipitous kind of experiences can often turn out to be trip highlights!

7. Maintain Your RV

Properly maintaining your RV with both scheduled and preventative maintenance will help reduce the likelihood of a breakdown or needing repairs at less convenient times and locations. It’s much better to make repairs on your schedule than on the side of the road. It will ensure smoother and less expensive travel in the long run, which makes the journey that much more enjoyable.

8. Roadside Assistance Service with RV Towing

It’s a good idea to have Roadside Assistance that includes towing, and be sure to check your plan covers RV towing! Towing can get very expensive for large RVs because they often can’t be towed by regular tow-trucks and may require a larger. less common flatbed tow truck. And the further you are from a repair facility, the more expensive a tow bill can be. Knowing you have towing service included will also reduce the temptation to drive an unsafe vehicle, and give you peace of mind. Check with your RV Manufacturer or Extended Warranty company to see if Roadside Assistance is included on your warranty.

9. Extended Service Contract / Warranty

Having a good extended service contract (commonly referred to as an extended warranty) on your RV can help reduce stress, by giving you peace of mind and financial comfort. Knowing that your out-of-pocket repair expense will likely be ‘capped’ at a pre-determined deductible (if that part/issue is covered by your policy) will reduce your concerns and ‘what if’ worries that can arise when you are unsure of the costs related to a repair. And, depending on your policy, your travel related expenses (hotels and meals) just may be covered if your RV is in the shop for a larger repair that keeps you out of your RV for several days (or more).

10. Be Prepared

Repairs and breakdowns are part of life, and not just RV life. They might be slightly more common in RV life because your home/vehicle is subjected to more movement and stress than a stick and brick home. When you are prepared for potential breakdowns or repairs by planning ahead and considering the potential risks or issues you may face well in advance, you will substantially reduce the stress (and cost) of the situation if / when the day comes.

We hope this follow up post and video has offered you some useful tips for how to handle an RV breakdown safely, with confidence, humor and minimal inconvenience – personally and financially! When you have all the important things in place to help you navigate a tricky situation like a breakdown, it’s easier to relax into it and remember, it’s all part of an amazing adventure!

Stay safe out there!

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13 thoughts on “RV Breakdowns: Q&A + 10 Tips for How to Deal with Them”

  1. My inverter went out all of a sudden. Didn’t know what happened. I can get it rebuilt or buy a new one. What’s your suggestion? 2007 phaeton 40ft qhs

    • We don’t know what the cost comparison is, but our inverter is new (2018) and so far advanced compared to what you would have in a 2007. Technology has changed so much over the years. Here is what we have – the Victron 3000 https://rvlove.com/bbbvictronsetup (we installed it with our 600ah Lithium setup) – we absolutely love it! It’s a hybrid inverter. Hope that helps!

  2. So what do you do when you buy a brand new class A. At 16oo miles we hear a scraping sound , get out and find that then battery box under the strap holding 4 batteries has dropped out and I’m pulling the 4 down the road at 60mph. Called “road service ” at 2:30 on 8/8 as of today 8/15 no return call …,, they took a look rediculous interview of me. Is this what we should expect and we purchased a very up scale RV

    • Hi Sandy, so sorry to hear of your experience, that is terrible. Sadly, buying new and even buying upscale doesn’t not always guarantee one’s RV will be trouble free. Not saying this is OK – it most certainly is NOT – but this is one area we would love to see improvements in the RV world – in the area of RV quality control!! We have spent significant time at RV factory tours in Indiana, Alabama, Oregon etc and believe most people would be shocked to see how some of these things are built. There ARE very good quality, well-constructed RVs out there, but they are the minority in our opinion. Has the issue now been fixed? Are you willing to share what motorhome this was – brand/model? There is certainly a lot to be aware of regarding brand quality, construction, warranty, customer support… from the manufacturer AND the dealer. And dealers are usually not the ones to rely on for education, their motive is to sell not educate. If you aren’t comfortable sharing the motorhome here publicly, would you be willing to share by email thebennetts [at] rvlove.com – we are always gathering more knowledge on RVs.

  3. your Miramar has duel 12 volt battery’s to handle the inverter. It feeds off the chassis alternator. The Generator provides less charging power to the house batteries than the Alternator.

  4. In reguards to the Ford Triton V-10 chasis. purchased a pre owned motorhome 2 years ago. So far I have had to invest $12,000.00 to keep it running.

  5. Another huge tip is to have an adequate emergency fund. These problems can be stressful but having an emergency fund already built up can help alleviate a lot of that stress.

    • Very true, having the funds to deal with an issue definitely helps keep stress down – I think that’s why we didn’t stress too much! We knew our out of pocket wouldn’t be too much as the majority would be covered by the extended service contract.

  6. We always keep our “Roadside Bible”‘with us. In it we keep all the names and numbers for Roadside Assistance plans and other Service Providers. We have three Roadside Assistance plans…SafeRide through FMCA, AAA Plus RV, and that provided in our Gieco policy. In addition to those numbers we keep a list of any Mobile Service providers we come accross. Many of these advertise in the campground maps you reveive when checking in to your camp site. Having the “Roadside Bible”, a current Atlas, and a copy of “The Next Exit” all at you fingertips sure helps during breakdowns when you are usually more than a little distracted.

    Love reading your posts, the content, and the videos! Travel Sale!

  7. Great video & blog. You touched on great points. It’s easy to over look certain maintenance issues when everything is going great. Great reminders. Thanks.

  8. Appreciate your willingness to share your experience it’s helpful. We have a Thor Miramar 34.1 added sumosprings and I’m trying to find out if the alternator charges the house batteries I don’t think I need to run the generator while driving. It has an inverter & two 6 VDC house batteries.


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