What to Do when your RV Needs Repairs
Traveling in an RV is one of the most relaxing, exciting, and unique ways to travel. It can also be very cost-effective in place of flights, hotels, and eating all meals at restaurants. After all, having a personal home-on-wheels with a kitchen and bathroom is one of the many perks of RVing. Because a motorhome is a hybrid between a car and a home, parts in both the home portion and the “car” portion are keen to breakdowns. When the worst happens, it’s important to have a game plan. What happens if you’re on your way to your next Harvest Hosts location but something on your RV breaks? Stay tuned as we discuss what to do next time you’re on the road and your RV needs repairs.
If you’re unlucky enough to be driving your RV when it breaks down or requires repair, please put safety first. Slow the vehicle down as best as you can and signal to pull off the road as soon as possible. Ideally, this would be at an exit, parking lot, or wide emergency pull-off, but we aren’t always that lucky. Use your best judgement, and park in the safest place possible. Then break out your emergency kit to set up your hazard triangles or flares.
Having roadside assistance for any vehicle is a lifesaver. Unexpected breakdowns or accidents can occur, leaving you stranded at best. Many auto insurance companies, such as Geico, Allstate, or Progressive, offer a roadside assistance add-on for a few extra dollars per month for your vehicles, including an RV. Check out your policy to see if you’re able to obtain roadside assistance. If not, then check out some third party options such as Good Sam Roadside Assistance, AAA, or Eagle Vision’s Roadside Assistance plans.
If your RV needs roadside assistance, contact your provider to get help as soon as possible, whether that be a battery jump, emergency fuel, or a tow. In the event of needing a tow, be sure to provide as much information as possible to receive the best help. This can include the RV class (A, B, or C), the height, the weight, the length, the drivetrain, and the location of your stranded vehicle. Large motorhome owners can sometimes need to wait longer than smaller RV owners, as it can be difficult (and expensive) to obtain a wrecker large enough to tow a large Class A motorhome.
For towable RVs with a disabled tow vehicle, it may be necessary to obtain a rental vehicle (often covered by insurance) to resume towing your RV. In some cases, roadside assistance may cover separate towing for both the tow vehicle and the trailer, allowing owners to avoid having to rent a vehicle that is equipped to tow their RV. If, for some reason, your towable RV is disabled (wheel or suspension issues, etc), then a flatbed tow may be necessary.
Locating a Repair Shop or Mobile Mechanic
Knowing where to take your RV for repairs is the next variable in this equation. RV mechanics are a specific type of mechanic, whether they’re working on the coach portion, the chassis portion, or both. These mechanics are a lot tougher to find than an ordinary mechanic. Class A owners may have an especially tough time locating a mechanic due to the size of the RV and the type of engine their RV has. It’s not uncommon for a repair shop to only perform chassis repairs or coach repairs, and it can be difficult to find a repair shop that can work on both. If you have found one in the past, consider yourself lucky!
Chassis Repairs for Class B or C
Most Class B or C RVs can be taken to a regular mechanic for repairs, depending on the type of work that may need to be done. Chassis repairs, or anything non-coach related (engine, wheels, etc.) can mostly fall within a mechanic’s expertise, especially if you know the make of your chassis (Ford, Chevy, etc.). Before selecting a mechanic, research the ones in your immediate area for reliability. Contact them before being towed there to be sure to confirm they can work on your RV.
Chassis Repairs for Class A
Finding a repair shop for a large Class A can be a little trickier. Some large truck repair shops can assist with chassis repairs, but not all feel comfortable working on an RV. It’s best to locate a specialty RV shop to ensure they can accommodate the size of your RV and will be more familiar with it. Be sure to mention if your RV has a diesel engine to ensure the mechanic is comfortable working on it.
Finding a mechanic that can work on the coach, or house, portion of your RV can be a challenge. Thankfully, someone who can perform coach repairs can oftentimes repair almost anything found in an RV, from the refrigerator to the roof or even the slide outs. Similar to locating a mechanic, be sure to research ones nearby for reliability, and always call before having your RV towed to their location.
Locating a mobile mechanic to fix your RV can be a lifesaver, especially without roadside assistance. A mobile mechanic often drives a van or truck to bring all the necessary components to diagnose and repair RVs. Sometimes mobile mechanics can be more costly than a repair shop due to travel fees. However, many mobile mechanics are on call seven days a week, which isn’t the case for most shops. Continue to do your research to ensure you find a reliable mechanic who can fix your problem. Keep in mind that if the diagnosed problem is more extensive, your RV may still need to be towed to a shop to have the repairs completed.
Where to Stay
If your RV has been towed to a shop, you may be wondering what to do next. After all, your home-on-wheels has just been taken away. Some specialty RV repair shops allow for RVers to remain with their RV and may even have hookups available. Be sure to call and discuss the potential of staying with your RV before having it towed to that location. Alternatively, some insurance, warranty, or service plans will cover or reimburse for hotel or interrupted travel expenses. Consider checking for a nearby hotel or Airbnb to stay in while your RV is being repaired. You could also obtain a rental vehicle to finish traveling to your final destination and pick up your RV on your way back. After all, interrupted plans are no fun, but sometimes folks are still able to make the most of their situation.
Paying for Repairs
Awaiting the final bill is one of the greatest misfortunes of requiring RV repairs. Hopefully your RV just needs a simple repair to get back on the road, but some issues, particularly any serious mechanical failures, are more costly to repair. However, if your RV has a warranty, an extended warranty, or a service plan, your necessary repair may be covered. If your RV falls within the warranty period, the entire repair may be covered. An extended warranty or service plan may require a deductible to be paid, but will still pay for any repairs covered under the plan, as well. Before having your RV towed anywhere, always check your warranty or service plan to see which specific locations would be covered. Are you looking for advice on extended warranties to help cover the cost of potential future repairs? Check out our helpful article on choosing an RV extended warranty.
Experiencing a breakdown in your RV is never a fun time. It can be stressful, expensive, or even dangerous if you were driving when the mechanical failure occurred. The best course of action is to always be prepared and to ensure you are performing your routinely scheduled rig maintenance to help prevent problems. Still, if your RV needs repairs, we hope the suggestions listed here will help you to navigate these difficult decisions and get you back on the road in no time.
Has your RV ever broken down? What did you do? Are you prepared for a breakdown? Tell us about it in the comments!
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My first trip out was a nightmare. My nee 3500 diesel pickup pulling my fifth wheel broke quit 3 times from ny to fl. Thanks to my Allstate Ins they helped but finding a mechanic for a diesel PICKUP and not a semi was difficult AND expensive – even though it was nothing serious. Im investigating coverage for future trips for sure!
That does not sound fun. Glad it wasn’t serious, but definitely suggest better coverage for future trips. Best of luck to you, and thanks for sharing!
Several incidents over ten years. Large, almost new, Class A on Freightliner chassis lost hydraulic fluid to emergency brake, engaging the brake as we crossed under I10 from I27. Felt a bump but no other indication except a warning light. Pulled off into an abandoned truck stop. Huge smoke billowing out from underside. I chased my wife out and quickly followed. Smoke was from a burning brake shoe. Rv company covered the long tow to El Paso and all repairs
On two occasions with different toy hauler trailers, lost an entire wheel, drum and all which destroyed the axils. In West Yellowstone we found a mobile Rv repair guy who had us back running in two days. Outside of Augusta GA wheel and drum rolled along side of me on I20 within a small opening during rush hour. Both wheel and Rv stopped on berm just shy of an exit ramp. Found a church parking to stay in for three days. (Sent them a nice donation) Good Sam sent a repair service who was unable to do the repair. We loaded the trailer on an 18 wheeler flat bed and had it towed back to Houston. $3,000
Still enjoy Rving. Life happens!
Oof, these sounds stressful! I have also had my share of unfortunate RV events, but totally agree it’s still fun though. Thanks for sharing, Ed!
I started my adventures in a 20-yr old 38′ diesel. After many repairs and learning most places do not have access to parts for that old mega-rig, I traded it in for a 26′ class C, only 5 yrs old now. The most expensive repair was the “being towed down the mountain with 9 switchbacks in 4 miles” because my dash told me I had no psi in my brakes! Turned out the computer dash was too old and just faulty. No parts available, all on back-order for months!
Do yourself a favor and unless you love being a mechanic (instead of hiking, for example), get a newer unit. Don’t expect a warranty to save you time (it might save you money) because RV repair shops are filled with units waiting for warranty parts or approvals.
That sounds so frustrating! I definitely agree that the warranties can save money but most certainly not time. My experience with the warranties each time has been that they can take 3-4 weeks for approvals, parts, etc. It’s so long to wait, especially in the middle of a road trip. Ironically enough, I write this while stuck at a repair shop waiting on a new computer for my RV. Should be here this week, hopefully. Glad to hear you traded it in for a rig that’s been working out better for you!
Good Sam has generally been good for road service. That said, the last time I had a tire problem (the third in 14 years), they responded, said the tire could not be fixed and that the 8 year old spare was fine. The spare blew the next day taking its partner with it. Good Sam responded and replaced both tires and in 10 minutes fixed the unfixable spare. I filed a tire claim, sending all information and pictures to the two different email addresses they gave me. Two months later they denied the claim because I did not file the paperwork. No indication in my email that they gave me bad emai addresses. Several phone calls and emails resulted in NO help.
Get in touch with RV magazine! They will help you get your money!
I have had both good and bad experiences with Good Sam, so I totally understand the frustration. The price is pretty good, and the monthly payments are helpful, but they can certainly be difficult at times. Sorry to hear about the recent negative experience!
Be sure you know who to call when calling for roadside assistance. The major companies such as All-State may not provide services if you breakdown on a state turnpike as I recentlyexperienced. Call the state’s department of transportation (DOT) or state police for assistance to avoid wasting your time and risking your safety.
That sounds terrible and so scary, sorry to hear this was your experience! Thanks for sharing, though.
I have thought about that too. Driving a class a motorhome 30 feet long, I can’t imagine having it towed anywhere at any distance. I purchased the RV rider from AAA. Added a few bucks and now I wait to see how this will go down. As I put on quite a few miles during the year, being a professional full-time RVer, frequent maintenance must be the key. My house is my truck, but Ford dealerships should be able to service the F550 chasis.
I have a Ford chassis as well, with a 36-foot motorhome. My RV insurance offers roadside assistance, but the two times I’ve been towed have been very difficult. I’m hoping you never have to experience this, but if you do, it’s great that you have the AAA package!