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What To Do If Your RV Breaks Down In The Middle Of Nowhere

RV being towed away - feature image for middle of nowhere breakdown
Be prepared in case your RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Photo: Shutterstock

Don’t Get Stuck In The Middle Of Nowhere: Know What To Do If Your RV Breaks Down

No one wants to experience a breakdown in the middle of nowhere in an RV or otherwise. I have experienced it a couple of times. With a little planning, you can be prepared to handle a breakdown.

What caused the breakdown, and exactly where you are in the middle of nowhere, will affect how you should handle the situation. But here are a few immediate steps you can take to ensure safety for you and your RV. 

Move your RV

If possible, move your RV off the road to avoid passing cars and semis. One time we had a blow-out but were able to very slowly limp to an exit ramp and pull off the road even more. The farther you can pull over, the better, especially if you need work done like putting on a new tire. Give yourself or the roadside service enough space to make repairs on your RV.

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Access the damage

What kind of damage has occurred will determine what your options are for a course of action. If it is a flat tire, do you have a spare, or do you need to call a repair shop? Is it an engine problem, do you need to call a mobile mechanic? Is the repair something you can fix? Do you have the right tools to do the repairs? 

How long will it take you to make the repairs or wait on service? Will it be dark before you can get the repairs completed and will you need lighting? Think through all the issues considering the tools you have, the time it takes for the repairs, and the replacement parts you may or may not have on hand.

Decide on a course of action

Once you have decided what the damage is, then you can decide your course of action. It should be clear whether this is a project you can do yourself or if you have the tools available to complete the job. If not, you will need to look for repair services, find out how far away they are, and determine if they can get there and how long it will take them.

If it is 2 p.m. and it will take them two hours to get there and another three hours for repairs, it will be 7 p.m.—will it be dark then where you are at?

Or you may call the repair service to find out they can’t make it to you until the next morning. Will you spend the night with the RV, or will you look for a hotel for the night? You don’t want to leave your rig if you don’t have to, but you also need to think about your personal safety.  

Make yourself visible

Open hoods, doors, and other hatches so that other drivers can see there is activity around the rig and not just a vehicle left on the side of the road. This will discourage thieves stopping by to see what they can take. But it also alerts local law enforcement you are stranded. They don’t always stop immediately, but they will make regular drive-bys to see what the progress is and if they need to report anything. You may also wave them down if you need water or immediate safety resources.

This is also the time you should break out an emergency kit. You should have road cones, flares, and other safety equipment to alert people to go around so they can safely avoid you at night, especially if you have been unable to get off the road at a good distance.

Take care of your physical needs

If you determined it is best to wait on someone to come and make a simple repair, you can be patient all you want. But if you are sitting in the hot sun or need fluids, you need to take the time to get some shade and have some water.

If you can’t get physical access to the inside of your RV due to damages, you should disconnect your truck or tow vehicle and go find these resources if it will be a while before help arrives. Be sure to put an anti-theft attachment on your trailer or fifth wheel while you are away. If help will arrive shortly, then wait inside your vehicle for the services.

If you can wait inside your RV, you can run air conditioning and access your refrigerator. But make sure using these features is not related to the damage. Or, if you need to put slides out to reach these items, make sure the slides moving out do not add to the damaged area.

When someone offers help

The best thing to do when someone stops to offer help is request if they can call the police station and let them know where you and your vehicle are. If you are alone in your RV travels, you should call 911 yourself. People will usually offer to help, but even if they seem harmless, you should decline their offer and let them know someone is coming to help. 

What if it isn’t your RV?

You might be pulling your RV with a truck, or you may even have a tow vehicle that has a mechanical issue. You will still want to get your whole set-up off the road as much as possible. Go through the same determinations above, but be aware you have no way to leave your rig for assistance.

Be prepared

It is always better to be prepared instead of wait until you are in a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Here are some items you should always have on hand when traveling:

Also, always maintain your check-ups like gas level, tire pressure, battery charges, and oil changes. You don’t want to be stuck by the side of the road with something you could have prevented with just a little maintenance.

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.

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