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Breakdowns on the Road

If you’re out on the road long enough, no matter how careful you are, no matter how new you RV is, or no matter how well you maintain your equipment, you’ll likely have breakdowns, and need to be towed in. After over 25 years and hundreds of thousands of miles, Coleen and I had to be towed in recently.

Breakdowns Are Part of RVing

Getting the Motorhome Hooked Up to the Tow TruckGetting the Motorhome Hooked Up to the Tow Truck

We had left the RV park feeling confident. The previous day I had done a check of the motor home, including checking the fluids, tires, and generally looking over the RV.

We had been on the road about ten minutes, and things didn’t seem right. We pulled over and did some checks. We didn’t find any obvious problems. We continued on.

We made another stop and checked a few things again, before getting onto the interstate highway. I found nothing.

We entered the interstate and everything was fine for five or so miles. Then the engine would rev, but the power wasn’t all getting to the wheels. An exit sign appeared, and we limped to the off ramp.

We were safely out of speeding traffic on the highway and I went to investigate. I first noticed a mist of oily substance on the rear of the motor home. When I raised the hood and checked the transmission fluid, I found the problem.

Instead of the pretty red fluid I had seen earlier that day, I found a gray, smelly fluid, with a metallic glisten. I knew the transmission was shot.
Coleen and I retreated back into the motor home to formulate a plan.

Our Motorhome Is Hooked Up for Towing to the Transmission ShopOur Motorhome Is Hooked Up for Towing to the Transmission Shop

We dug out the road service card, and called the number. We described the problem and provided our location. The road service rep said she would find us help, and call us back in about fifteen minutes.

She called back with the name of a towing company and the name of the transmission shop he would take us to. The tow truck would be there in about ninety minutes.

Ninety minutes later, almost to the minute, we received a call from the towing company, asking for better directions as the truck couldn’t find us. After clarification of the directions, the tow truck arrived on the scene five minutes later.

There weren’t too many words exchanged with the tow truck driver. “Are you going to Atkin’s Transmission?” he asked. “Yep,” I replied, and he started to hook up.

I watched as the driver hooked up to the A-arms of the front suspension of the motor home. He seemed to know what he was doing, but I made sure he wasn’t going to tear up anything.

Sometime while hooking up, the road service called to confirm the tow truck had made it out to help us.

When we were about ready to go, I mentioned my concern about the black water tank, which was closer to the pavement than I thought it should be. He checked and thought it would be okay.

We all piled into the crowded cab of the tow truck and headed off. The motor home reached speeds it had never seen driving under its own power. The ride didn’t do anything to calm us after an already anxious day.

We arrived at the transmission shop, and drug the black water tank going into the driveway. The driver started to unhook, as Coleen and I went in to see if this was where we wanted to be, and if they could help us. I went out to the motor home and pointed out the black water tank to the driver, he shrugged as if to say, "Those things happen." That was it, and he left.

Nowhere in this process did we provide him our names, road service number, or sign a receipt.
Overall, our road service got us a towing service, got them out to our location, got us towed to a facility that was qualified to do our repair, and covered the tow bill. They kept in contact with us until they knew the tow truck driver had arrived to help us.

I can’t say I was thrilled with the tow service. But, from what I know of tow services and previous experiences with them, I would rate them average.

We’ve used our emergency road service plan three times in about 25 years. Figuring the premiums verses the cost of the actual services we’ve used, I would guess we’re close to even, with the road services a little ahead.

When it comes to convenience, and peace of mind, we’re definitely ahead. Even now with cell phones and the internet, finding a tow truck to pull in a motor home or truck and trailer can be a headache. Finding a service facility can be another headache. With one call a road service can arrange a tow, find a repair facility, and summon law enforcement, rescue, and medical personnel. I would highly recommend getting an emergency road service plan.

A word of caution: read the policy and make sure it covers what you need it to. Like most insurances, warranties, and plans such as this, there are ifs, ands, and buts. There are limits, exclusions, add-ons, and extras. Some cover all your vehicles; some only cover specified vehicles. Some are good anywhere; some are only good after a specified distance from your home. Some have deductibles; some have limits on miles towed; and some have limits on the number of occurrences. Some cover fuel delivery, lock outs, and battery jumps; some do not. Read the whole agreement! Drive safely, and hope you never need to use it.


Editor's note: My husband, Bob Nilles, wrote this article. He does most of the maintenance and repairs on all of our vehicles, including our motorhome. However, when we have major breakdowns -- such as this transmission going out -- it sure is handy to have an emergency roadside assistance membership.

Read more about RV maintenance and repair.

See more of Bob's RV Life and Travel articles.

Go to the RV Life and Travel home page to find more articles about RVs, RV camping, and full-time RVing.

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