RV "How To" Posts

How To Handle Mechanical Failures

Old Electric Jack


Oh No!!! Now What???

When everything is working properly mechanical failures are the furthest things from people’s minds. What happens at the moment something goes wrong? What do you do? How do you handle it?

Ohmmm
Remain Calm!!!

The best and most important way to handle a mechanical breakdown of any kind is to try and stay calm. Getting all anxious, uptight, or super angry won’t solve anything. You have to remember that your RV is in the equivalent of an earthquake every time it rolls down the road. Think about some of those potholes you have hit.

Interstate Earthquakes

Couple that with the quality issues the RV industry has as a whole and you have the perfect recipe for a mechanical breakdown. I am pretty good mechanically having come from an automotive background, but you don’t necessarily have to be mechanically inclined to handle a bad situation. That is where calm comes in.

We just had one of those situations arise as we were getting ready to leave our last campground. You might have seen some pictures on our Facebook page. While my wife is good at many things, emergencies, whether it be medical or mechanical is not one of those times…lol. Let me explain what happened to us and then I will give you some tips on how to prepare for a mechanical breakdown.

All According To Plan

We were preparing to leave the campground we had just finished our workamping assignment at. Everything was going according to plan. We didn’t have the greatest experience at this campground so we couldn’t wait to get out of there. We had told them we would be gone by 1 pm since that was the earliest check-in at the campground we were going to which was right down the road.

Old Electric Jack

As the time was getting close to 1 pm we were right on schedule and we were on our final phase, hooking up the truck. I backed up to the RV and walked up to the hitch. I removed the hitch locks and pushed the button on the tongue jack to raise it and nothing happened. Hmmm, that’s strange. I pushed it again with the same result. I turned the light on that was right next to it and that worked so I knew the power was getting there. After a few more checks I determined I was not getting anywhere with the switch.

Manual Override

No worries, this jack (I think all power jacks do), has a manual override. I popped off the cap and there was the override nut. I grabbed my trusty socket and ratchet and tried to turn the nut. Instead of the nut turning as it should of, it broke into a million pieces. What? What just happened? Well, apparently the motor was seized. So here we are in a campground that has not been very good for us and no way to hook up. One look at my wife’s face and I knew not to make any negative reactions…lol

New Crank Jack

I know that a lot of trailer hitches are universal. As long as you get the same bolt pattern with enough weight capacity I didn’t necessarily need an RV travel trailer hitch, it could be almost any trailer hitch. The funniest thing is we had a store right around the block from us called Tractor Supply. We never heard of this store until a day or so before when we were complaining to someone about the super high cost of propane at the KOA (even for employees!!!) and someone suggested we go there.

Tractor Supply

We had been at that store earlier to fill our propane tank (it was a $1 per gallon cheaper than KOA!!!), but we didn’t really walk through because we were just getting propane. Anyway, we decided to call because there was nothing else near us that we could think of that even remotely had a jack. The employee on the other end of the phone knew exactly what we were talking about and said he had 1 left. Woohoo!!! Saved!!!

After a quick trip to the store and a few laughs with the employees, we were on our way back to the campground. It took me under 10 minutes to install and it worked perfectly. The only difference is instead of pushing the button to make it go up and down we have to crank the handle. I will eventually order a new electric one but you can bet I will always keep this manual one moving forward just in case.

So What’s My Point?

So what is the point of this long drawn out story and how does that help you with mechanical breakdowns? There are a few hidden messages in this story that can be applied to almost any type of breakdown. That is where the tips come in. If you can apply each one of these tips to a mechanical breakdown situation you should at least get through it without having a nervous breakdown or getting yourself hurt.

Here are some Basic Tips

The most important tip I can give you is to remain calm. Once something has happened you can’t change it. It’s already done. You can’t rectify a situation when you are in panic mode.

Make sure everyone is safe. This actually should be done as you are remaining calm…lol. If you have broken down on the road, make sure everyone is out of the vehicle and safely on the side of the road. Once everyone is safe, turn on your 4-way flasher and put out your DOT reflective triangles.

Assess the situation. Ok, time to think about the issue. Is it something you can fix? A flat tire maybe? Or is it something that is either way beyond your mechanical skills or knowledge?

Always carry tools. You should always carry a good set of basic tools, a jack, and of course duct tape. There is nothing more frustrating than breaking down and knowing how to fix it but you don’t have any tools.


Good Sam Roadside Assistance

If you are not mechanical or the fix is too big for the side of the road, you need to have a Roadside Assistance plan. It’s a small price to pay to ensure you and your family’s safety if you break down and can’t handle the fix yourself. There are many plans out there. Start with looking into your insurance companies’ plan. If that won’t work for you, start researching the other plans out there. Make sure it’s a good fit for you.

So you see there is not a lot to it. You can either fix it or you can’t and if you can’t get it towed to someone who can. It will never help if you are panicking, cursing, or throwing things around. That solves nothing. Of course, you will get mad or angry. No one likes to break down but there is nothing you can do about it. Once it happens it becomes a problem that is not going away by yelling at it.

Safety First…Always!!!

I can’t stress “safety first” enough. That should always be your first priority. No situation is worth your life!!! In our case, we were in a campground away from any kind of traffic. We stayed calm, thought it out and came up with a plan. We found a replacement part and had the proper tools to install it. The perfect flow. Remember, if the problem is too big to handle, Roadside Assistance is the answer.

I hope this has helped ease your fears as far as breakdowns go. Remember things will happen when you are RV’ing, especially if you are full-timing. It’s how you handle the situation that will determine whether you are happy or miserable.

If you have any questions or a story about something that happened to you that you would like to share, leave it in the comment section below.




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