Who suffers camper van breakdown?
It’s every road traveler’s worst nightmare. These tales are swapped around campfires like so many scary ghost stories.
As much as you’d like to believe that it will never happen to you, it eventually comes for everyone.
It’s the inevitable campervan breakdown.
You may be thinking, “My van is new, so this doesn’t apply to me,”
Or “I spent six-figures on my van and that only happens to junkers.”
But campervan are complicated machines that are subjected to constant abuse, and eventually, everyone breaks down in some fashion.
Please enjoy or Campervan breakdown Survival Guide.
Table of Contents
Preparation is king
There are varying degrees of a breakdown, and hopefully if it happens to you, it’s nothing major.
Keeping up on your campervan maintenance is one of the best ways to prevent a lot of possible vehicle issues.
By adhering to a campervan maintenance schedule you can usually keep the most preventable issues from arising.
Getting to know your van, knowing what’s normal and what’s not, and keeping vital parts on board if possible are also great ways to minimize campervan problems.
If you’ve got a van with a warranty, get familiar with what’s covered and for how long.
Stay up to date with anything that’s under warranty or update your warranty if possible.
Let your friends or family know your itinerary. Then when campervan trouble arises, someone will know where to find you.
It’s probably a good idea for everywhere, but especially when traveling through remote areas.
No Campervan breakdown Survival Guide would be complete without mention of roadside assistance insurance.
Having a roadside assistance package with your insurance can help alleviate some of the stress of a breakdown.
Many companies even let you file a claim via an app, which makes getting help even easier.
Knowing that a tow won’t cost you any extra money can certainly be a relief when your van breaks down.
Good Sam Roadside Assistance is one of our favorite services for campervan insurance. Click here for more info.
So now you’re broken down
Unfortunately, I’ve already had more than my fair share of campervan breakdowns. Here is my best advice for handling that dreaded event.
Is everyone safe?
Begin by making sure everyone is safe and unharmed. Check yourself, your travel partners or family, and your pets to ensure everyone is alright.
Take a deep breath
First of all, don’t panic. Do whatever you can to stay calm so that you can properly handle the situation.
Collect your thoughts, and take a minute to be present.
Slowing down a bit will allow you to think clearly and strategically.
If possible, move your van to a safe spot. Pull the van off the road and away from traffic if you can.
If you can’t move the van off the road, do what you can to avoid an accident with oncoming traffic.
If you have road flares or cones, now’s the time pull them out and set them up as recommended.
If your van is blocking traffic, it’s often best to wait beside the road while waiting for a tow truck, vs sitting in the van.
Make the call
Next, if you’re lucky enough to break down in a spot with a cell signal, call for help.
If you’ve got a no start issue at a campground, assess your situation carefully.
Some campground hosts will require an immediate tow, while others may be helpful in finding a reputable mechanic.
Pro mechanics only
People nearby may want to help, but don’t let strangers touch your van.
Many people claim to be mechanics but it’s best to wait for a professional.
Plan for being away from your van
Once you’re safe, eat a snack. Yes, I know that seems silly during a stressful event like a breakdown, but trust me on this one.
You may be separated from your campervan kitchen later, so a snack now will get you through whatever you’re about to be dealing with. You’ll thank me later.
Make sure your basic needs are still being met. Nobody can function well when they’re “hangry”, and you might have a long day ahead of you from this point.
Collect whatever small things you may need while en route to the mechanic, or for a long wait.
Working with tow truck drivers
Before you call a tow truck, figure out where you’re going to be towed.
Google maps is a great resource for finding someone nearby, getting their contact information, as well as reading reviews.
It’s best to call the mechanic before you call the tow truck to make sure they can service your particular vehicle.
Some shops cannot work on extra tall or long vehicles, diesel engines, or foreign models, so don’t assume that any nearby mechanic can help you without verifying first.
Once you’ve narrowed down your location, call 2 or more tow companies to get quotes for being towed to a specific location.
Make sure you ask about the total cost, including base rate, miles towed, and any other fees for things such as an extra large vehicle or towing from a remote location.
If you have roadside assistance, most of this will be done by your agent and they may have rules about where you can or cannot be towed.
Even if your insurance company arranges the tow and destination for you, make sure it will work for you before committing.
When my van broke down recently, my insurance arranged a tow to the nearest dealership.
When I called the dealership to ask if they’d service my particular vehicle, I found that the dealership no longer existed!
Your insurance company doesn’t know the nuances of getting your campervan serviced, so it’s best to take some of it into your own hands.
Finding a reputable mechanic
Going to a reputable mechanic is one of the most important factors when dealing with a breakdown.
Depending on your situation and location, you may be limited on options, but it might be worth it to tow or limp further to a shop that knows your van.
Check your specific vehicle’s forum or Facebook groups for local recommendations. A mechanic might have great Google reviews but know nothing about your vehicle.
Dealing with mechanics
Many mechanics will allow you to stay in your van on their lot while waiting for the repair if you’re willing to ask.
I once lived in a mechanic’s parking lot for 3 weeks during a breakdown and while it wasn’t glamorous, I did enjoy free coffee, snacks, and a nearby bathroom for a while.
Mobile mechanics are also becoming more popular, and your breakdown situation might allow for this option instead.
Search Google to see if there are mobile mechanics in your area and to read their reviews as well
Once you’ve found your mechanic, stay on top of the repair progress every day. Get details and updated timelines for every step of the repair.
Making the most of your down time
Hopefully your repairs won’t leave you stranded for too long, but think about what you can be doing to use your time wisely.
If you travel with a friendly pet, some mechanics might allow your pet to wait in the shop with you.
If your pet struggles with this though, you may need to make other plans.
Consider renting a car to visit some of the local sites while you’re waiting on your campervan.
Sometimes your insurance will cover a rental car while your repairs are being done, so check with your company before paying for one on your own.
Many dealerships also offer complimentary shuttles. While these are typically used to take customers home, I once had a shuttle take me to the gym/shower while I was waiting for my van.
Instead of sitting at the mechanic, use this time to check out what’s within walking distance. Are there hikes, breweries, dog parks, a library or laundromats nearby?
Also think about what else you’ve been putting off that you now have forced time for.
Some shops have free Wi-Fi and can be a great place to get some work done.
- Everyone suffers a breakdown eventually
- It comes down to how prepared you are for it
- Emergency roadside insurance can make all the difference
- Make sure everyone’s safe
- Take a minute to get calm, if time allows
- Get the van to a safe spot
- Call for help
- Find a mechanic who can handle your van
- Choose tow trucks wisely
- Use down time to get things done, see local sights…
Hopefully it’s a long time before your campervan breaks down, but this Campervan breakdown Survival Guide will help you navigate it when it does happen.