When Bad Things Happen: An RV Cautionary Tale

The phone rang in the front office and the call was immediately transferred to me. A semi-hysterical woman wept unintelligibly into the receiver. Slowly, I began to piece her words together. In the three months that I had run this RV resort, I had never had a phone call so disturbing.

"Take a deep breath," I said, "Tell me what I can help you with today."

A cold silence loomed on the other end of the phone. Finally, there was a deep sigh and the woman spoke in an unsteady voice.

"I am on the side of the freeway just outside of Amarillo, Texas. Our 5th Wheel has split in half; we are untowable, and it's snowing. I have reservations at your park in Arizona, and I have no idea how or when we will get there."

Over the course of the next two weeks, I kept in touch with Sarah and Bill. They sat in their full-time home, stuck on the side of the road waiting for a welder to piece their frame back together. Authorities ticketed the RV and the charges increased on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the couple was stuck. Without the frame being re-welded, there was no way to tow the rig to an RV repair shop. Finally, the couple got their home off the road and into a repair shop, but only to find a four month waiting time.

Believe it or not, this story is not that unusual.

Sarah and Bill eventually made it to Arizona, choosing to leave their 5th wheel for five months in Texas, in hopes of repairs. This is when RV insurance and a good warranty really count. As full-timers, Sarah and Bill had everything they owned sitting on the side of the road in a snowstorm. They needed help, and needed it now!

Or consider another true story:

After leaving three months of intense work camping, busy Mitch and Kevin packed their RV and broke camp in the middle of the night. They were off to the next job four states away. Unfortunately in their hurry, they forgot to unplug from the electric pedestal, ripping it clean off the site.

Later that same evening, they accidentally turned short in a parking lot. A nearby pole from the local car wash pierced the side of their 5th wheel, tearing a hole in their water tanks and passing clean through the other end of the rig.

The couple then limped state by state to their next job with a nearly unusable RV. The incident was then followed by two weeks of living out of a hotel, displaced and unable to commute to their job.

The fact of the matter is, bad things happen to RVers, and it's best to be prepared!

Here are a few common safety tips that can save you a lot of pain:

#1 Check your tire pressure often.

Tire issues are common when it comes to RVs. Think about it: your entire home is relying on the rubber beneath it. With this in mind, it is important to know the exact recommended PSI for each of your tires and check it often. Remember, rough roads, weather and wear can contribute to tire issues. Blowouts occur all the time. Don't let this happen to you. Be proactive!

#2 Check The Age Of Your Tires.

Sunlight, UV rays, and extreme temperatures all contribute to tire decay. Most experts agree that 5-7 years is the life of a high-quality RV tire. Don't risk a blowout. There is a simple way to tell the exact manufacture date on your RV. According to TireBuyer.com, "If you look closely at the side of each of your tires, you'll see a bunch of letters and numbers. While this may just look like a confusing jumble, it's useful info. Look for a number that starts with the letters “DOT,” followed by a series of 10-12 characters. This code, which is required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), will tell you several things:

Week, year, and place of manufacture
Tire size
Manufacturer's unique code

The date of manufacture is the last four digits of the DOT code. The first two digits are the week of manufacture, and the last two digits are the year. For example, if the last four digits of the DOT code are 0203, that means that the tire was manufactured during the second week of the year 2003. "

#3 Use Your Partner.

If you are traveling with someone, always ask them to help. Why have a passenger if they aren't going to help? The second pair of eyes can keep you from disaster. Here are just a few items they can help with:

  • Helping you back up
  • Helping line the RV with the hookups
  • Helping you turn in a tight space (watching for rocks, branches, etc.)
  • Controlling traffic in an emergency
  • Unhooking or rehooking your toad or trailer
  • Double checking everything is unhooked

Traveling alone? Most RVers are super friendly and more than willing to help. Ask your neighbor to help you out. You never know when you will be asked to do the same!

#4 Reminder Systems

One of the first things you discover when RVing is just how many things there are to remember. Did you pull in your awning? Have you unplugged? Is your antenna down? Is your entire family in the rig?

Avoid problems by using a checklist or some other system of reminders. Whatever your reminder system is, it's best to have a master list somewhere in case your partner has to drive. A master list can also serve as a great incentive to the next buyer when it's time to sell your rig.

#5 Always walk around the unit twice.

This tip is simple, but oh so savvy. Before you leave your campsite, be sure to walk around your unit two full times. Look for items you may have left dangling, plugged in or set out. I have seen RV's pull out of our park, dragging extension cords and sewer hoses. Believe me, you do not want this to happen to you.

#6 Don't drive when you are tired.

This tip is easier said than done. Driving an RV requires increased concentration. Don't travel when you are weary. Exhaustion leads to accidents. Instead, plan a cut off time. It is better to go fewer miles and feel refreshed than to risk disaster driving late into the night. If you must stay on the road, use rest areas and take regular naps. Focus is everything. Keep your family safe by taking care of the driver.

#7 Drive slow and careful.

Hey! You are no longer driving a car. If you hate crazy drivers than avoid being one. I have seen RV's tear out of parks traveling 40 miles an hour over speed bumps. Your family, home, and investment rely on your skill as a driver. SLOW DOWN. Need I say more?

#8 Check your weight.

No one likes to get on a scale. Instead, we fool ourselves into believing we are lighter than we look. RV's are no exception. Your rig is built to haul a specific amount safely, and no more! Believe it or not, food, clothes and camping gear add up. Toss in 50 gallons of fresh water and you may have reached your limit.

Remember the story of the broken 5th wheel frame? The issue was too much weight. Determine the best weight of your rig fully loaded, and then travel to a truck weigh station and see how you did. Are you heavier than you thought? If so, take some items out. Don't risk a tire blowout or a frame brake due to carelessness. This is one disaster that is easy to avoid.

Sometimes, no amount of planning will help you avoid bad things. It happens to all of us and that's why there is RV insurance. Good RV insurance covers your rig as well as your belongings, your awnings, and your personal liability. Are you truly covered? There's only one way to find out.

Take a few moments and contact one of our RVinsurance agents. Our agents are RV specialists who will make sure you are covered for every possible situation. No one likes disasters, but when they do happen, it's a relief to know there is someone there to take care of you. You can get a free, no hassle quote here or by calling 1-866-646-1755!