What Happens When Your RV Breaks Down On The Highway

When we broke down last time in Huntsville, AL we said we were so lucky that we had a car with us, that we were close to places we could take the rig in, and that it happened on a side road by a parking lot . . .

Then it happened again . . . this time on I80 in the middle of Iowa on the highway with no car. Yup – all the things we said helped with the last time we didn’t have this time. That’s full time RV living for you!

Here’s the story:

We are cruisin down the highway after leaving an awesome $15 a night campground called Arrowcreak outside of Omaha, Nebraska. Excited to get to Illinois to an RV park where we could hook up for the night, blast some AC (it was like 100 degrees outside and no AC in the RV while we are driving), do some laundry, showers, and fill up water before heading to meet Craig’s family for a boondocking camping weekend.

Then the noise. You know when you a hear a noise and you just hope it goes away. It didn’t go away. Craig and I looked at each other and decided he needed to pull over. I finish typing out a message as he went to check. I was thinking it wasn’t a big deal. . .

I grab my shoes and jump out to see what’s upย and there is fluid all over the ground under the RV. Well that can’t be good! The semi’s and cars are flying by us and the whole RV is shaking. We knew we couldn’t drive it – I did ask Craig just in case since I could see a gas station up ahead but he gave a firm NO. Which was the right choice!

We both went back to the RV and started packing up a backpack, water, ipads, a few snacks. We really didn’t know what was going to happen next but we just wanted to get the kids off of the side of the highway.

In order to do that we had to walk through waist high tall grass with who knows what crawling around in it to a barbed wire fence that Craig lifted the kids and Indy (our dog) over. Both Craig and I were able to put a hand on the railing and climb over. Then up to a dirt road.

The dirt road went nowhere. I could see the truck stop/gas station up ahead but we couldn’t see how to get to it. I googled it on my phone and it was a 2 1/2 mile or hour long walk. Did I mention it was 100 degrees outside . . .

Since getting back from Canada Craig’s phone has not been working well so he had no service. That meant we had 1 phone with 50% battery power left. We googled Dodge Dealers and started to call to see which ones would service our RV (it has a Dodge Sprinter Chassis).

We got a hold of what we thought was the closest one and they said they could get us in on Monday. It was Wednesday. Like seriously. . . we are stranded on the side of the road here. We called another place and after being on hold for about 20 minutes we finally found out that they could get us in the next morning. Only problem was it was 1 hour away from where we were. . .

Craig called roadside assistance and found out we have a 45 mile tow range. Well this place was 65 miles away. So we would have to pay a $100 difference. Whatever let’s just go. Problem was the tow truck driver did not have a place for all 6 of us and a dog . . . One problem at a time. Let’s just get the tow truck here and figure that out.

When the guy got there he recommended a closer Dodge place about 18 miles away (it didn’t show up on Google search since Dodge wasn’t in the name). We called and they said sure they could get us in tomorrow morning. The tow truck driver also offered to have me and kids ride in the RV while it was being towed. At this point that sounded just fine. Was it the safest no – but sitting out in the 100 degree heat wasn’t either. Plus the kids would be buckled in their seats. The ride really wasn’t that bad at all.

Luckily the place was all on back roads so we didn’t have to go on the highway like that. We got to the place he recommended and didn’t have to pay the additional $100! The service Manager and their whole team were so nice and helpful when we got there. Bringing us and our dog water and offering to run an extension cord out to the RV so we had some power.

They even had a mini van that they would loan us! We had pretty much decided we would just stay in the RV overnight vs paying for a hotel (note: check your roadside assistance and see how much it costs to get a plan that includes a rental car and hotel stay . . .).

As we rounded the corner to go back to the RV we saw some guys working on it. We hurried over there to see what they are doing – maybe it was an easy fix!

The guys were pulling the belt off that had totally ripped apart and found that it had hit a transmission line – which was why there was fluid all over the ground. The service manager had one of their guys call the owner of the parts store down the street (it had just closed) so they could get the parts they needed to fix it.

We hung out there just hoping that it would be an easy fix. By this time it was 5pm – when everyone should have headed home. But instead these guys stayed and continued to work on it. The whole time they were doing it we could see a storm moving in and they had mentioned how they had had a tornado there the night before . . . yes the story gets better and better :).

2 hours later they had the new belt on, the line patched up, new transmission fluid in and everything seemed to be running well. The service manager went to take it for a test drive and literally the minute he drove off the lot a huge gust of wind came from the storm and we all ran in the building.

We kept thinking this guy is driving our RV out there in this weather?! But we were all safe in the building watching the strong storm outside. A few minutes later he came back and said it got a little crazy but was all good.

The guys wouldn’t let us leave until the storm passed so we hung out in the shop with them and they brought the kids out popsicles! Finally when the storm lessened the service manager had us follow him as he directed us back to I80. I couldn’t believe it – it was 4 hours since it broke down and here we were back on the road! For a minute there I thought we might have been stuck there until Monday and were going to miss the family camping weekend that the kids have been counting down for over the last 2 months.

The fact that these guys went above and beyond to stay late and through the storm to help us just shows that there are so many great people in this world that ARE willing to go out of their way for strangers! I want to take a minute to thank: Gene, Rod, Steven, and Rich of Thys Auto Group in Belle Plaine, Iowa for their amazing customer service!

They had all recommended we stop at a Mercedes dealer to double check the trans fluid and the belt as soon as we could. That wasn’t going to happen that night since everything was closed so we decided to head to our original campground reservation in Illinois for the night. It was about a 3 hour drive.

The GPS said we would get there at 11:30pm. OK we can handle that let’s go. We drove and made it to the campground. As we pulled up to the gate we see a sign that said no check ins after 8pm. It was 11:30pm . . . Why hadn’t anyone called us? Oh yeah that’s right Craig’s phone wasn’t working.

Our RV is pretty small so we looked over at the exit and figured we could lift the bar a little bit and Craig could squeeze in. I mean we had a reservation . . .

We got in, but having never been to this campground before we had no idea where to go. We found an open campsite and pulled in but I just didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t want the police waking us up in the morning asking what we were doing there!

We left and headed to a Walmart that was about 2 miles away to spend the night. Then headed to the campground the next day to do the things we needed to before heading to the family camping weekend. They understood the mixup so we were all good. And guess what the site we had pulled into was the site we were suppose to be in that night – go figure!

What a fiasco!! Our kids did an awesome job through the whole thing. Even though everyone was covered in sweat and we had no idea where the night was going to lead us. What we continue to learn through these situations is we will figure it out and there really are amazing and helpful people in the world!!

After the fact I wish I would have gotten some pictures of the whole experience but during it there was just to much going on. And so our Crazy Family Adventure continues!

Pin for later:

Come see what happens when your RV break downs on the highway while traveling with 4 kids and a dog and you have no car and no plan!


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10 thoughts on “What Happens When Your RV Breaks Down On The Highway”

  1. That’s the typical kind of nice Iowans you will find all throughout Iowa, but especially in the small towns!

  2. Wow – what a doozy of a day, and how awesome that is worked out as well as it did! We had a similar experience in Colorado. Even with all the craziness, it’s still an awesome adventure to be living this lifestyle, isn’t it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you are back on the road!

    • It is still an amazing lifestyle and it teaches you how to handle all the craziness in a pretty calm way!

  3. This story fully qualifies as a crazy family adventure! Glad you made it okay. The folks in Iowa are some of the nicest you will ever meet.

    • It was a pretty amazing experience. It was beyond good customer service, it was true compassion for another human being. They were amazing.

  4. Awesome story! Glad you’re all ok too. I got here because I read Craig’s story about the Diamond Shield he removed on the motorhome. Are you guys not in the Class A coach anymore? The photo shown here is a Class C and your not towing a car? Just curious…

    • Hi Bruce. Yeah, we downsized to the Winnebago View this past February. Our Newmar is still for sale at PPL Motorhomes in Cleburne, TX if you’re interested ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Sounds somewhat familiar with my family’s RV experience this past weekend. We just bought a used 34′ Bounder, packed 5 kids and 3 adults in it to go 8 hours away and see the total solar eclipse in Kentucky. 3 hours into the trip it broke down. I got it running again and it got us 2 more hours away and it died again. The kindness of strangers prevailed and we parked in a church, where they let us plug in overnight (it was hot). A local shop made a bunch of calls for us and got us into a shop the next morning, and let us plug in the AC there too. At 5:00 the new parts arrived and the mechanic installed them. We were back on the road at 6:00. Traveling seems to bring out the kindness in people, especially when traveling with a family.

    • It’s funny how such a stressful situation can be flipped on it’s head when good human beings come into play. It restores my faith in humanity ๐Ÿ™‚ Best of luck in your future travels!

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